Dietmar Elflein 1996

From Krauts with Attitude to Turks with Attitude
- some aspects of German hip hop history -

To talk in general about hip hop in Germany means in one way or another to talk about how hip hop emerged in the two German states, to think about differences and similarities and the way the reunification affected this process. One would come to the conclusion that in spite of the fact that a hip hop scene with similar models of organisation and similar rolemodels existed in both German states today almost all better known hip hop acts are from the western part of Germany. And - no one would be surprised about that.

I would like to go another way and do on the other hand the same - I will concentrate on the western part of Germany and West-Berlin, because I will focus on certain aspects which discriminate hip hop from other German youth cultures and / or music styles which have in common to refer to afro American models. In concrete I talk about the fact that never before such a great portion of second or third generation mostly male immigrant youth became producers of a culture that is not grounded in traditions of their parents and this is on pure demographically means a western phenomena.

To provide some thoughts about what makes hip hop musically and culturally so interesting for them will be the third part of my paper. First I will start with a short history of how a hip hop scene in the FRG emerged. Then I will focus on two records, both of them stand for a nationalisation of a scene whose protagonists are mostly immigrants. The first stresses a German identity and the second a Turkish one. The last part then focuses on the music coming out of this given situation. Is there something that could be labelled migrant hip hop?

I. A short history

Sugarhill Gang's surprising international success with their single 'Rapper´s Delight' marked the starting point for hip hop not only in Germany. But this record, one of the first pieces of recorded rapmusic in fact, was not taken seriously. It appeared as a kind of novelty discorecord. So far so well known. But to be a part of disco music means to be recognised in the discotheques, which themselves constitute a social field which is in part already determined by male immigrant youth and this is important for this article and also my first argument.

breakbeat one
Remember the times we talk about: In the end of the 70s / beginning 80s the discotheque marked the absolute evil for all German youth cultures popular music researchers are used to write about, be it punk or following styles or the hippie - alternative types of youth culture. That means no dissident or regarded as kind of rebellious German youth culture focused around disco and related styles. There is an empty space to be filled.

Information about hip hop culture were only provided by films about the New York old school hip hop scene like Charlie Ahearn´s 'Wild Style' (1982) or the Harry Belafonte produced 'Beat Street' (1984) to name the two most important films for the German hip hop scene. These films owed their emergence to the discovery that hip hop is more than rapmusic, that is to discover that there exists an extensive street culture of social and economically marginalised afro- and in part Hispanoamerican youth which is spectacular enough to be commercially interesting and besides it reproduces the socially acclaimed performance principle.

breakbeat two
Rapmusic and hip hop developed in the New York of the 70s as a combination of different Afro- and Hispanoamercan traditions. We have at first an athletic highly acrobatic dance style with roots in Puertorican traditions - the breakdance. Secondly DJs developed out of the Jamaican rooted tradition of mobile discotheques - the sound systems - a new style where through the simultaneous use of two turntables new pieces of music evolve out of the fragments of existing records. It's the appearance of the breakbeat which could be used as a background for the rapping - the rhymed and rhythmisized recitative in the Afro-American traditions of the Dozens and Signifying. Thirdly more and more youth, which started by tagging their street-name more or less city wide, are producing characters and pictures with spraycans, that means Graffiti. Their favourite places to spray are subwaytrains, which is of course illegal and needs to be done at night. All those cultural forms of expression have in common that they are highly competitive. Everyone of these social and economically marginalized youth tries to be the best in his or her favourite discipline, wants to get fame and to climb up the ladder of hierarchy within their own peergroup.

breakbeat three
By the way 'Beat Street' started in the former GDR where hip hop or better rapmusic up to that time was only known via western German radio almost at the same time as in the former FRG. Informants from the former Eastberlin hip hop scene attest unanimously the immense importance of that film for the emergence of a GDR-hip hop scene. In the second half of the 80s just Dresden interestingly became the centre of the GDR-hip hop scene although Dresden is placed in the so called black hole where the reception of west German radio and - TV was very difficult due to geographical reasons. Here the hip hop scene of the whole republic met for competitions in rapping, break dancing and graffiti. My informants told me that the attitude of the state machinery, esp. the so called Stasi, towards that movement appeared to be indifferent.

