The Article is dedicated to Namé Vaughn, who shared with me his knowledge about HipHop: memory namé
Hip Hop in Germany: Syncretism of a devalued culture
Mantiz - NMY - NEU
Sociologists tend to describe such phenomena like segregation, integration, migration and multiculturalism as a function of crisis, inasmuch as cities are described solely as being on the point of exploding under the pressure of ethnic and cultural conflicts they cannot contain within themselves. Such conflicts, according to this view, transfixed by the dynamic of integration-conflict-disintegration it posits, simply highlight the implosion of these societies, and the consequent directionless drift of the remaining fragments. Such constructions leave the observer with a vague feeling of menace since they preclude any possibility of transforming urban reality.
The dynamic which characterize HipHop in Germany cannot be grasped from this standpoint. It is a perspective that devalues HipHop as a culture in its own rights.
The question of the following paper is: how can the transformation of urban reality undertaken by the young artists and musicians be adequately recognized? And what has this to do with an experimental stage for creativity in the stage of the adolescence?
That’s how the question came up for me, how do they deal with creativity and adolescence in migration as travelling by artists and as immigrants in the HipHop scene?
To provide a possible answer to this question we must begin by outlining the situation that gave rise to HipHop in Germany and then proceed to the cultural process of the stylistic self-situation that has established HipHop as a “way of life” for many young people in Germany, especially for the young immigrants. For as we will see, the creative achievement of these HipHoppers allows us to restate this question more productively, by force of Hiphop’s own self-reflexive dynamic because of the poetic modifications of language (Rap), dance (Breakdance), it's writing (Graffiti) and in the art scene in transforming the form, identities, defining autonomous spaces, being self-determinating and self-reflexive as an art-practice.
The following aspects characterize how I investigated the founding of HipHop in Germany and how the young generation of migrants in Germany articulate the fact that they were discriminated and problematized in the society, for example, as deviant young migrants.
With rap the young migrants articulated that they are in a paradox situation. This is the kind of reflective capacity in Hip Hop that allows you to reflect who you are and where you come from: They grew up here as the second generation of Turkish or Italian guestworkers or as black minorities.
They experienced from kindergarten to their adulthood not being acknowledged as Germans. Ursula Apitzsch stated that: “Children of immigrants are in a situation of double stress during their youth. Firstly, the parents project onto their children the expectations of success in emigration which they themselves, despite repeated postponements of the planned return home, have not been able to realize. Secondly, what the children evaluate, especially if they have lived in Germany for a long time and may even have been born there, is not just their parents’ original emigration project but also their own prospects of success in the host country” (Apitzsch 2004). This can be described as the goal for young immigrants in Germany to articulate in HipHop their own prospects of success in the country were they grew up as young immigrants. We investigate the creative elements young people with which with limited resources develop their own culture, - a culture of a minority with a society. How do they express in their language-use that they are “people of foreign descent as active subjects in their own right” … and how they “organize their lives” (Juhasz and May 2001, p. 208).
2. HipHop in Germany
“HipHop means working on yourself, standing in front of the mirror and saying to yourself, what am I going to make out of the day!” (Stieber Twins)
At the end of the eighties it became clear that German youth had appropriated HipHop for themselves as an American “way of life” that represented a form of social protest: The reality of streetlife was the message: Do it like we do it – spraypaint, break, rap become dj’s, mess around with trax, get yourself samplers, play mixtapes, put on parties, organize battles and jams, be real, because you can only be part of our culture if you are authentic, talk about your life: who you are, where you come from, why you rap, spraypaint, break, rap become dj’s, mess around with trax, so that you can construct your own HipHop culture, in your own culture, in your own country. What are the struggles of your life? Speak out, tell about the naked contradictions that you see there and that you come in contact with, experience first hand, that you feel, then you’re gonna be real, and only like this. Become a part of global HipHop culture and you will live HipHop.
