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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

"Hello peoples, vee are here, in one händ a meekro in ze ossa a bier"

Torch ft. Toni L - Wir waren mal Stars (We used to be stars)

I'm not quite sure how this article managed to stay off of my radar screen for over a year (It's entirely possible that it didn't and I just forgot about it). Published in August 2005, the author, Ruth Elkins, addresses (or attempts to address) the trend of gangsta rap in Germany and its apparent appeal to the neo-Nazi movement.

Fair enough.

What surprises me, however, is how poorly researched this article seems to be. It's especially painful, because (as you might be aware) German hip-hop culture is very near and dear to me. In some cases, it seems like Ms. Elkins has got her facts so twisted, that it baffles the mind:

[Bushido] has sparked a huge debate in Germany, a country still new to gangsta rap, about how racist and offensive song lyrics can be before they become outright neo-Nazi propaganda.

The police and the German equivalent of special branch have monitored the ultra-right rock scene for years...These kind of bands...are seen as dangerous propaganda tools in the hands of Germany's neo-Nazis as they attempt to reach out to teenagers and school children.

Bushido, though, is different. Gangsta rap has at last become a home- grown German product. Tame German rap has been popular here for years: groups such as Die Ärtze released non-controversial hits like: 'Claudia's Got a [German Shepherd]', but it was the kind of music that made 12-year-olds giggle. Until very recently, true gangsta rap had been strictly an American import. Spotty German teenagers would don baseball caps and baggy jeans and listen to the likes of Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent rap about things that seemed to come from a different world the streets of the American inner city ghettos. They were pretty offensive, of course, their songs laced with profoundly sexist content...Now Germany has its own gangsta rappers. A country, which until recently was renowned for its affluent, stable economy and inclusive welfare net, (something those who came from the ghettos such as Compton and South Central just didn't have) is hearing about a new harsh German reality.

Bushido is to the fore, joined by his foul-mouthed colleagues: Fler, Sido, B-Tight, Kool Savas, Eko Fresh, Brainless Wankers and a collective calling themselves Der Frauenartzt [sic](the Gynaecologist.)

In the past year, these rappers who once could only dream of minor fame on the fringes of the Germany's parochial music industry have made it to the mainstream. Their CDs regularly top the charts, their love lives are followed by the tabloids, their concerts are sold out. Yet they are declaring open warfare on Germany's safe and comfortable consensus society.

(Click below for more)

I think the average English-speaking reader, would have a "Whoa...that's pretty fucked up, zee Germans are at it again"-reaction, because they don't know (and honestly, how could they) that the author, can't even manage to get a few facts straight, much less demonstrate an understanding of (German) hip-hop culture.

That "tame German rap group" that she mentions (Die Ärzte), is in fact a rock band*. The song "Claudia's Got a German Shepherd" basically about bestiality, and it, along with some of the band's other songs, was placed on the index of Germany's Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young People**. A glaring omission, considering that later on in the article the author makes a point out of mentioning Bushido's indexed songs.

Off the top of my head, I could probably think of at least 10 more appropriate examples that she could have used. Take this one for instance. Not a whole lot of controversy surrounding this posse cut, I'm sure.

Fettes Brot ft. everyone and their dog from northern Germany - Nordisch by Nature

I don't want to downplay the importance of what the author is trying to accomplish -- which I suppose is showing the fine line between German gangsta rap and neo-Nazism (?) -- but wouldn't have been more interesting to perhaps investigate why/how music being performed by minorities can be embraced by white supremacists? I could be mistaken, but excluding Fler, Frauenarzt (who is one person and not a collective) and the Brainless Wankers (who are apparently a ska/punk outfit that sing in English) -- the artists she mentioned are minorities. Maybe not the best poster boys for the white power movement. I dunno...interesting question, I think. Strikes me as rather Clayton Bigsby-esque, if you know what I mean.

I think Elkins tried to touch on that point, when she mentioned Bushido signing his autograph on skinheads heads...but she got kinda lost in the sauce, focussing instead on the violent and misogynistic lyrics.

Though, also not the greatest thing...I'm not sure how it's helping her make her point, because honestly, what she's criticizing the German rappers for doing, we (Americans) have been doing a lot longer.

Then she goes and fronts as though before 2005, hardcore German rap lyrics didn't exist. Not to mention, she done gone and put Eko "Maybe one day I'll have a big-boy moustache" Fresh*** up in that

Not to hate, 'cause there's some pretty good stuff out at the moment, but sometimes it just makes me wanna go back to 5-6 years ago when German rap was still good and special. They were just doing there own thing, making their own crazy slang, and (most importantly) not trying to copy the trends from Ami-Land.

That makes me sound real old and vaguely haterish, I bet. Boo hoo.

It also makes me want to write a book in English about German hip-hop. One of these days, I suppose.

Anyway, thanks to YouTube, I found a crapload of German rap videos. A few months ago, there definitely weren't as many as there are now (The Internets are amazing, I know). Here are some that I really enjoy:

Blumentopf ft. Smudo - Better Life GmbH Pts 1,2,3

Eins Zwo - Danke, gut

Nico Suave - Vergesslich

Roey Marquis ft. Olli Banjo, Curse, Italo Reno & Germany - Pickel / Tschukka

I like how they're sitting around drinking tea in a park. You don't see many rappers doing that and I find it refreshing. Also, is it just me, or does Curse look a little like Ice-T (minus the curl) in this video? (I'm possibly on crack)

Deine Lieblingsrapper (Sido + Harris) - Wir bewahren die Haltung

For however much I don't really like the Aggro Berlin label...this song is pretty tight.

Too Strong - Too Strong Meets Business


Texta - Sprachbarrieren

Straight outta Linz, for S.A.M. III and Cupcake. Austrian slang makes babies cry.****

*= ...and a very good one at that. Even though they've sung a few songs about bestiality and incest and cannibalism...they're good boys ;)

**= Think "parental advisory sticker" but a lot stricter regulation...

***= He's like EVERYBODY'S bitch, seriously.

****= That's a bit unfair...actually, it just makes me want to cry like a baby.

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