Like I suggested for Dresden regional centres of a hip hop street culture are also developing in the former FRG- Brunswick, Dortmund, Hamburg, Heidelberg, Kiel , Cologne and West-Berlin to name a few important ones. In the beginning most of the activities focus around breakdance and in doing so some youth achieve to become professional dancers and develop an economic perspective out of dancing. With time graffiti and rap enjoy greater popularity among other things because many interested youth aren't able to reach the immense athletics and body control necessary for breakdancing. At the same time in the midst 80s the short commercial boom of old school hip hop ends and media and with them many youth turn to other themes and styles. What remains is a hard core of mostly male activists who make a virtue of necessity and begin to meet supra regional. From 1987/88 on such so called jams become the focus of the hip hop youth culture.

breakbeat four
Most of the dancers, sprayartitsts, rappers and DJs arrive at a jam with the train via the inter-rail ticket, which is a cheap possibility for youth to use the train. Everyone knows one another and celebrates unity, whereas a towards a social outside directed demarcation through clothes, hair-style etc., like many German dominated youth cultures do, seems not so important. I'm not saying, that there were no dresscodes and so on but what is preferred is functional clothing like sportswear, which you need for breakdancing or darker clothes for spraying. It's not yet the time where you can define a hip hop fan because of his basecap and special sportswear outfit.

During this time in 1988 the first record of a Westgerman hip hop crew gets released, it was a 12-inch single of the Westberlin based crew Rock Da Most called 'Use the Posse'. Their DJ Derezone later becomes an important person in the development of what is now called oriental hip hop. But at this moment everyone orientates musically and vocally on Us-American rolemodels. Funk- and soulsamples dominant the music exactly the same way as everyone rhymes in English language. DJs try to mix beats together and scratch as good as they can while rappers train their skills and compete in more or less freestyle jams.

Around the German reunification media - and recordindustry interest in the hip hop scene begins to awake because of the international charthit of the Frankfurt based production 'The Power' by SNAP (1990). On the one side mediapeople and A&R-managers are looking for talents able to follow up to that success and on the other side the by the fall of the Berlin wall refreshed German nationalism opens a space for the commercialisation of a new national coded youth culture. In march 1990 an article appears in the perhaps most important German-speaking musicmonthly Spex which on the front-page is loudly called Krauts with Attitude but then only reads Eurohop in the table of contests. Relatively at the same time some small independent record companies begin to release records (vinyl of course) of Westgerman hip hop crews like LSD or Exponential Enjoyment amongst others. The first rap in Turkish language 'Bir Yabancinin Hayati' (= The life of a stranger) gets released in 1991 on the Debut-LP of the Nuremberg based hip hop crew King Size Terror.

breakbeat five
The new possibilities of articulation and communication in the field of dance music brought to life by the strong emphasis on word in hip hop get used by immigrant youth for the discussion of an identity as a stranger , whereas pure German groups like for example LSD are more interested in musical abilities than in contents.

II. Two records
Krauts with Attitude

Also in 1991 a record gets released under the title 'Krauts with Attitude - German Hip Hop Vol.1' which claims to offer a somehow representative cross-section of the west-German hip hop scene. A little bit later I will discuss the implications connected with the title of this compilation, now I will just offer the facts: 'Krauts with Attitude' ('KWA') appeared on the Philip Morris owned label Boombastic Records and was compiled by DJ Michael Reinboth , a by that time well known person in the hip hop scene. Out of the in total 15 groups three are rapping in German language, amongst them the later famous Fantastischen 4 , eleven in English and one in French, which is also the only female rapper on the record . Besides her two other women are shown on the bandphotos, all others are men, whose parents seem to be descended from very different parts of the world. All featured groups are from western Germany.

The title 'KWA' refers to both the mentioned titlestory of the same name in Spex 3/90 and the Californian based rapgroup Niggaz with Attitude, because of their explicit lyrics ('Fuck tha Police') one of the most controversial discussed hip hop acts of that time and already rolemodel for Spex in the formation of their idea.

breakbeat six
This adoption of patterns of self-production of Us-American marginalized people - or at least the ones, who are regarded as such - by means of an own self-production in the FRG is a typical method of a sub-cultural discourse of dissidence represented at that time for example by the magazine Spex. Dissidence means in that case the construction of a world-wide community of all people ostracised from social power independent from all social, political or economical differences and especially independent from the fact whether this being excluded represents a symbolic act of free will, which can be cancelled at any time or a compulsory reality of life. Dissidence describes pointedly the point of view of a white male inhabitant of the western metropolis, who doesn't believe in political engagement anymore, but in spite of that wants to feel kind of solidaric with the oppressed of the world.