In the Eighties, the “Old School” bearers of this message were in Germany Islamic Force (Berlin), Advanced Chemistry, Stieber Twins (Heidelberg), Cora E. (Kiel), Easy Business, Absolute Beginners (Hamburg), Asiatic Warriors, Konkret fin Duo (Frankfurt) Fresh Family (Düsseldorf) Fast Forward, a real dope thing among others. Moreover, mention must be made of the first, if controversial, German HipHop Vol. 1 sampler, Krauts with Attitude (1991, the Ruff ‘n’ Raw samplers (from 1993). Alte Schule (Old School) Sampler (MZEE) and the “Macht der Kreativität” (power of creativity) Sampler by Matthias Lanzer in Braunschweig.
Ten years later, from the beginning to the middle 1990’s, numerous acts came into view and were turned into a mouthpiece, not only for HipHop-culture and their representatives, but supposedly also, in an increasingly xenophobic country, for an anti-racist and anti-discriminatory social discourse.
The activists of HipHop-culture adapted themselves to this and were accepted as “Rappers with a message” – if criminalized as writers and ignored as breakers – since the record industry, despite only slowly becoming interested in the rappers, nonetheless had already strategically signed (so-opted) many groups and rappers at the end of the eighties and the beginning of the nineties, in order not to miss out on the chance to exploit their creative potential in the opportunity should it arise. The fall of the Wall in 1989 must be seen as paradigmatic for the absorption of HipHop into a medially directed discourse. At the time no one had been interested in HipHop as a musical form of expression. Increasingly the music was functionalised. Nowhere is the turning point more visible than in what was produced under the label “deutscher Sprechgesang” (German Speech-Song). This label unified within itself, immediately following “German Unification” (1989), the disparate tendencies of a newly awakened nationalistic “folk-conciousness” and therefore formed the basis of the broad commercialization of the HipHop acts that the record industry cultivated.
1991 took off with the album “Jetzt geht’s ab” (WEA) by the Fantastischen Vier. Although musically this album was judged to a disaster, it formed the impetus for the rappers to compete in battles and to continue in general, led them to believe in their own continued success and to believe that they were finally emerging from their subculture milieu. The Advanced Chemistry, Rödelheim Hartreim Project, Fettes Brot, Tobi und das Bo, Mc Renee, Stieber Twins, Kinderzimmer Productions established themselves, and, beginning in the mid-nineties, Boulevar Bou, der Freundeskreis, da Blumentopf, mellow bag, Jazzkantine, Fünf Sterne, Skillz mit Effekt, Anarchist Academy, followed, so that HipHop became more interesting as an economic factor for the big record firm such as Sony-Columbia, WEA, MCA; Mercury and Intercord.
Money now flowed back into the underground, with two principal consequences, a chance for a new crop of young talents to find a public of their own and an increase in professionalism. Some of the independent labels arising out of this process grew into professional record companies: MZEE rec. (Akim), 360 Grad (Advanced Chemistry) Four Music (die Fantastischen Vier), Ruff ‘N’ Raw (Roey Marquis II), Groove Attack. These in turn supported battles and jams and set up studios to create a representational zone for the younger generation, which enabled many more and younger groups to attain a greater degree of professionalism, to generate a commercially successful product, and to contribute to a widening array of HipHop acts and productions. The founding of the music channel VIVA at the outset of the 90s added to this intensified dynamic, since its programs included “freestyle,” a seminal broadcast for underground HipHop: Oliver von Felbert of Groove Attack, producer, with the Rapper Torch, the breaker Scopemann, and the dj Stylewarz in the studio. With this program, expanded and professionalized when the program was replaced a few years later with “Word cup”. In this fashion, the increasing professionalization and commercialization of the HipHop scene was generally accompanied by a sense of duty to and responsibility for new talent on the part of successful groups. One might even describe this aspect as a kind of “HipHop Ethos” for it provided a social cohesion between heterogeneous HipHop scenes and generations.
