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German hip hop

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German hip hop

Music of Germany
Specific forms
Media and performance
Music awards
Music charts Media Control
Music festivals
Music media
Nationalistic and patriotic songs
National anthem Deutschlandlied

German hip hop refers to hip hop music produced in Germany. Elements of American hip hop culture, such as graffiti art and breakdancing, diffused into Western Europe in the early 1980s.


  • History 1
    • 1980–1990 1.1
    • 1990–1995 1.2
    • 1995–2000 1.3
    • 2000 to present 1.4
  • Influenced by the media 2
  • Turkish-German hip hop 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7



Early underground artists included Cora E. and Advanced Chemistry. It was not until the early 1990s that German hip hop entered the mainstream, as groups like Die Fantastischen Vier and the Rödelheim Hartreim Projekt gained popularity. German hip hop was heavily influenced by films which led to a strong emphasis on cultural elements such as graffiti and breakdancing, rather than just the music itself.[1]

Commercialization of American rap and hip hop began in the early 1980s and began coming to Germany as early as 1983. The influence of film was critical on German hip hop's early development, leading to a strong emphasis on the more heavily visual aspects of the culture like graffiti-art and break dancing. It soon percolated into Germany through recordings, cinema, and the American soldiers stationed there. Through such films as Wild Style and Beat Street, German youths developed a taste for breakdancing, spraypainting, and freestyling, thus beginning hip hop's first wave of popularity. GLS United, formed by three widely known radio moderators, was perhaps the first German hip hop group, releasing the first German-language hip hop song "Rappers Deutsch" in 1980 although they were just a novelty act created for this one song. These movies led the people of Germany to realize that hip-hop was much more than just rap music, but was very much a cultural movement in and of itself. Though at the time of the release of the movie, it did not have a great overall impact, once reunification began in 1990, the hip-hop scene began to flourish.[2] As one German remembers on a visit to the US in 1986, things were much different. There was no thing like MTV in Europe, as the scene was still very much underground. And there aren't any hip hop only clubs there, as there are in the States.[3]

After this initial wave of popularity, hip hop fans were few and far between,[4] however the fans that did remain would play a role in the resuscitation of the hip hop culture. "...The hardcore hip hop fans that remained after the breakdance craze faded from the media were central to the further development of hip hop in Germany-they supplied much of the personnel for the important rap groups that began to develop in the late 1980s and early '90s."[5] "Graffiti and breakdancing came out big but it only lasted for one summer. But hip-hop survived in the underground."[6] These quotes illustrate that although the first stages of hip hop were driven by the media and quickly died, the true hip hop fans would not let hip hop be a one and done fad. It was the passion and persistence of the underground hip hop scene that allowed it to prosper later on. Unlike most hip-hoppers of other countries, German fans did not identify themselves by wearing specific clothing styles; rather, most knew each other personally, and organized hip hop jams became demonstrations of unity.[4]

The fact that most German rappers, for a time, rapped in English gives strength to the theory that German Hip-hop is a form of 'cultural imperialism': Germans emulating the culture of the United States, while relinquishing their own.[7] Even today, there are German videos that look much like hip-hop videos shown in the United States, displaying nice cars and artists wearing huge jewelry and shades. Furthermore, the German dialect used in German hip-hop is a form of cultural imperialism. Because German Hip-hop artists are predominantly of Turkish-German descent (which is the largest minority group in Germany), they embrace Hip-hop as a music for all minorities to use and create a German "ghetto-style" of rapping when not rapping in English. By using a German form of Ebonics to rap, Turkish-German Hip hop artists display the common need for minorities, when using rap as a vehicle of protest, to use language that is somewhat vulgar and improper to express their outrage towards the wrongs society has done upon them.[8] In other words, Hip-Hop, no matter what the language, demands a specific dialect that is controversial to speak in public, but understood, in order for Hip-Hop to deliver the minority artists' message of rebellion, powerfully.