At the same time this title 'KWA' plays with a kind of non-dissident identification of parts of the west-German hip hop scene with their Us-American rolemodels. Here the hip hop internal structuring of competition can be national coded through the arrangement in an international framework - from Bronx against Queens to eastcoast against westcoast to FRG against USA. One sideeffect not unimportant is by the way, that the cited Niggaz with Attitude themselves and some of their members like Ice Cube or Dr Dre are becoming rolemodels for the coming into being hip hop subgenre gangsta hip hop, which again gets very popular in that parts of the west German hip hop scene who perpetuate the identification to a glorification. A little bit later Ice Cube joins the Nation of Islam and spreads in his raps their at least problematic ideology. The equivalence between the gangsta-image and the Nation of Islam is built in the case of Ice Cube upon the in both roles cultivated aggressive concept of virility. Another important rolemodel of that time are the as well Nation of Islam members Public Enemy.

breakbeat seven
'I draw the concept of an equivalential chain from Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe´s Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, in which Laclau and Moffe insist on the open and necessarily incomplete character of every society (1985,p.113)...Equivalence-building does not, however, imply the creation of a unified force, for there is an ambiguity inherent in every notion. On the one hand, in the relation of equivalence there must remain an element of difference without which we would have mere identity... Equivalence-building is thus never simply alliance, since it implies both a modifying of the forces involved and a process of negotiation, consisting of an attempt to reach a middle ground between autonomy and identity.'
(Irving 1993,p.107f)

In that way the title 'KWA' combines different associations that would present him as a clever marketingmove if there wouldn't be the unmistakability of the coverdesign and the intended purpose. The national black red and yellow of the cover and the linernotes which read amongst other things: 'now is the time to oppose somehow against the self-confidence of the English and the American' change the meaning of the title from a at least problematic but somehow ironic statement referring to an as world-wide hallucinated subcultural discourse of dissidence into a clearly nationalistic statement.

'KWA' is the starting point for the creation of a new national genre of music. Hip hop in the FRG changes at first into the a little bit embarrassed English term 100% German Hip Hop and then into Deutscher Hip Hop ('German hip hop'). By means of the a little bit later starting success of the Fantastischen 4 represented as already mentioned on the 'KWA'-record the pure nationalistic term Neuer Deutscher Sprechgesang ('New German recitative') or also Neue Deutsche Reimkultur ('New German culture of rhyming') can be pushed through. In that way a copied adopted style gets grafted on a national identity, which de facto locks out many of the participants.

breakbeat eight
Further on in the text I hope to show, that the special attractivity of hip hop for immigrant youth supplies out of the differences to cultural patterns looked upon by them as German. This makes this project of nationalisation even worse in terms of this process of locking out.

Inevitably the enforcement of the term Neuer Deutscher Sprechgesang struts along with the need to reduce hip hop again to only a style of music and in the absence of any musical characteristic language becomes the only criterion. Then the idea to rap in German language is obvious and taken for itself of course not nationalistic. Such a project gets problematic because it's marketed as a national tool against Anglo-Saxon / Afro-American cultureimperialism. Moreover the groups marketed in this way unfortunately don't know what to do with the stress on word in hip hop. They present themselves more or less aware of the fact that they participate in a national tradition, within 'Germans who imitate exotic cultures no matter how perfect feel like to become addicted to a mood of carnival. This low level aims on a broad success in the German market. If one succeeded in doing that one can always become more pretentious.' (Jacob 1993, 214) Besides the reducing of hip hop to rapmusic the complex structures of rhyming in rapping gets often reduced to end-rhyme like in the following example: 'I am SMUDO of the Fantastic 4 / and I like to drink bananajuice with cool beer' (die Fantastischen 4 'Jetzt geht´s ab'). This process postulated by G.Jacob can be duplicated by the career of the Fantastischen 4 and more recent the Hamburg based group Fettes Brot ('Fat bread').

The strengthened interest by the media- and entertainmentindusty confronts the west-German hip hop activists with the need of identities which should be on the one hand marketable and on the other hand protecting against the so-called sell-out. As a counterpart to the to the Fantastischen 4 which are contemptuously labelled 'Pop-Rap' and the mentioned nationalisation of hip hop the offensive attended identity of being an immigrant or stranger becomes more and more important. The reducing of hip hop to rapmusic gets in the same way opposed by the holy trinity of true hip hop, rap breakdance and graffiti. One of the connected strategic possibilities consists in the demand of a multicultural identity by means of direct political participation for immigrants. These demands are mostly rapped in German language and can also be seen as an attempt to denationalise German rapping in some way. In the years of xenophobia 1992/93 this leads to a short project of the media- and entertainmentindustry to provide hip hop a marketable identity as antiracist multicultural youthculture with the idea to modernise the Neue deutsche Sprechgesang following the commercially successful nationalisation. The climax of this project which by and by gets cancelled parallel to the decline of public interest in nice forms of protest and bewilderment is the compilation CD and LP 'Rap gegen Rechts' (rap against the right wing) released in 1993 and edited by the modern tabloid Prinz. From that point on the Neue deutsche Sprechgesang pushes through as commercial mainstream of hip hop produced in the FRG and stays always in contact with nationalism or at least regionalism and also the mentioned mood of carnival.


