If you take a quick look at my music playlist on my phone you will find that apart from the Weeknd’s album ‘Star Boy’ (which is absolutely brilliant) and some Eminem I listen to barely any music in the English language. Slowly my music taste has changed to the point that mainstream music is something I rarely listen to. This all started when I was fairly young, at around fourteen I started to listen to Japanese music from time to time, then I would listen to some Spanish and then finally Korean. With South Korea turning out music videos several times a day I would suddenly find myself endlessly clicking through YouTube recommendations and discovering a huge amount of music I greatly in quick succession. I began to follow different groups and look forward to new releases. this has continued consistently for the last 3 years. While my love for Korean music remains I have recently felt the need to seek out more foreign music, specifically rap. From a young age, my mum told me about the popularity of French rappers but I always wondered what German rap had to offer. Having travelled to Munich last year I was disappointed to hear little German music and wondered how the sometimes harsh but strong tone of German translated into rap, a genre celebrated for its biting tone.
So one late night I typed in ‘German rappers’ to the internet and explored. Here is the great rap I have found so far:
RIN - Blackout (prod. Lex Lugner) (The weird and kool)
This was the first song I came across and I have listened to it on repeat ever since, please don’t let the visually stimulating music video put you off, it may seem a little wacky but it actually suits the tone of the song. RIN has a way of bringing a smile to your face just from his appearance alone. His style is so specific and yet a mismatch of puffer jackets and bright trousers with his cornrowed man-bun. He is one of those rare people that can pull of sunglasses and scarves being worn inside. It can be overwhelming for those who aren’t used to listening to music of another language, I promise you he is not saying ‘Shawty keep them blacks out’ despite how it sounds in English (it is actually ” Shawty kriegt ein Blackout” meaning “Shawty gets a Blackout”.
As the title suggests he is talking about a ‘Blackout’, using my limited German I found the lyrics and the gist is that RIN is simply hanging out with his friends, listing all the retro items they own and talking about sports, fashion and of course drugs. This may explain RIN’s outfit.The flow is incredibly catchy especially the repeated “Aw Junge” before the chorus hits. I find it intensely amusing that not only is English sprinkled in the lyrics but the Italian ‘no lo so’ is used, this really is a delight to listen to if you enjoy the sound of other languages all interacting. At the 02:48 mark the song takes a completely airy tone and transforms into a relaxing summer-jam rather than the bouncy rap that came before it. The was the first song where I was able to hear how German sounds in rap and the language compliments the genre incredibly well, especially with harsh syllables helping the long to remain at a fast hypnotic pace, I would highly recommend you listen to RIN, appearance on the song ‘Bianco’ by Yung Hurn is also oddly beautiful…which brings me onto my next rapper.
Yung Hurn - Nein (the lazy and unforgettable)
I came across Yung Hurn’s ‘Nein’ expecting a young rapper to be fast and spunky, however to my surprise, this is the slowest and most sleepy rap I’ve heard so far. A rap named ‘Nein’ you would probably expect to be hard hitting and brutal, the song is named ‘No’ and is there really a stronger word than that? Surprisingly, the repeated ‘nein’ is the chorus and gentle mumbling of ‘la la la nein nein nein’ in the background makes this closer to a lullaby than a rap, moreover, it is about as long as one being only 02:10 minutes long! So you may be wondering why I like this song if it is so short and seemingly boring. Actually, I like it for that exact reason, it is the type of rap I wasn’t expecting but it was a happy surprise. Think of it as what Drake would use as an interlude on his album, dreamy and oddly romantic to listen to. The same can be said for his song ‘Bianco’, both are perfect to listen to after a long night partying and due to the lyric, seems to be aimed at the disenfranchised German youth being irritated by invasive questions about their futures, so it is pretty relatable for myself at least. Minus the nationality of course.
It is also a lazy rap, one that is mumbled to a beat. This gives it a more universal feel, much like RIN there is again a lot of random imagery in the music video. God knows why these rappers love antiques so much, I have still yet to figure that out. This may not be the best video to show a rap enthusiast if you want to prove that the Germans can do harder than American rap but it is definitely one you can throw on which won’t garner too much protest.
Bushido feat Shindy - Panamera Flow (the American cousin)
Now, this is the closest you are going to get to familiar territory, the music video features a scantily clad woman, a car, and there is a lot of chrome. It is reminiscent of the London rap scene, the beat is smooth but functions more like the opening to a heist movie than a street battle but also very inoffensive to the ears, you could listen to it in the background and become completely unaware of the language. It can be hard to really tell the difference between the two rappers when simply listening to ‘Panamera Flow’, they do have a similarity in their voices that can make a collaboration seem somewhat pointless. That being said, I love their image, they look to incredibly normal, no guns, no smoking, no gold, it is like two lads came together after a long day at the gym and banged this out. That being said it is a damn good song, it really shows the versatility of the German language, this is a great example of how subtle the accent can be and how influenced these artists are by American standards of rap. I wouldn’t say this is the best out there, but in searching for Deutsche rap you are going to find that you like music just because it is different and it takes your fancy. Do I listen to this as much as ‘Blackout’? No, but I appreciate that it is different.
I don’t intend to compare all rap to its American counterpart but this sort of music makes me crave crossovers, unfortunately, it can be rare to find rappers who maintain their original language when rapping with an English speaker. The only instance I can think of where many languages are imparted at once is the Korean rapper Z.TAO with his song ‘Hello Hello’ featuring Wiz Khalifa and a large portion of that rap is in English. If this rap was more widely viewed then I do believe German rappers would see fame elsewhere.
SPONGEBOZZ - Planktonweed (the downright bizarre)
Yes that Plankton, and yes this is a rapper named Spongebozz…and yes Patrick has been going to the gym pretty frequently. Do you want to know the weirdest thing? Spongebozz’s rapping is actually really really good and insanely fast. No, unfortunately, he doesn’t do the Spongebob voice, that would shatter the gangster illusion he has built up. This music video definitely feels like a dark adult version of Spongebob, women in their underwear, peddling weed, illegal activity in a garage and monster trucks. I never thought I would say this but Patrick is also good, he almost has the original characters deep elongated voice, although I am still greatly confused why these two thought dressing as Spongebob characters would mark them as hard men in the rap game. However, it is effective! They are pretty unforgettable and ever single video by Spongebozz he is in that costume and one of the lyrics to this song is “Bikini Bottom Mafia”, how can you not love this song?
This is not the music I would suggest American rappers be shown when introducing them to German rap, or English rappers for that matter. It is definitely ostracising, especially when you realise it is not a one off gimmick. It is also very catchy in the worse way, mumbling “Spongebob…Plankton weed…Bikini Bottom Mafia” during the chorus will make people worried about you. I am in love with the idea that he is someone’s favourite rapper and they have posters of this grown man in a Spongebob costume spitting hot fire. I thought it would be the best conclusion to this article if I recommended some rap that can be taken lightly if you really don’t take to German rap, which is perfectly fine, I feel the same about a lot of French rap. It can be rewarding to experience different languages organically through a medium such as rap and who knows, maybe you will pick up some words along the way!
Side photo credit: Screenshot from RIN’s Public Facebook Page