Die Fantastischen Vier (the Fantastic Four) are another important German hip hop group, who also began to rap in German around the same time as Advanced Chemistry. Die Fantastischen Vier saw English rap in Germany as meaningless loyalty to “surface elements” of U.S. rap, and devoid of any German political or social context. They sought to appropriate hip hop from its foreign framework, and use it to bring a voice to historical and contemporary problems in Germany.[9] The shift of rapping from English into German increased hip hop’s appeal to the German people, Gastarbeiter (guest workers) included. Growing self-confidence among Germany’s immigrant population coincided with the use of the German language in German hip hop, and provided them with a vocal outlet in line with the plight of poor African Americans, out of which hip hop had originally emerged.[10]

The Group Advanced Chemistry originated from Heidelberg, Germany. As they were one of the few early hip hop groups to rap in English, they were extremely influential in promoting the hip hop scene in Germany. More importantly however, Advanced Chemistry was a prominent hip hop group because of the ethnic diversity of the members. Torch, the leader of the group for instance is both of a Haitian and German ethnic background.[11] Advanced Chemistry exploded onto the German hip hop scene in November 1992 with their first mixed single entitled "Fremd in eigenem Land" (Foreign in Your Own Country). This song was immensely popular because it directly addressed the issue of immigrants in Germany: "In the video of the song, a band member brandishes a German passport in a symbolic challenge to traditional assumptions about what it means to be German. If the passport is not enough, the video implies, then what is required? German Blood?".[7]

After the reunification of Germany in 1990, many Germans saw a growing wave of racism. Because many hip hop artists were children of immigrants,[12] this became a major theme of German hip hop.

During the 1980s Germany first saw a wave of second generation immigrants coming into the country. Immigration became a big issue is hip hop albums at this point. The German synonym for an immigrant is Gastarbeiter which means 'guest worker', and these ‘guest workers’ were rapped about often. Immigrant teenagers commonly use rap and hip hop as a way to defend themselves in their new countries. "Since honour cannot be gained, but only lost, a permanent readiness to fight is required. Thus social approval is acquired by actually defending one's honour or by exhibiting abilities such as the willingness to face physical encounter, talkativeness and humour... According to the rules of the game, the first one to whom nothing clever comes to the mind is the loser. This concept is quite similar to 'dissing' in rap." [13]


In 1991, the German music label Bombastic released the record “Krauts with Attitude: German Hip Hop Vol. 1”. The album featured fifteen songs – three in German, eleven in English, and one in French. The album was produced by DJ Michael Reinboth, a popular hip hop DJ at that time. Michael Reinboth moved to Munich in 1982 and was the first DJ to introduce garage-house and old school hip hop music to the Munich club scene.[14] His compilation "Krauts with Attitude" is considered one of the first German hip hop albums, as it features Die Fantastischen Vier. The title refers to N.W.A (Niggaz with Attitude), one of the most controversial hip-hop groups of the time in the United States.[2] "Krauts with Attitude" was the first album to nationalize German hip hop, and its album packaging reflected this. “The cover was designed in the colours of the national flag (black, red and yellow), and the linernotes read as follows: 'Now is the time to oppose somehow the self confidence of the English and the American.'” [2]

In the early 1990s, hip hop established itself in the mainstream, and many new rappers emerged on the scene. One such band was Die Fantastischen Vier, four rappers from Stuttgart, whose optimistic sound has brought them fame both in Germany and abroad. Apparently, original crew members Smudo and Thomas D, were inspired to begin rapping in German following a six-month visit to the United States. It became apparent that they had nothing in common with U.S. rappers and their essentially middle-class upbringing was foreign to that of the cultural environment of U.S hip hop. "The group subsequently decided to concentrate on issues they saw around them, using their own language, rather than aping American styles." [15]

Although Die Fantastischen Vier achieved commercial success and helped to pioneer hip hop music in Germany, they were contested for sounding “too American.” [5] The group’s lack of socially conscious topics and simplistic delivery and material informed the ways in which they were viewed as a trite pop group.[5]