Then in may 1995 a CD/MC gets released which is called 'Cartel'. Besides the titletrack of the same name it features five tracks by the Nuremberg based group Karakan, which is an offspring of the already mentioned King Size Terror, three tracks by the Kiel based Da Crime Posse and three tracks by the West-Berlin artist Erci E.. As a connecting element between the three serves the reference to the term Cartel in some of the pieces. The design of the CD/MC hints at the Turkish flag through the red groundcolour and letter C of 'Cartel' which looks like the white crescent while the whole character is deposited by ornaments. At the upper margin of the cover white letters show the names of the three participating groups whereby Karakan are in the pole-position followed by Erci E. and Da Crime Posse. All three are under contract by spyce records a company owned by their manager Ozan Sinan. In the FRG 'Cartel' are released by Mercury/Polygram, in Turkey by RAKS/Polygram. In 1995 they sold more than 300000 copies in Turkey and at least 20000 in the FRG. That means for Turkey 'Cartel' became superstars dropping Michael Jackson from number one of the album-charts, whereas in the FRG they are known but with no comparable commercial status also in the Turkish community.

The target-group however are actually Turkish youth living in Germany: 'Almost one million Turkish youth are living in Germany, an immense potential.' (Quotation by a manager of Mercury records cited by Jacob 1995,33). The official press-release reads moreover: 'The new identity: Like in France or England ethnic minorities cry against discrimination with their own music. Hip hop as a language is therefore a logic choice...Cartel want to offer their own identity, because only who makes clear, where he is standing, gets calculable and taken seriously. Cartel is the musical lobby for thousands of kids of the second generation, who expresses what they think what they feel...'

The target-group is not only searched offensively but gets also constructed. This happens by offering an interesting story about ethnic minorities to the bourgeois / alternative press - that is for the target-group Turkish youth in the FRG only relatively relevant media - and in the same time make advertisements in the same newspapers which suggest by the new term The Oriental Hip Hop Project a demand for sole representation for a not yet existing style of music. Important for the curiosity which is needed to be produced is to present oneself to the German public as a non-communication model as an offensive acting foreign matter. 'Our target-group are the Turks not the German society.' (Ozan Sinan in Rick 1995,6) Besides manager Ozan Sinan gets not tired to stress the project-character of 'Cartel': 'Cartel won't go on with these three groups but has the basic conception a) to expand as a community...and b) some time become a basis for an idea.' (Rick 1995,6) In that way a target-group of ostracised people gets formatted in German media by means of cultural identity construction - and this group should be identified as Turkish. So already at the date of release a broad media-response emerges and still increases after realising that 'Cartel' are the coming superstars in Turkey.

The Turkish audience however should be reached directly by the design copied from the Turkish flag. This means at the same time that 'Cartel' differs enormous from the normal portraitphoto-design of an average Turkish cassette-production and they suggested in that way to be something special. The fact to originate from the FRG is neither extraordinary nor hindering the success in Turkey.

Musically speaking 'Cartel' never leaves firm ground. Hip hop beats, which are by and by enriched by reminiscences of ragamuffin beats are in part underlaid with samples of Turkish folk- or Popmuzik. These samples together with the mostly Turkish raps should characterise the specific of oriental hip hop.

In their texts they speak for example about the following: 'We appreciate the numerous stores and companies of our compatriots but we're not happy we're in sorrow because greed is increasing...we're accustomed to foreign trademarks and spent a lot of money for them, but I'm proud that my trousers have the trademark Garipoglu and I ´d be glad if I could see more of us wearing that trousers.' ('Yetmedimi' = isn't it enough by Da Crime Posse) Identification with the situation of the Afro-American minority in the US leads to the acceptation of segregationistical economic concepts like the ones of the Nation of Islam. Capitalism in not the problem, it's the nationality of the capitalist. Because Da Crime Posse consist of two Turks, one German and one Cuban the proposed Turkish identity becomes a mythological one which stands vicarious for an identity of being an immigrant or a stranger. This is only one example how the groups participating in 'Cartel' construct an ethnically defined minority in their texts. Equivalences between the 'Cartel'-groups and also the hip hop culture as a whole are built upon their offensive misogyny and a non-specific antagonism to German nazis b/w. vicarious Skinheads.

