German Rap Music

Between Fun pop and Real Gangsters

Dj and Rappers Performing on Stage in Front of a Large Group of People in a Nightclub
Rap is the most famous music in Germany. Dylan

First of all: Yes! There is such a thing as German rap music. Actually German hip-hop and music affiliated with it is currently the most popular kind of music in Germany. Let’s take a look at the varieties of popular German rap music and its history. Early German rap was a rather western phenomenon, though, as American influence in the GDR was limited.

In the Beginning, There Was Delight

Soon after hip-hop began its rise to the top in the USA, it swept over to Europe. The many US soldiers stationed in Western Germany sure had something to do with that, but so did a general openness for American popular culture. It is not quite clear as to what is the first German-language rap song ever published. Some even count a parody of the hit track “Rapper’s Delight” as the premier German rap song. After the first wave of popularity was over, hip-hop music in Western Germany moved to the underground. Interestingly enough, at first, it was not common for German rap groups to use their own language. It took a few pioneers to turn the language “of poets and thinkers” into a rap-language.

In the beginning of the nineties, German rap became popular for the first time and established itself in pop culture, spawning magazines, radio- and TV-shows reporting about the music. The first chart success, busting wide open the door for hip-hop music, was the song “Die Da” by “Die Fantastischen Vier.” Though the band did not represent most of what was going on in the underground scenes, it was a first hint to the upcoming variety of German rap music, on a line between fun pop and dark gangster rap. 

The Highs and Lows of German Rap

But shortly after its time at the top, German rap went back to being an underground subculture phenomenon. It even created its own “old school” and “new school” – the old school being more political and critical and the new being more about fun and nonsense. It was specifically this fun type of rap music that brought German rap back to the charts. However, after a few years of high, there was another low waiting just around the corner. In the early 2000’s, hip-hop ran out of popularity again and was thrown back into the underground. This time, this development coincided with the spread of internet access, creating the possibility for the sub-cultural scenes all over the country to connect and to create popularity that did not depend on the classic media.

Along with a rise of battle rap, a tougher style of hip-hop gained popularity. It had its roots rather in American gangster rap than in the German scenes. Even though the rapping styles resembled those of the German “old school,” thematically the successful tracks were less political and more about “dissing” other rappers or gaining wealth. The enormously successful Aggro Berlin exemplify this style.

Next to the still widely successful fun pop style by bands such as Fettes Brot, the not ending victory march of gangster-style rap, has established German rap music on top of the musical food chain in the country.  Artists originating from minorities have been involved in German rap from the beginning, but it seems as if only for the last ten years the social components of their stories have made it into successful popular music. Nowadays, rappers such as Haftbefehl are even frequently debated and appreciated topics in the feuilletons. But in general, every style can be found in German rap music, and it really can be said that the German scenes have found their own languages that are not a conglomerate of cultural appropriation.