3. “Strangers in their own country”: the Semantic Structure of German Rap
“Nobody believes that we all have German passports.” (Advanced Chemistry)
The track “Fremd im eigenen Land” [“strangers in their own country”] by Advanced Chemistry (1992) seemed tailor-made to the rap-formations for the purposes of construction a view on a Germany that seemed self-evident to them, a Germany that had suddenly appeared as a diverse multicultural environment. It seemed designed to serve them in presenting Germany from another perspective, a critical one from which they could call German “Asylpolitik” [asylum-seeker-politics] into question. Rappers such as Advanced Chemistry’s Torch wanted to express how threatened they felt after the racist firebomb attacks in Hoyerswerda and Rostock in an individual and personal manner and it went without saying that HipHop presented itself naturally to them as both means and medium:
“If you can’t unload a politically committed message in HipHop where then?" (Torch)
This very real threat to members of immigrant communities in Germany, who live in fear of being exposed to random racist attacks, issues for the rappers in a migration, the emigration into language. This marks the semantic structure of German Rap. Numerous rappers among the second and third generation of immigrants have reconstructed the everyday reality of discrimination they have known since “kindergarten” They have reproduced their experiences in their music in order to pass their experience down to a next wave of HipHoppers, precisely so that the latter would be able to assimilate and transform it. The syncretic moment here consists in their desire to possess a characteristic style that they would no longer have to justify, that is, a style that did not require them to legitimate their own activity by assuming any identity ascribed to them or imposed upon them. German HipHop thus became a “newspaper of the street” that responded to the threat and reacted to the fear.
“The marginal man is the key personality in the contacts of cultures. It is in his minds that the cultures come together, conflict, and eventually work out some kind of mutual adjustment and interpenetration. He is the crucible of cultural fusion. His life history recapitulates something of the processes described in the race –relations cycle: at first he is unaware of the cultural conflict going on; then through some crisis experience or series of experiences he becomes aware of it, and the external conflict finds an echo in his mind; and finally, he tries and sometimes succeeds in making an adjustment to his situation" (Stonequist, 1961, p. 221).
4. Situated anxiety as strangers in the HipHop scene in the nineties
But just as politics were losing their ability to protest against the renewed danger from the right, the media found its organ of opposition in HipHop. The result at the beginning of the 90s, however, was the increased commercialization of the HipHop scene in the Media and an accompanying subsumption of the original impulses of what had been marked as “multicultural” bands. In relation to the market the multicultural perspective of migrants sells. The “multicultural” bands were subjected to a media discourse in which they were forced to struggle for recognition vis à vis an artificial theoretical construct “Being German”, though ironically they had not heretofore found it problematic to identify themselves as German, while the other bands, who had started off with no other intention but having fun like the Fantastischen Vier and who had from the beginning a more commercial interest, were not subjected to this discourse at all. Somehow this discourse was used for the inner discussion and positioning ones position in the specific HipHop peergroup and for delimitations from other HipHop groups and this discourse was as well commercialized. The groups with the most commercial material and who were most successful in freeing their musical potential from this discourse were the Fantastic 4, (Stuttgart) projects from Moses P (Rödelheim Hartreim Project, Frankfurt), D-Flame, Da Germ, Roey Marquis II, Peaches, der Freundeskreis.
5. Coping/ dealing with the situation as young migrants in Germany – das Beste draus machen (make the best out of it) – HipHop?
Since then the HipHop scene in Germany has developed within the forcefield that exists between commercially viable material and “Migrant-Oriental” HipHop, which is not marketable or at best marginally. HipHop’s appeal is “universal”. Kids of every generation are fascinated by HipHop. It becomes an all –encompasing leisure activity. They devote their entire free time to getting “rich and famous” and in their rapping propagate a world of commercial “needs and desires” But they also want to appropriate HipHop culture for themselves to become more authentic, they declare every suburb a ghetto, which provides them with a standpoint from which they let their imagination work, what the world is and can be, and to criticize a hegemonic culture. They feel neglected, slighted, and above all bored by the dominant culture , and by establishing within it a HipHop culture, attempt to redefine it. Occupying a significant position within this process, however, remain those participants socially stigmatized as multicultural and oriental, whose relation to the dominant culture is considered marginal and particularistic. One must emphasize here that these “marginalized” participants, immigrant children of the 2nd and 3nd Generation who have grown up in Germany, take an active part in this “universal” process of changing culture and yet for all their central role are not accepted as having acquired adequate cultural competence within German society and are labelled “foreigners.” Stonequist describes this process as: “Here the ‘crisis experience’ is the event which throws the individual back upon himself and produces a ‘disengagement and temporary withdrawal.’ Those individuals who have the potentialities to reconstruct their personalities ‘return’ as creative agents. As such “creative agents’not only adjust themselves but also contribute to the solution of the conflict of races and cultures. … But the creative role of the individual varies with the situation.” (Stonequist, 1961, 220) Consequently, while they form an integral part of the young “generation” that is imprinting its stamp on the culture of their country, their society denies them recognition as its cultural bearers. This experience is packed into “Lyrix” as a lived rupture, represented by “broken beats”, reflecting a fundamental experience of exclusion and devaluation. We can reconstruct this process in the music, and we can call the reaction to it a “Rap on German Rap”, best represented by groups such as Islamic Force, Türkisch HipHop, (Machmut, Frankfurt und Murrat, Köln) , Cartell (Berlin) Aziza A, KANAK, Asiatic Warriors (D-Flame), Karakan etc.