'Cartel' uses the elements of ethnic segmentation grounded in the history of hip hop in the FRG. They can not be thought without the relations of the German society to migration as a whole and they are an offspring of the continuing and more and more evident rupture which runs through the German society. As a reaction or opposing blueprint to the nationalisation starting with 'KWA' and the Neuer Deutscher Sprechgesang 'Cartel' tries to gather those ostracised parts of the hip hop community under the flag of a Turkish defined ethnic minority. Parallels in coverdesign - here the German there the Turkish flag - and the national respectively ethnic defined conceptual styling are obvious.

III. Immigrants

Hip hop is in fact the first Westgerman youthculture of Afro-American origin, which is dominated from the beginning by a very high percentage of male immigrant youth. The reasons for this up to this point unknown attractivity of the adaptation and reception of Afro-American popularculture by this group are numerous. Maybe hip hop originates just at the right time that is the point where for the first time many of the in the FRG born children of the first generation of immigrants become youth. But this general proposal requires a process of integration and assimilation which in reality never happened.

breakbeat nine
The attitude of the German society towards migration is focused on the assumption, that immigration can only be thought as a temporarily limited period of residence. The German synonym for immigrant 'Gastarbeiter' should be translated foreign worker but literally means guest worker - this illustrates this attitude. This means amongst others the rejection of the German nationality as well as the possibility of a dual nationality for the second generation of immigrants although the project of migration which was in the beginning also by the first generation thought as temporarily limited long since has become a permanent one. As a result this kind of institutionalised racism as well as a common racism which appears in many discriminations in almost all parts of daily life leads to the experience of being an undesirable alien, of being 'A stranger in one's own country' to cite an influential German hip hop record by Advanced Chemistry.

Therefore the approach of the German society towards migration can lead to ditches of unreasonableness between born German and immigrant youth which can be intended by one or by both sides. My point is that the adaptation of concepts or patterns of Afro-American popular culture can be difficult or undesirable for immigrant youth because it offers possibilities of identification for German youth and supports therefore concepts and cultural patterns which for immigrant youth are not acceptable only because of the nearness to in their opinion German concepts and German cultural patterns. Or to put it short you feel undesired and therefore you decide to behave like an alien. (see e.g. Tertilt 1996, 18ff; Zaimoglu 1995, 9ff)

The specific moment that sets hip hop apart from other popular cultures rooted in Afro-American traditions and at the same time makes hip hop interesting for immigrant youth is in my opinion hip hop's internal character of competitivity (like I described before). Here one finds equivalences which offer points of contact especially for male Turkish youth in the FRG. The wide-spread concept of virility of this youth is strongly connected with the Turkish concepts of honour and recognition. Hermann Tertilt gives in his ethnography of a Turkish youth gang 'Turkish Power Boys' (Tertilt 1996) a very vivid description of the group-internal manner of functioning of this concepts as well as the special value of a distinctive understanding of friendship between men within this youth. (s. 175-217). The following summarised remarks refer to the corresponding parts of his work.

The ability to defend one's own honour or the one of the family or the friends is according to Tertilt the basic requirement not to be called effeminate. Honour cannot be earned it can only be lost. This requires a permanent and unquestioning fighting morale. A man acquires growing appreciation through the successful defence of his honour or the active exhibition of the abilities needed for that which contain besides the willingness to physical confrontation e.g. also verbal quickness of repartee. Within a group of friends like the gang described by Tertilt these as necessary for a man considered abilities are trained in different and playful manners. Hence follows a continuing competition within the group which promotes the internal hierarchy which at the same time is always in a state of flux. The quickness of repartee e.g. gets trained by a more or less fixed repertory of rhymed offences. The first whom comes nothing to mind anymore looses the competition. This concept is very similar to the one of 'dissing' (to disrespect) within rap. The style of breakdancce contains elements of a ritualised fight and is therefore also appropriate for the achievement of recognition within the system of value described by Tertilt. Besides as necessary considered physical confrontations can be carried out without bloodshed and without a loss of honour or recognition for the involved persons. Ali, rapper of Da Crime Posse / 'Cartel', describes this in the following way: breakdancing was a possibility 'to compete with the brother without bloodshed and animosity.' (Zaimoglu 1995 27). Graffiti offers similar points of contact because the sprayartist achieves recognition through the illegally produced paintings whereby the rating includes besides the artistic skills also the spraying action - the daring the better.