During 1992–93 many acts of protest occurred in the wake of anti-immigration in Germany.[5] Amongst the angst of this period, the content of German hip hop started to become more politicized. Additionally, the language of the music started to reflect a more local voice. The group Advanced Chemistry has been noted as one of the first to incorporate social critiques of growing prejudice and racism in Germany. “…the newly emerging hip-hop movement took a clear stance for the minorities and against the marginalisation of immigrants who, as the song said, might be German on paper, but not in real life” [16]

During the inception of hip hop into Germany, most popular hip hop artists have come from West Germany.[2] This could be because of the large immigrant population there at the time. "By 1994, the number of immigrants living in Germany had reached 6.9 million. 97 per cent of all immigrants were resident in the western part of the country, which meant that in the former Federal Republic of Germany and in West Berlin every tenth citizen was a foreigner."[17] Of those 97% of immigrants in the Western part of Germany over 1.5 million of them originated from a European country. For example, the community with the largest number of immigrants (roughly 1.9 million people) was the Turkish community. Within the Turkish community only 5% of its people were of age 60 or older. Such statistics give justification for why hip hop may have flourished in Germany; many of the people were young. Furthermore, German hip hop, much like many other countries, was heavily influenced by the western world. During that time, a rises of anti-immigrant feelings resulted in the acts of arson and murder against the Turkish asylum seekers. In May 1993, 5 Turkish people were killed and many injured when someone attacked the home of a Turkish family with a firebomb.[5] In 1993 German hip hop "globalized" with the emergence of Viva's Freestyle; the equivalent to the American Yo MTV Rap show. Viva's freestyle consisted of hip hop songs from the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany.[3][18] The influx of immigrants into Germany caused an adverse effect on employment and wages. It was found that immigrants and native Germans were imperfect substitutes for each other, while old and new immigrants were interchangeable exposing an inelastic labor market.[19]

In the mid-1990s German hip hop was growing. John Clarke used the term 'recontextualization' to describe the process of borrowing cultural ideas and integrating them into a new society. German hip hop did just this as it took U.S. hip hop and gave it a new meaning and identity in German culture. Black American gangsta rap however is not the only type of rap that has developed in Germany. Some of the most innovative rap music in Germany is made by Germans or by underground crews dedicated to rap for both political and artistic reasons. Rap has been able to succeed in Germany not just due to a different national culture of the U.S., but also because people are responding to other racial and ethnic cultures.[20] At this time, in the mid-1990s, the relation of import and domestic rap was 70% import to 30% domestic, but domestic was increasing rapidly. CD's had practically taken over the market in Germany and cassettes were almost out and were just used for black copies. German hip hop was yet to have a specific identity as different styles occurred due to ethnic and musical background.[3]


This was also a time that a lot of immigrants were moving to Germany [21] and they all came with their own culture which contrasted with that of Germany.

Karakan also emerged in the German hip-hop scene. In 1991, Alper Aga & Kabus Kerim formed the group in Nuremberg, Germany. This year, they released the first ever Turkish language rap track in, named "Bir Yabancinin Hayati" (Life of a foreigner). Two years later, they released classic tracks like "Cehenneme Hosgeldin" (Welcome to Hell) and the controversial "Defol Dazlak", which was released as a Maxi Single. "Big Porno Ahmet" joined the group as a producer / beatmaker. Shortly, the success of Karakan spread beyond the borders of Germany and the group started to get well-known within the European Hip-Hop scene. During jams, they met Cinai Sebeke (Da Crime Posse) and Erci-E. Together, they established the legendary group CARTEL and released a compilation album in 1995.In 1997, KARAKAN finally released his first official album "Al Sana Karakan" and shot 2 videos, which marked a high point in Turkish hip hop.[22]

The only Single from this album, "CARTEL", composed by Big Porno Ahmet, reached platinum status and sold more than 2,250,000 copies...[18]

The multilingual and multinational group TCA- The Microphone Mafia is an example of 'Oriental Hip Hop in the German Diaspora'. They combine Spanish, Italian, Turkish and German raps with live music and samples of traditional music from all the previously named countries.[2]

2000 to present

Today, the German hip hop scene is a reflection of the many dimensions that Germany has come to represent in a unified image of Europe. Everything from "migrant hip hop," which is known as hip hop from the large Turkish immigrant population[2] that is mostly centered in Kreuzberg, to the more humour-based groups paint a portrait of a vibrant and diverse hip hop community in Germany.