6. HipHop as Stylistic Innovation and Appropriated, situated Lifestyle
“But slowly I realized what was and is going on: to announce my identity and to represent my own opinion, vitalized and marked by my surroundings, reality. I understood that I now move within a culture where B boys blow down, the dj plays records, the rapper comments through his poetry, staying off the drugs and refraining from violence. And so I go ahead with rhymes, one of the new rhyme generation in this rhyme tradition” (Mc Renee).
The creativity and stylistic innovation generated in HipHop reveal complex social processes in particular the processes of social exclusion and social transformation. Rappers verbalize the varieties of everyday violence experienced in German by immigrants, aliens, refugees and asylum seekers.
This process, which becomes transparent as a form of cultural expression only in a second step, can be characterized as “situative creativity”. Focussing on the stylistic innovation, therefore, how these experiences are verbalized by the rappers, enables us to make the creative processes of transformation visible, but only if we do not fall prey to the discourse of the media, which reduce this creativity to stereotypical expressions of the experiential world of the young, which then no longer seem dangerous.
On the contrary, out of this creative process arises a new form of transmission that corresponds to the social knowledge being transported here, the “reality of streetlife” and its concomitant frustrations, the experience of being left, neglected, abandoned, lost and forgotten. And this is what young people not simply the immigrants, imagine in order to establish the autonomous rules and principles of an alternative body of knowledge, in order to be able to write a HipHop history. The transformative power of creativity forms a “way of life” as such, through a self produced style, which reproduces hrough performance a reciprocal and in itself processual authenticity that is intimately connected with reflecting upon one’s own life situation.
A locating process takes place with Rap through which it must secure its own existence, in so far as, through the poetic modification of language, it takes control of the language of “others”. Only thus can the “not being permitted to speak” be reflected in a land that denies people to be located. Opposed to this stands the rappers’s relationship to local contexts, you name the city you come from.
This state of non-admission, in the sense that no permission, no attempt at integration is forthcoming, becomes particularly palpable whenever political statements on integration are issued, which, as involuntary realizations of an integration that has already taken place, only make the exclusion even more palpable. How else can the excluded call attention to themselves, to the fact that they subversively appropriate the acknowledgement denied them, the dignity of having their cultural achievements recognized, how else can they “beat the structure”, other than in the supplementary modification of the spoken word, in a dance whose movements manifest the adaptive accomplishments of immigrants as flexible and elastic? The intermediary role of the stranger corresponds to the question of flexibility of the young immigrants and their elastic use of language. His insight into the two cultures peculiarly qualifies him for this; and to the degree that it is successful he contributes to his own inner adjustment. As a constructive rather than a subversive force he gains the approval of the liberally minded men of the dominant group, and this also strengthens his consciousness of adjustment” (Stonequist, 1961, p. 178).
The self-production that results from this is an artform, the immigrant’s art of living, and not just an immigrant’s - (way of life). “Each acquisition of a foreign language opens the door to a new way of life . The individual who penetrates deeply into a foreign culture becomes a richer personality. He readily shifts from one language to another. Thus he is in a position to look at problems from more than one viewpoint, and to see the essential ethnocentrism of each” (Stonequist, 1961, p. 178-179).