The above mentioned films about the New York old school hip hop scene transport strong references to the neighbourhood and life within a male dominated peergroup within this limited area. Here are also - already on this very common level - equivalences to the model of social organisation of male Turkish youth in the FRG. This brings to life an identification with the situation of Afro- or Hispanoamerican youth in the USA which can produce a glorification of the own marginalization in the FRG independent from the great differences in the situation of migrants in the USA and in the FRG. This identification gets facilitated through the 1982 hitsingle 'The Message' by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five which in the FRG is often mistaken as a social critique because of it's drawing of an imaginary authentic picture of ghetto-reality in US-American cities in the verses while the refrain reads 'it's like a jungle sometimes it makes me wonder how I keep from going under...' Of course the rapper Melle Mel is not going under, he transports moreover that rap and a loyal peergroup makes you strong enough to survive. At the same time the growing popularity of the so-called Zulu nation which is said to be founded by the New York based DJ Afrika Bambaata to pacify escalating New York gang wars presents another hip hop based model of organisation for youth in the FROG which is ultimately rooted in the identification with the situation of Afro- and Hispanoamerican youth. The latter are becoming more and more unimportant for the reception because of the Afro-American dominance in the musical sector of the hip hop culture although in the cited films they play leading parts.

Ali the already cited rapper of Da Crime Posse / 'Cartel' describes this moment of identification as follows: 'In the beginning of the rap times there was Zulu nation standing like a rock and you could compete with the brother without bloodshed and animosity....Grandmaster Flash then starts politics, contents with the message this was the blessing breakthrough absolute cult. Along with Public Enemy the real era of culture starts to smoulder, culture because the information gets directly to the people through the saying of the mouth, the direct line to the black man....obviously, brother, the movement crosses the ocean and took possession of us like a goddamn hot experience, at the end of 83 I got caught and I accepted immediately the good principle which is called don't throw your life away if you want to be real Bronx.' (Zaimoglu 1995 27f) Beyond this equivalences which are built upon the concept of virility spread under Turkish youth like it is described by Tertilt another in my opinion important factor for the attractivity of hip hop can be found in the musical groundstructure of hip hop - the interplay between the DJ and the rapper. On the one side the usual way of learning an instrument is not necessary anymore and therefore the access for immigrant youth becomes easier because for them the learning of the up to then for the production of popular music of Afro-American origin necessary instruments like guitar, drums or piano is not so self evident. On the other side the DJ-style of hip hop and further on the spreading of the sample-technology through the 1980s offers up to then unknown possibilities in connecting and amalgamating the most different musical materials on the mostly rhythmic basis of Afro-American musical traditions. The way of production of a hip hop track can be described in some way as

IV. Raggedness being raised to a principle

Like I said before the Nuremberg based King Size Terror, which later became kind of famous as the Karakan part of the 'Cartel'-project, released the first rap in Turkish language in 1991, but the music behind this text is Afro-American inspired hip hop. 1992 then sees the first release of the West-Berlin based hip hop crew Islamic Force, a 12-inch single called 'My Melody / Istanbul'. As far as I know they were the first to combine a drumcomputerrhythm of Afro-American tradition with melodic samples of Turkish Arabesque and Pop-Muzik and texts rapped in English in which rapper BoeB reflects on the situation of immigrant youth in the FRG or West-Berlin. It was the true beginning of something that some years later should be called Oriental hip hop. The producer of this record was the already mentioned DJ Derezone. Responsible for the selection of the samples was DJ Taner who later worked also with the 'Cartel' project as a DJ but split in the end of 1995. Also in 1992 I interviewed Islamic Force about their concept:

'BoeB.: We're doing this in Germany originating from Turkey and are using an American a black style of music and Turkish melodies. Derezone: it was a deliberate decision not to produce the record chartwise. Cut Mtee: The new hype oriental hip hop or so Boe B.: The boy comes home and listens to hip hop then his father comes along and says come on boy we're going shopping and gets in the car and listens to Turkish music and then he gets our record and gets both styles in one.'

The interesting thing in this part of the interview is - besides the fact that they delimitate themselves from the in their opinion pure marketing term oriental hip hop - that they refer to hip hop's manner of production - the raggedness being raised to a principle - which seems to build equivalences to the social experience of immigrant youth between the culture of their parents and daily life in their (adopted) country.

