German hip-hop is real, and comparatively, it’s as important as electronic and rock music when it comes to the cultural conversation. Today, there’s a multitude of styles, both on the over- and underground. Going back, German hip-hop can trace its roots to the town of Heidelberg in the mid-to-late 1980s. Frederick Hahn, better known as Torch, was an MC for Advanced Chemistry, a local political hip-hop group whose members came from immigrant families. The group – one of the first to rap in German – were vocal in their support against racism, police violence and right-wing politics, politicizing their own identity as Germans while the country was forging a new cosmopolitan future. One of their biggest-selling singles was called ‘Fremd im eigenen Land’ (“foreign in my own country”), placing pro-immigrant politics in the mainstream and setting a template for what was to come.
Like Germany’s ever-growing international community, the scene is broad, accommodating all types of hip-hop. From dancefloor-oriented Peter Fox to the goofy witticism of CRO, from Berlin rogue troop K.I.Z. to the comedic and easy-going nature of MC Fitti, there’s a rich variety for all. There’s even room for a group consisting solely of hand-puppets, the Puppetmastaz. With the influx of Syrian migrants, it’s only a matter of time before the cosmopolitan community grows in diversity even more. One such artist who migrated to Berlin during the Syrian civil conflict was Mohammed Abu Hajar of the Mazzaj Rap band, who is already making waves on a local level.
Due to language limitations, German hip-hop will never be able to challenge its American counterpart, but when checking the charts of leading hip-hop store store HHV, independent sales tell a very different picture. Re-issues of Fünf Sterne Deluxe sit next to Anderson .Paak and Joy Denalane in the top 100. Local beat-music collective BeatGeeks have a compilation record alongside local rappers Audio88 and Bushido, in a top sellers list that also includes A Tribe Called Quest and Sleaford Mods. It goes to show that in Germany, there’s still space for a wider, creative outlet.