Advanced Chemistry to Sookee: 30ish years of German rap
Sounds of science
Founded in Heidelberg in 1987 - and celebrating a rounder anniversary year - Advanced Chemistry interrogated the notion of homogeneous German identity over old-school beats. With ancestral roots in Haiti, Ghana and Italy, the trio challenged the post-reunification right with the 1992 single "Fremd in Eigenem Land" (Stranger in One's Own Country): "Not an immigrant / and nevertheless a foreigner."
And then there were four
Understanding that four white men had no claim to the experience of excluded populations, Die Fantastischen Vier - not, members swear, named after Marvel's mutants - went with goofy. Fanta 4's first recorded song, "Jetzt geht's ab" (Here It Goes), appeared on the 1991 German hip-hop sampler "Krauts With Attitude." Still active, the graying group continues to seek new ways to make its fans laugh.
Half-cocked and fully baked
Continuing the tradition of less-than-earnest hip-hop, the cinematic Fettes Brot (Fat Bread in the direct translation, but also slang for Excellent Hash) filmed a spaghetti Western for the video of its breakthrough 1996 single, "Jein" - of course, the German language has a single word for the phrase "yes and no." After taking a year or so off, the group reformed in late 2012 and the yuks go on.
A genre for all genders
Fortunately, German hip-hop is not exclusively the domain of irreverent white men, beloved though they may be. Discovered at a 1995 rap competition in the Ruhr area's postindustrial ruins, Tic Tac Toe reached No. 3 on the German charts with their self-titled debut a year later. A representative track was "Ich finde dich Scheisse" (I Think You're Crap).
Newcomers here to stay
Gifted with the goofiness of early German acts, Zugezogen Maskulin mixes politics with humor to sometimes jarring effect. In last year's "Ratatat im Bataclan," the duo sought to remind listeners that the 2015 attacks in Paris were an aberration but that such violence has become a reality for children trapped in war zones. The track also features a shout-out to rapper Testo's ex.
The king of German hip-hop
If genres have their male monarchs - think Elvis for rock, Michael Jackson for pop - then, set to release his 10th album this fall, Eko Fresh has earned the crown he has given himself. And, what's more, "König von Deutschland" (King of Germany) will feature some of the bigger names from several decades of US hip-hop: Tupac's allied Outlawz, Silkk the Shocker and even ODB's son Young Dirty Bastard.
The quing of German hip-hop
Sookee has given herself the crown of neither king nor queen in her quest for racial, gender and LGBTQ+ equality. Her music fills dance floors but also works in the headphones of lone listeners isolated by male-dominated heteronormative societies - or music scenes. Sookee and her "Bitches Butches Dykes & Divas" may be the voices who take the legacy of German hip-hop to a more inclusive future.
By some calculations, hip-hop is celebrating 44 years as a musical genre and a movement this weekend. German rap is not quite so old, but there have been three rhyme-rich decades so far.
On Saturday, Google users were treated to a nifty interactive doodle commemorating an odd anniversary: 44 years since the party that is credited with beginning the hip-hop movement, which has had a transformative effect on all aspects of culture - from aesthetics to politics.
In 44 years, hip-hop music has gone from misunderstood to maligned to monetized, but at its best it has provided an alternative for people alienated by the mainstream.
In the origin story Google told this weekend, hip-hop began 44 years ago at a summer barbecue in New York City's Bronx borough; its legacy in Germany is much shorter, but here, too, it has provided an alternative, an outlet, a reason to celebrate. In the spirit of the all-knowing Google, which says there's no wrong time for an anniversary, here are a few German hip-hoppers to spend a summer Saturday with.