Since then the break of Turkish musical elements (mostly melodic and / or linguistic but only a few rhythmic) in hip hop tracks has become more and more popular up to the release of the 'Cartel' project. Fresh Familee for example, who got signed by phonogramm in the following of Advanced Chemistry's already cited 1992 underground success Fremd im eigenen Land ('A stranger in my own country') combined on one track of their first record released in 1993 a saz sample with a kind of pidgin-German normally used to depreciate foreign-workers to tell the fictitious story of 'Ahmet Gündüz'. They continue on their second LP released in 1994 with 'Ahmet Gündüz II' and another track called 'Sexy Kanake'. Advanced Chemistry themselves featured on their third 12-inch release 'Operation Art.3' Boulevard Bou with a Turkish rap. Boulevard Bou himself added on his own track 'Eksi Okul' released in 1993 on the compilation 'Alte Schule' ('Old school') some rhythmic darabuka samples to his German rap about the beginning of the rap times in Germany.

breakbeat ten
'In the meantime in the Ruhrdistrict, in South Germany in Berlin and in Bremen there exist hundreds of rap-groups who would be labelled Turkish-Curdish by the pop-press of the German bourgeois-subcultures if they would only know them...The senat of Berlin invested three million marks to inform social workers about this scene.' (Jacob 1995 17) Most of these groups focus around a youth centre or something similar and become never known to a greater public. Educationalists are the only real interested persons in them because of the pedagogic usefulness of hip hop's competitive structure for their work.

I´d like to mention one other group the multilingual multinational Cologne-based TCA - The Microphone Mafia who combine Spanish, Italian Turkish and German raps with music in part played by real musicians and in part made out of samples out of musical traditions of the cited countries. Their 1994 7-inch release 'NO! / Wanna be' is one of my personal favourites. Recently the press begins to support them together with 'Cartel' and Islamic Force as for example 'Oriental Hip Hop in German Diaspora' (Visions 5/96). TCA are not oriental but the success of the 'Cartel' strategy summarises them as part of a Turkish defined ethnic minority. Islamic Force by the way changed their name in KanAK and label themselves now as forerunners of oriental hip hop . They are also rapping in Turkish now and try to produce their next record in Istanbul because of the supposed Turkish market. In Turkey several projects try to participate on 'Cartel's success , e.g. one called Panther whose design is a true copy of the 'Cartel' design. 'Cartel' themselves musically speaking never leaves firm ground. The track 'Yetmedimi' by Da Crime Posse for example features the same melodic sample by Baris Manco like the 92 track 'Istanbul' by Islamic Force

So on a musical level oriental hip hop is the combination of hip hop beats, which are by and by enriched by reminiscences of ragamuffin beats with samples of Turkish folk- or Popmuzik and mostly Turkish raps. Oriental hip hop is in no way synonym to something what could be but should not be called immigrant hip hop although the 'Cartel' Project is aiming for that. But there are in fact a lot of immigrants who produce hip hop. And more and more they begin to use the unnumbered possibilities to combine various musical elements on an Afro-American rhythmic basis that the manner of production of hip hop with its - like I call it - raggedness being raised to a principle opens up for them. One obvious way to handle this possibilities is to refer to the cultures of their parents and the one called oriental hip hop represents only one out of many. There are several others existing like e.g. the already cited Advanced Chemistry who in some of their tracks try to mix in samples of Westafrican music maybe because of the Ghanaian descendence of one of their rappers or the Ruhrdistrict based Weep not Child who try the same mixture featuring Advanced Chemistries Linguist on one track or strengthen the ragamuffin part maybe because of their in part Caribbean descendence. Or to name another one the Cologne based Indeed who feature samples of Korean music in their self-ironically titled track 'Das Gelbe vom Ei' .

But the music they produce, although maybe sporting a mix of styles never heard before is truly hip hop and nothing else and on a musical level there is no sense in opening up different ethnic defined subgenres of hip hop only because some samples are from wherever you want. An ethnic defined foundation of musical influences is always simplifying and runs the risk of dividing what should be united. To talk about migrant or immigrant hip hop in the FRG means to accept the most different musical, social, political.... dispositions whose equivalences are built on the manner of production of hip hop. Other equivalences like the ones I tried to show for Turkish / Curdish youth in the FRG are up to now only true for them and no one else. To sum up everyone under an ethnic defined flag with hegemonial Turkish identity like the 'Cartel'-project tried means in a powerpolitical and commercial way to try to become the dominant force. Of course the foundation for this is in part found in the foregoing nationalisation of hip hop in the FRG in the following of the 'KWA' record.


