Is it worth investing my time into listening to German Rap? Katie Costello answers this age-old question.
As far as sub-genres go, this one is actually pretty mainstream – so long as you live in Germany, that is. When you hear glottal stops and diphthongs, rap music isn’t necessarily the first genre which comes to mind, yet German-language rap is thriving in the Vaterland. Any German teenager will be able to reel off lyrics from the likes of Cro and Peter Fox; hits across the German speaking world. But are they actually any good?
Well, for a start, it turns out that bragging about guns, bitches and bling in rap is pretty universal regardless of what language it’s being done in, with Culcha Candela’s hit ”Monsta’ being a prime example of objectifying women. The lyrics describe the desired Fraulein as a monster, describing her eating with the word “fressen”, a verb used exclusively in regard to animals. Even if you can’t understand the language, the video makes it pretty obvious that these guys haven’t been spending their time reading Germane Greer and Caitlin Moran, as semi-naked women parade in front of the male stars.
Then there’s the influence of English. Denglish (the adoption of English words into the German language) is an inevitability the Germans have practically given up fighting against, yet these songs take it to a new extreme. Whole sentences and phrases are clumsily placed into the predominantly German songs, with Seeed’s hit Augenbling having a verse in English tagged onto the end. This includes the lyrical mastery of “cool me down for my brain is gone// if no saviour comes, I’m going to burn my hand”, all of which is sung in a slightly unconvincing Jamaican accent. It’s easy to see why these artists throw in English phrases and words. Youth culture still stems predominantly from the USA and English speaking countries, dwarfing that produced by the Krauts, so it’s hardly surprising that German youth are drawn to English as the language of cool.
In fact, most German bands sing in English, with the likes of Milky Chance using the more universal language and perhaps consequently enjoying success beyond the Bundesrepublik. Nena, of 99 Luftballons fame, is in a minority for singing in her own language, yet talking or rapping in German is far more popular and almost seems to work. Kraftklub and OK Kid both adopt this style, talking rather than rapping over guitars and synths.
So, the real question is whether Germany’s rap scene is really worth a listen. German linguists love it. I would happily sit back and listen to Peter Fox dichotomising about pussy and hoes in my spare time. But, if I didn’t have a vested interest in the German language, or if the German music scene offered up more genres in their native tongue, I’d probably give it a miss. It’s good for a laugh, but to defend it as actually being good may be an insult to taste.
Featured image credit: Kraftclubbookmark me