Despite common notions of the Old School German hip hop’s emulation of US hip hop styles and the New School’s attempt to rap about crime and violence, some “Old Schoolers[23]” feel that the New School has, in fact, forgotten about its roots. Old School supporters and Scholars disagree on the nature of the recent transformation in German hip hop. Scholars have argued that the Old School German hip hop “scene was musically and vocally oriented to American role models. Rhymes were written in English; funk and soul samples dominated musical structures”.[24] However, Old Schoolers themselves contend that it is the New School German rap artists who have been “Americanized,”[23] and therefore lack the authenticity of the struggle of the ghetto in West Germany. The German old school acknowledged that there were many the differences between the situation in the United States and the situation in Germany, and aimed at expressing the concept of “realness,” meaning to “be true to oneself”.[23] Different from the US hip hop’s equating “realness” with “street credibility,”[23] many raps that came out of the old school German hip hop “address this issue and reject unreflected imitation of US hip hop as clichés and as the betrayal of the concept of realness”.[23] Furthermore, the Old School of German hip hop may have been seen as representing “a critique of White America”[23] because of its modeling after US hip hop; however, Old schoolers dispute that hip hop in Germany was about the oppression of people in Germany. One Old School artist,

  • German underground rap website

External links

  • Hannes Loh, Murat Güngör, Fear of a Kanak Planet, Hannibal Verlag, 2002
  • David Toop, Rap Attack, Hannibal Verlag, 2000

Hannibal Verlag, 2000

  • Sascha Verlan, Arbeitstexte für den Unterricht. Stuttgart: Reclam, 2000 (Extended Edition 2003)
  • Sascha Verlan, Hannes Loh: 20 Jahre HipHop in Deutschland.