“Because the principle remained/even when the wheel of time turns/HipHops watch how pop enters the charts/and who’s actually treading this path/understand the path is narrow between rap and reality.” (Freundeskreis)
Young people have begun to develop their own independent form of musical expression that must be embedded in a new and different beat, in breakbeats, in a flow, groove, riddims, rhymes, that is, the assimilation of technical means of production, the equipment of youth culture: young people who have located themselves through their creative achievements that they have long since assimilated the culture that denies them a role. These transformations are being transported in the material of the music, represented and reflected by rappers, dj’s breakers and writers supported by the culture-industry which promises economic success. This is the illegitimate new message transmitted in the beat, sound, and “lyrix” –the syncretism of a “devalued” culture.
“Keep (sh)it raw” (Cora E.)
© Felicia Herrschaft
(Translation: Carl Buchner)
Inken Keim/Wilfried Schütte (Hrsg.), Soziale Welten und kommunikative Stile. Festschrift für Werner Kallmeyer zum 60.Geburtstag, Tübingen 2002.
Stonequist, Everett V. (1937: The Marginal Man, A Study in personality and Culture Conflict. New York 1961.
Strauss Anselm L. (1959), Mirror and masks. The Search for Identity. New Brunswick, 2002.
Hannes Loh & Murat Güngör, “Fear of a kanak planet”- HipHop between Worldculture and Nazi-Rap, Hannibal Verlag Gmbh, Höfen 2002.
german hiphop- magazin
magazine in switzerland
Microphone Mafia Label!
Brothers Keepers - Adriano
Jetzt ist die Zeit, hier ist der Ort
Heute ist die Nacht, Torchmann hat das Wort
Denk´ ich an Deutschland in der Nacht bin ich um meinen
Schlaf gebracht - mein Bruder Adriano wurde umgebracht
Hautfarbe:schwarz. Blut rot. Schweigen ist Gold.
Gedanken sind tiefblau. Ein Bürger hat Angst vor seinem Volk.
Ein Wintermärchen aus Deutschland. Blau Samt.
Als Kind schon erkannt: ich bin hier fremd im eigenen Land
Operation Artikel 3 -da habt ihr gelacht!
Jungs, das ist mein Leben, das ha´m wir uns nicht ausgedacht
In all den Jahren in denen wir airplay verschwendet haben
Man könnte denken, wir Rapper hätten nichts zu sagen
Doch es rächt sich, ihr werdet sehen, es holt uns ein!
Einigkeit macht stark - Adriano starb allein.
Hängt dein Leben auf einmal am seidenen Faden,
dann blitzen die Warnsignale über die bebenden Leiterbahnen
Die Zeit ist reif, wenn Köpfe keine Preise mehr haben.
Wir müsen aufhören zu labern und auf jeden Fall
den Feind beobachten und dann ganz langsam enttarnen
Wörter sind wie der Wind und laut sprechen die Taten
Wir werden nicht warten, graben Löcher mit Spaten.
Seid euch im Klaren: das Karma, das wird euch beraten.
Dies ist so was wie letzte Warnung
Denn unser Rückschlag ist längst in Planung
Gebieten eurer braunen Scheiße endlich Aufhalt
Denn was ihr sucht ist das Ende
Und was wir reichen sind geballte Fäuste und keine Hände
Euer Niedergang für immer. Und was wir hören werden, ist euer Weinen und euer Gewimmer
Denk´ ich an früher war der Widerstand noch eher müde
Heut gib´s genügend Brüder mit der rechten Attitüde
Geben sich Mühe um den Sprung zur Macht zu schaffen,
inden sie VWL, BWL, Jura zur Berufung machen.
In allen Sprachen, den Erleuchteten gefriert das Lachen.
Ist das Erwachen die Verhänderung im Jahr de Drachen.
60 Millionen Sklaven von denen es 8 Millionen schaffen.
Die besten sind jetzt unter euch; ich hoffe für euch zu verkraften.
How many more men must die pass by the public eye
On both sides of the Atlantic watch the panic multiply
Walk on by we devided supposed to coincide.
Side line observers disturbers trying to stay alive
I realised at a young age lifes design maze like
But its amazing the way hate spreads when it´s been raised right
Withhout day light the truths often hard to swallow
Why we sending out our love to Amadou and Adriano
Ich rapp´ für meinen Bruder, denn ich könnte auch das Opfer sein.