Ayate, Imran.
1994. 'Türken vor Nürnberg - Die Raps von King Size Terror übersetzt', in Die Beute 2/94. S.32-35
1996, 'Cartel sieht das aber anders'. in Die Beute 1/96 S.47-54

Azzellini, Dario.
1995. 'Der gute Ausländer', in Junge Welt 13 December 1995 S.12
1996. ''An alle Jugendlichen, die in Deutschland leben: Jeder fünfte Deutsche ist ein Hitler.'', in ZAG 1/96 S.22-27

Felbert, Oliver von.
1990. 'Euro Hop', in Spex 3/90 S.23-2
1995. 'Cartel - Wir sind die Deutschen von morgen' , in Spex 11/95 S.33-35

Freisberg, Lars.
1995. 'Cartel - Keine Diskussionen!', in Spex 6/95 S.24f

Hall, Stuart.
1995. 'Rassismus und kulturelle Identität - Ausgewählte Schriften 2'. Hamburg

Henkel, Oliva; Domentat, Tamara; Westhoff, René.
1994. 'Spray City - Graffiti in Berlin'. Berlin

Henkel, Oliva; Wolff Karsten.
1996. 'Berlin Underground'. Berlin

Irving, Katrina.
1993. ''I Want Your Hands On Me': building equivalences through rap music', in Popular Music 12/2 S.105-121

Jacob, Günther.
1993. 'Agit Pop - Schwarze Musik und Weisse Hörer'. Berlin Amsterdam 1995. 'Krauts with Attitude'. in Bahamas 17/95 S.32-37

Rose, Tricia.
1994. 'Black Noise - Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America'. Hannover London

Ross, Andrew; Rose Tricia (ed.).
1994. 'Microphone Fiends: Youth Music & Youth Culture'. New York London

Terkessidis, Mark.
1991. 'King Size Terror'. in Spex 9/91 S.38-40
1995. 'Werdet wie wir oder bleibt da wo ihr seit'. in Spex 11/95 S.36f

Tertilt, Hermann.
1996. 'Turkish Power Boys'. Frankfurt/Main

Toop, David.
1991. 'Rap Attack 2 - African Rap to Global Hip Hop'. London

Zaimoglu, Feridun.
1995. 'Kanak Sprak'. Hamburg


Advanced Chemistry,
Fremd im eigenen Land. MZEE Records. AC.01.V12".92. 1992
Welcher Pfad führt zur Geschichte. MZEE Records. 004. 1993
Operation Artikel 3. 3600 Records. IRS 977991. 1993

Boulevard Bou,
'Eksi Okul', V.A. Alte Schule. MZEE Records, MZEE 005. 1993

Cartel. Mercury Records. 526 914-2. 1995

Die Fantastischen 4,
'Jetzt geht's ab', Jetzt geht's ab. Columbia Records. 12-468862-10. 1991

Fresh Familee,
'Ahmet Gündüz', Falsche Politik. Polygram Records. 514 718-2. 1993
'Ahmet Gündüz II' & 'Sexy Kanake`, Alles Frisch. Polygram Records. 1995

Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five,
'The Message', Greatest Hits. Sequel Records. NEM CD 622. 1992

King Size Terror,
'Bir Yabancinin Hayati', King Size Terror. 1991

'Das Gelbe vom Ei', V.A. SOS Deutschland. Day Glo Records. DG CD 28. 1993

Islamic Force,
My Melody / Istanbul. 1st Class Records. FCR 001-12. 1992
The Whole World is your Home. Juiceful Records. 002-12. 1992

DJ Mahmut & Volkan T,
'Kafayi Yemis', V.A. Deutschland ein Wintermärchen. 3600 Records. IRS 940991. 1996

Discotec. Akbas Muzik. 1995

Doping. RAKS, Rapak 11054

Rock Da Most,
Use the Posse. Imperial Nation Records. 1988

Sugarhill Gang,
'Rapper's Delight', Arcade Dance Classics Vol.2. Arcade Records, 04 3152 21. 1991

NO! / Wanna Be. Day-Glo Records. DG S11. 1993.
Vendetta. Day-Glo Records. DGL45. 1996

Rap gegen Rechts. DCO Records. RTD 177 16332. 1993

Krauts with Attitude - German Hip Hop Vol.1. Boombastic Records. 212 039. 1991

Vibrazone. A Swat-Posse Production. 1993

Vitamin 2.
Türk-Rap. Netses Tapes. 0321

Weep not Child feat. Linguist,
'Je ka bere', Liberation thru Music & Lyrics. Groove Attack Records. GAP 11122. 1994.