Further reading

  1. ^ Brown, Timothy S. “‘Keeping it Real’ in a Different ‘Hood: (African-) Americanization and Hip-hop in Germany.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. by Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 139 London;
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Elflein, Dietmar. "From Krauts with Attitudes to Turks with Attitudes: Some Aspects of Hip-Hop History in Germany." Popular Music, Vol. 17, No. 3. (Oct., 1998), pp. 255–265.
  3. ^ a b c Hip Hop In Germany
  4. ^ a b Elflein, Dietmar. "From Krauts with Attitudes to Turks with Attitudes: Some Aspects of Hip-Hop History in Germany". Popular Music, Vol. 17, No. 3 (Oct., 1998): 257. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Brown, Timothy S. “‘Keeping it Real’ in a Different ‘Hood: (African-) Americanization and Hip-hop inGermany.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. by Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 137-50. London; A
  6. ^ a b Heimberger, Boris. "Hip Hop in Germany." In The bomb Hip Hop Magazine. April 1996
  7. ^ a b Brown,Timothy S.'Keeping it Real' in a Different 'Hood': (African)Americanization and Hip Hop in Germany. The Vinyl Ain't Final 137-50. London; Athlone, 1997
  8. ^ a b Loentz, Elizabeth. "Yiddish, Kanak Sprak, Klezmer, and HipHop:Ethnolect, Minority Culture, Multiculturalism, and Stereotype in Germany". Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies. 25.1 (2006) 33–62
  9. ^ Brown, Timothy S. “’Keeping it Real’ in a Different ‘Hood: (African-)Americanization and Hip Hop in Germany.” The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, 137–150, 1997
  10. ^ German Rap Keeps it Real | Culture & Lifestyle | Deutsche Welle | 26.02.2006
  11. ^ Adelt, Ulrich "Ich bin der Rock'n'Roll-Ubermensch": globalization and localization in German music television Popular Music and Society, July, 2005,
  12. ^ Elflein, Dietmar. "From Krauts with Attitudes to Turks with Attitudes: Some Aspects of Hip-Hop History in Germany". Popular Music, Vol. 17, No. 3 (Oct., 1998): 255. 
  13. ^ Elflein, Dietmar. From Krauts with Attitude to Turks with Attitude. Oct. 1998.
  14. ^ Compost Records: Michael Reinboth
  15. ^ Pennay, Mark. "Rap In Germany: The Birth of a Genre." In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, 121. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.
  16. ^ German Hip-Hop 1: Advanced Chemistry « Leave Your Nine At Home
  17. ^ Elflein
  18. ^ a b
  19. ^ The Labor Market Impact of Immigration in Western Germany in the 1990s
  20. ^
  21. ^ ''Elflein Dientmar, Hip-Hop History in Germany 1998 volume 17/3. Cambridge University, United Kingdom
  22. ^ KARAKAN
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h Von Dirke, S. (2000). “Hip Hop Made in Germany: From Old School to the Kanaksta Movement.” German Pop Culture.
  24. ^ Elflein, D. (1998). "From Krauts with Attitudes to Turks with Attitudes: Some Aspects of Hip-Hop History in Germany." Popular Music, Vol. 17(3); 257
  25. ^ a b The Atlantic Times :: Archive
  26. ^ Bernstein, Richard (2003-04-12). "THE SATURDAY PROFILE; A Bold New View of Turkish-German Youth". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-03. 
  27. ^ Microphone Mafia
  28. ^ Elflein, Dietmar. "From Krauts with Attitudes to Turks with Attitudes: Some Aspects of Hip-Hop History in Germany." Popular Music, Vol. 17, No. 3. (Oct., 1998), pp. 255–265
  29. ^ Keeping it Real’ in a Different ‘Hood: (African-) Americanization and Hip-hop in Germany.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. by Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 137-50. London;A
  30. ^ 
  31. ^ Turkish hiphop


See also

Additionally, from a scholarly view, the Turkish German hip hop culture demonstrates the idea that rap is celebrated and valorized as the creative and hybridized music that is usually associated with minority classes, youth, and many more, which often is used as a tool that empowers those on the margins by providing new spaces of identification, voice or room to speak. According to Brown Timothy, in his article [29] he delineates the idea that Turkish Germans lacking a one specific identification of themselves thus adopting mostly to the neighborhood culture. And also as aforementioned, depicting themselves as the ‘African Americans’ of Germany. Also, according to some sources such as [30] some of the reasons such violence being inevitable in the lyrics of Turkish German rappers or German rap in general, rejection of the genre of music by diplomats and not to mention individuals from other upper classes, are provided as evidence as to why Turkish German hip hop is depicted in the above explained manner. Hip hop music produced by Turkish Germans also makes its way into Turkey through the migration of the artists between both nations. This has caused hip hop to become more popular in Turkey and has helped establish the fame of some Turkish German hip hop artists in Turkey.[31]

Rapper Eko Fresh from Mönchengladbach for instance released the first German-Turkish rap album during 2003 which became a hit. His album was titled König von Deutschland with the collaboration of artists like Azra. The concept of the album further illustrated the typical story of Turkish boy growing up in Germany who is assimilated to both the Turkish culture and German culture, languages and the lyrics bounces between the two languages in his album “the language is rougher, more direct and closer to how a lot of kids talk”.[25] This conflicted German-Turkish identity is what a lot of hip-hop generation experience in their daily lives inside Germany. The album was considered a hit mainly because it addressed issues related to the language/cultural barriers the young immigrant generation face. That is true especially when they are considered the largest minority group in Germany and account for about 1,918,000. “The German synonym for immigrant is ‘Gastarbeiter’ meaning ‘guest worker’ and that is also how first immigrants understood themselves”.[28]

