Hip-Hop In Germany
from The Bomb Hip-Hop Magazine #46 (April/May 1996)
by Boris Heimberger
When I went to the States for the first time in 1986 I would say I was the typical European kid. I was a MOD and Ska and New Wave music was the hype. I went to a record shop while I was out there and bought some promo copies of Sugarhill records with a lot of Grandmaster Flash on it. I had read some stuff on hip-hop but had never heard of Melle Mel. Then I went to a Whodini concert and guess who was the special guest that night, Run DMC… who at that time had not discovered Adidas yet.
Hip-Hop in Germany has a similar beginning like in the US. Although strongly influenced by overseas records and movies like Wild Style, it turned and flowed in a different direction caused by a different enviroment. Graffiti and breakdancing came out big but it only lasted for one summer. But hip-hop survived in the underground with people still bombing trains and rap jams at special clubs. At that time we did not have MTV or anything comparable in Europe – but with it’s start about three years ago hip-hop broke thru to get more popular and our own industry started to grow. The German equivalent of MTV’s Yo Raps is VIVA’s Freestyle which presents a comfortable mixture of US, GB and German Hip-Hop. Low budget bands sit together on the interview couch with the Beastie Boys and a crew of VJs travel around the country to make updates.
Special clubs that play 100% hip-hop are rare. In Hamburg you will find all those special clubs clubs in the Red Light district around the Reeperbahn, which is very famous not only for their prostitutes but also for the highest density of bars, music clubs, and discos. Due to the amount of sex and crime in that area it is not a beneficial enviroment. But the advantage of no limit opening hours makes it to be the most famous area of all of Europe. Famous clubs are The Mojo (more jazz oriented), Molotow (hardcore), and The Powerhouse which is separated in two parts – one for jungle music and one for hip-hop. The Powerhouse is the most favorite for US rappers who are touring and/or hanging out after a show. Last summer I met Ice T and his Body Count Crew as well as House of Pain at The Powerhouse. There are also a lot of jams all over the city where German DJs mainly play native music intermixed with live acts. Breaking is not very big in the clubs except for The Powerhouse and I have to admit that I do not know any breakers because most of those guys are from the suburbs. Live acts always depend on the season – which is Spring to Fall. Last summer we had a open air concert featuring Ice Cube and Gang Starr that was a highlight. Unfortunately the Amerikkkas Most Wanted Tour, featuring Ice T, Ice Cube, and Public Enemy was cancelled. Word had it that it was cancelled due to a management problem, same thing happened with the Warren G concert. We’ll see what happen this year.
Like the clubs there are not any pure hip-hop radio stations, but almost everyday hip-hop dj’s have their hours to play rap music. The good thing is that there is no censorship here. Example: Everday you can hear 20 Fingers original ‘Short Dick Man‘ on the radio.
Like in the states the US Rap Music market is very big and you can find everything in the big mall record shops including local independent German releases. But shops like Zardoz in Altona normally have the brand new releases first, that’s where I found the ‘Bomb Hip-Hop Compilation‘ on compact disc. The relation of import and domestic right now is 70% import to 30% domestic right now, but domestic is increasing rapidly. CD’s have practically taken over the market out here and cassettes are almost out and are just used for black copies. I think they keep a little bit of vinyl alive for the DJs to scratch with and sample. It’s hard to describe the scene in detail because even in the city of Hamburg different styles occur due to ethnic and musical background. Germany is full of immigrants from Turkey, former Yugoslavia and of course Africa. Consequently everyones rappin’ in the lanquage that he or she prefers. Due to a grand hardcore community, rock influences in German hip-hop are much stronger than in the states.
Graffiti artists like Hesh and Daim actually earn enough money from their art to live from and other groups like Fantastische Vier (fantastic four) are mega-stars. If you meet Miro (alias sprayer Mesh, alias rapper Masquerade) you might have the impression that you have just met a lazy bum (but this probably comes from his yugoslavian background) but once he starts working his creativity of music and graffiti it definitely makes him to be the GM of his hood Altona.