When did Hip Hop start?

Hip-Hop and Soul in Germany

The Fantastischen Vier heralded the commercial triumph of German-speaking hip-hop in the early 1990s - in their footsteps a hip-hop scene dominated by middle-class young people grew up in Germany, which has emancipated itself from American role models and, above all, with them Humor, linguistic humor and original stories from the realities of life score points. At the same time, an independent soul scene developed around singers like Xavier Naidoo and Joy Denalane in Germany.

Home game - 20 years of Die Fantastischen Vier | Photo: Michael Hanselmann

From the middle class ghetto to the charts

"It's the one there / with the thick sweater on / man - she's never there on Fridays" ... "It was such harmless-sounding lines that in 1992 heralded the commercial triumph of German-speaking rap. The single That one?! the rapper Die Fantastischen Vier, previously hardly known from her hometown Stuttgart, stormed the top of the German pop charts. And hip-hop suddenly seemed much bigger than youth centers and sprayer cliques. After all, the middle-class children from Swabia took the claim ad absurdum that German hip-hop, based on American models, had to be “the CNN of the ghettos”. Rather, they met the realities of life in middle-class Germany with humor and wit and were supported by a large record company.

This is one of the reasons why the success of the Fantastischen Vier remained controversial in the hip-hop scene: Wasn't the commercial claim synonymous with a sell-out? And: Hadn't other rappers, DJs and sprayers - and especially young migrants - made a contribution to this culture since the early 1980s? In fact, it was the Heidelberg hip-hop crew Advanced Chemistry who came up with songs like Foreign in your own country introduced the German language to rap. Nevertheless, Die Fantastischen Vier did pioneering work: Their songs brought many German young people into contact with hip-hop in their own language for the first time.

Hamburg loosens up

Dynamite deluxe, | © EMI Music Germany GmbH & Co.KG In Hamburg in particular, a scene blossomed from the mid-1990s that shone with a relaxed tone and self-irony. The Absolute Beginner, Samy Deluxe, Dynamite Deluxe, Ferris MC or Dendemann practiced a lyrically and ideologically freer way of dealing with the German language - but Tobi and das Bo, Fettes Brot and later Deichkind ventured furthest in the direction of pop-compatible crossover: their texts often scratched the banal by a hair's breadth, brought pop-cabaret, disco and hit songs together - and became long-running hits on radio and television. Sing-along numbers like Gay girls or Emanuela von Fettes Brot also brought German-language rap an audience beyond the hip-hop scene. Absolute beginners, | © Universal Music Group In the second half of the 1990s, German-language rap achieved unprecedented popularity. Sabrina Setlur or the Rödelheim Hartreim Projekt (Frankfurt), Freundeskreis, Afrob, die Massiven Töne (Stuttgart) or Dynamite Deluxe, Eins Zwo and the Absolute Beginner (Hamburg) each developed their own aesthetics between pathos and humor, political engagement and pop experiments . German-speaking hip-hop was now primarily defined by intelligent raps that were brushed against the cliché. You could play with the German language, bend it, rewrite it or even completely reinvent it. Here, for example, Kinderzimmer Productions from Ulm score with songs like Kickstart my brain / Boombox my heart, Flowerpot from Munich, Amewu from Berlin or the absolute beginner. Their first single from 1996 was titled with a wink: The criticism of the records cannot replace the records of the criticism.

Gangsta rap is flourishing in Berlin

At the turn of the millennium, gangsta rap blossomed in Germany: Battle rappers like Kool Savas, Bushido or Azad took over the stage - and more and more young word smiths wanted to mark the gangster. The Aggro Berlin label in particular pushed this development forward. Provocateurs like Sido, who always appeared with a silver skull mask and in hits like My block conjured up the tough street life of the Märkisches Viertel in Berlin, or Fler, who posed with black, red and gold and a mixture of federal and imperial eagles, caused speculation about connections between rap and nationalism. The scandalous staging of these rappers was on the agenda from the start. The stylization of Berlin's “problem areas” into dangerous ghettos paid off commercially: Sido and Bushido sold their albums hundreds of thousands. At the end of 2009, however, a new trend replaced gangster rap: songwriters such as Patrice, Jan Delay and Seeed, who acted between hip-hop, reggae and soul, and their front man Peter Fox, charmingly combined German lyrics with music influenced by Afro-American and Jamaican music.

Love stories sung and social criticism

The most successful protagonist of the local soul scene: Xavier Naidoo paved the way for the German-speaking songwriters. In 1994 the singer recorded his first single with Sabrina Setlur, later he performed with the sons of Mannheim and the political R’n’B group Brothers Keepers. His solo debut Not from this world covered topics such as charity, anti-racism and Christianity and sold over a million copies. Even if Naidoo's religious pathos found divided reviews: His hits like She does not see me led German soul to an independence beyond the mere copying of US models (as it is in casting shows à la Germany seeks the superstar is often common). The counter model to Naidoo's gospel style of singing was provided by the absolute beginner rapper Jan Delay. On his solo albums "Searching For The Jan Soul Rebels"(2001)," Mercedes Dance "(2006)" and "Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Soul" (2009), he tried his hand at being a soul singer with a background of reggae and funk music, and promoted consumer criticism and consumer criticism with a nasal laconic voice Style awareness. Joy Denalane, | Photo: Daniel J. Glasl In contrast to hip-hop, where rappers like Cora E, Sabrina Setlur or MC Fiva have always been the exception, female voices shape German soul, including Cassandra Steen, Nneka and Joy Denalane. In 2002 Denalane, who started as a duet partner of Freundeskreis singer Max Herre, presented her debut album "Mamani". She brought her South African roots lyrically and musically in pieces such as "In the Soweto Ghetto " a. In terms of content, Denalane maintains a balance between love stories and social criticism - as most recently on her album "Maureen " (2011). It is due to her artistic achievement that black pop and the German language are no longer perceived as contradictions today.


Jonathan Fischer
since 1985 has been writing for "Süddeutsche Zeitung", "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung", "Die Zeit", "Rolling Stone" and "Musikexpress" on Africa, Afroamerica and black music culture, among others.

Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet editorial office
December 2011

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