From Turkish immigrant community in Germany came "oriental hip hop" which began with DJ Derezon in Berlin producing music that blended English, African-American hip hop beats and Arab and Turkish. Another group that is classified as oriental hip hop is TCA or The Microphone Mafia. This groups combines Spanish, Italian, Turkish raps with various samples and beats. Furthermore, the address the immigrant experience with their albums and songs like "Eat or Be Eaten" (translation) and "Nobody Can Stop Us".[27]

Turkish hip hop in Germany is distinct from other German rap in that it represents an attempt to adapt an American art form to a Turkish identity, not necessarily a German or even Turkish-German identity; writer Timothy S. Brown describes this as "a 'nationalism' within a nationalism." This cultural difference is manifested in the use of the Turkish language in rap and the use of samples from traditional Turkish Arabesk music.[5] Turkish youth identify more closely with the Black American experience, and neighborhoods such as Kreuzberg, with high populations of Turkish immigrants, have a strong hip hop culture, influenced in part by U.S. soldiers who had been stationed there.[26]

Many Turkish-German hip hop artists express their frustration with their society which has many disadvantages for young Germans with Turkish descent. Turkish youth have embraced images and ideas of "thug life", which tend to symbolize not only a departure from the strict traditions of their parents' generations, but differentiation from a "pure" German society. This trend developed in the 1970s when the immigrants dominated the discothèques. In the early 1990s with the fall of the Berlin wall and the rise in German nationalism, the Turkish immigrants sought a medium to express their mixed identity. For example, with the release of the first Turkish rap single, Bir Yabancının Hayati or The Life of the Stranger, the record discussed themes of identity and the life of a foreigner in Germany.[2] A Turkish-German vernacular has developed, employing phrases such as the racist German term “Kanak Sprak” – or “nigga speak” – and using Turkish imagery, such as one group, Cartel, which featured the Turkish flag on the cover of their album.[5] This album was released both in Turkey and Germany, but targeted a purely Turkish audience with themes of their songs based on the immigrant experience and lack of permanency and belonging.[2] Often, artists switch between the Turkish and German languages in their raps, and many claim that this vernacular is much closer to how people actually speak on the streets in urban areas.[25] The Turkish hip hop community in Germany is considered an attempt to parallel itself to the African American community in the United States.[5] A sizable minority, that is to say, Turkish-German youth, identify themselves strongly with negative hip hop clichés. They see themselves as “niggas” because they believe that they are exactly like African Americans. They live in a situation of uncertainty so they chose to reinvent themselves. They chose to reinvent themselves as such because it puts a twist to their choice of identification since many of their fellow white rap fans also want to be “gangstas”. [5] It could also be merely part of an attempt to create a tough image or street credibility, or even part of a clever marketing ploy. However, this could also suggest that Germany is failing to develop a viable alternative for a rising generation of young Germans who are trying to find their own place and assert a new German identity within their newly minted multicultural country.[8]

Turkish-German hip hop

Dietmar Elflein writes in his article "From Krauts with Attitudes to Turks with Attitudes: Some Aspects of Hip-Hop History in Germany" that hip-hop was brought to Germany by media. He states "the first information about hip-hop to reach Germany was communicated primarily through films." The media showed hip-hop as not just rap music but also part of a "vivid street culture". Then he concludes on that point that the media also helps to exploit this genre commercially.[2] Boris also agrees in this case and writes in his article "Hip-Hop in Germany" that Hip-Hop in Germany has a similar beginning to the US. He depicts that hip-hop is "strongly influenced by overseas records and movies." Despite that, Boris Heimberger concluded by saying that hip-hop survived in the underground.[6]

Influenced by the media

[23] Contrary to the New School hip hop’s attempts to crossover into the mainstream popular culture, the Old School “envisioned and propagated hip hop as an underground community that needed to keep its distance from and to create resistance to mainstream culture in order to avoid co-optation”.[23]

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