Falscher Ort, falsche Zeit -da hilft dir auch nicht tapfer sein
Wie viel Blut muss fließen in innerdeutschen Krisen
Alter, schau die letzen Jahre haben mir das zu oft bewiesen,
dass die Menschen sich erheben, wenn die Leute nicht mehr leben
Doch dann ist es zu spät, ihr solltet öfters drüber reden
Also sag wie ist das möglich? Mal ist es doch tödlich/Gerechtigkeit
denn nicht nur Adriano hat es nötig.
Seventh sunday after Easter a fellow brother´s executed in his prime Adriano´s crime: wrong place, wrong time
I can still hear the voice of anguish fading throught the night,
it was an unfair fight!
3 versus 1, god they caught him by surprise
Xenophobia´s on the rise, victims get dehumanised
Procedures standardised as the lands germanised
Names become numbers while death is trivialised
Why on why, why on why ,
I can feel the mob crawling
I can hear the horns calling
Your´ve taken the life of an innocent man
Another blood stain on this barren land
Father and father
Zu viele Promis machen politische Promo-Gigs
Ich hoff´ der Track hier ist´n Dildo der die Zone fickt
Ich will nicht mehr erzählen zum national Befreien
Ich sage K, sage, Z, sage Nazis rein
Ich will nicht labern, denn ich kenn´mein Vaterland
Macht es mich krank wie Masern, dann verspür ich Tatendrang
Ich fühle mich eingeengt und will statt Prominenz
Und statt grßer Fans, Nazis die wie Poster hängen
Samy Deluxe & D-Flame
Ich hörte schon im Kindergarten Weiße zu mir Nigger sagen
Die Klischees nicht hinterfragen, jetzt Brüder niederschlagen
Wir forden mehr als gleiche Rechte, wir wollen endlich Frieden haben,
neue Ziele haben und nicht das Image von Dealern haben.
Im Landtag diskutiert man über einen Antrag
Die Schandtat wird bedauert, doch was ich mich dann frag:
"Warum steht schon wieder ne schwarze Familie am Grab?"
Das ist der Alltag, die Justiz verdammt hart
Jungs in Abschiebehaft sind am Schwitzen wie im Dampfbad
Man merkt die Führung hat Macken
Nach all den rüden Attacken, müssen wir Brüder bestatten,
da einige lieber hassen. Die ganzen miesen Drecksratten
Können ihre Lügen wegpacken. Da sind genügend beschatten
Können sich zu wehren, statt zu ignorieren.
Das war´s von Flame und mir: Free Mumia
I´m holding my ones and when it gets dark I´m blasting my guns
When I bury my claws into your flesh taking my time
Street daily felony, gradually I put something out treasury
Why measure me, rock your shit faithfully and get it on and rotatin´
Silly frictions exaggerated hard rocks manipulated
We pick it up and do it up, know your future like it´s on your rear view nothing really matters now because we consume unseen like
Alter deine Gesinung ist´ne Farce
und wir zwo wissen, dass Dir das klar ist: wenn Dein Mob denn mal nicht da ist und Du in den Spiegel starrst, der dein Elend zeigt.
Hier deine Seele muß am Arsch sein, wenn Du Umstände beklagst und Kanaken dafür jagst - du Has´ - ich brauch´ deinen Job, deine Alte, all die Probleme nicht. Was macht dich bloß so stolz? Geh tief in dich und schäme dich! Vergess´ die Ethnien-Kacke und dann zeig´ Flagge! Adriano lebt in mir und du kriegst nichts gebacken.
Mit allen nötigen Mitteln, selbstverteidigung
gegen jede Beleidigung, 85% der Menschen bleiben dumm,
treibens bunt, verbreiten Schund. Die meisten schweigen.
Drums sei´s, dass wir das Ruder schnappen und reißens rum.
Ich brauch´ nazibefreite Zone, Party und geile Show
doch find´ kein Ruh´ vor denen die behaupten,
Konservative Leitkultur hat´s für die Rechten klar gemacht,
denk ich an Deutschland, werde ich um meinen rechten Schlaf gebracht