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September 22, 2023
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‘We have been mistaken for terrorists’: Italy’s most controversial rap group fight persecution

P38-La Gang perform in balaclavas, namecheck the Red Brigades – and are under criminal investigation for inciting terrorism. Are they, as they believe, being scapegoated for their politics?

For P38-La Gang, everything changed on 1 May 2022, Labour Day. The Italian rap group were performing at the club Arci Tunnel in Reggio Emilia. The location appeared to be no coincidence. It is the city that birthed the Red Brigades, the far-left terrorist group that shocked Italy with kidnappings, kneecappings and more than 80 political assassinations in the 1970s and 1980s – a period of social turmoil known as the “Years of Lead”. On stage that day, the four-piece covered their faces with balaclavas and made a three-fingered gesture representing the P38 gun – the symbol of the 70s leftist movement Autonomia Operaia. As usual, the group flew the Red Brigades flag at the back of the stage – the title of their 2021 debut album, Nuove BR, translates as “new Red Brigades”.

Until then, the Bologna-based band had been considered one of the most bizarre and original newcomers in the Italian trap scene: angry, funny, outrageous, paradoxical, even a novelty act, depending on who you asked. Mixing bad taste with offending politicians and talkshow reporters, making fun of terrorism and dictatorships, P38-La Gang showed a face of Italy that few people want to see: the anger of workers paid €3 an hour and of a generation defeated by the class struggle who are surviving on memes and desperate irony.

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