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Music

Beyond the name Boateng, rapper BTNG fights for recognition

Soccer stars Jerome and Kevin-Prince Boateng have a brother: George Boateng, aka BTNG. In this DW interview, the rapper talks about his music, his childhood, and what it was like to be an African-German kid in Berlin.

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Melting pop: Rapper BTNG from Berlin

Deutsche Welle: You have just released your debut album "Gewachsen auf Beton" (Raised on Concrete) - what does rap mean to you?

BTNG: At the moment it means a lot to me, because I move in these circles a lot. I've been doing this for five, six years, and fortunately, my first album is doing well. I just let it all out, snapshots of what has happened in my life so far. People realize that it's good music, so they're not just staring at the name Boateng.

Have you always been into rap music?

Yes, this music has always been with me! I've been listening to music since I was a little kid - I'm a real music junkie.

You rap a lot about the Wedding neighborhood in Berlin where you grew up. What's cool about Wedding? Many say it's a problematic part of town.

It's actually changed over the years, but back then Wedding was characterized by people sticking together. There might have been 50 families living on one street, and you'd know 80 or 85 percent of them, and everyone knew our family. That's how we grew up. You'd watch out for the neighbor's kid and his brother - that's how we were.

Your brothers Jerome und Kevin-Prince - world famous soccer players - are featured in the video "Käfigtiger" (Cage Tigers) as well as in many of the lyrics. How important was growing up with your brothers?

That meant a lot to me. We had a great time, a good childhood, and we reinforced our friendship later on. What's going on now is beyond normal: They became World Champions, played in Italy, best number 10 player in Italy, sold the most jerseys and so on. All that is important to us. Our lives were always about recognition. And I think all of us got it, each in his own field. I, too, am well on my way, and extremely thankful for the positive feedback from people.

You rap about playing soccer together in the "cage," what was the mood like?

It was pretty rough. There's simply no referee in the corner who says, hey, that was a foul or hey, give the little guy the ball because he's younger. You had to fight it out.

Your father Prince Boateng came to Germany from Ghana in 1981, where he met your mom Christine Rahn. Your parents separated when you were young and you grew up with your mother. Did your father influence you at all?

House with Graffiti Picture of the Boatengs, Copyright: Jörg Carstensen dpa/lbn

Boateng graffiti on the brothers' old turf

Yes. A child's first six years are the most formative, and he was still there at the time, so I was influenced, especially by music. The Ghanaian lifestyle is totally different from a German lifestyle. I learned other things later on, when I was on my own at some point. But my dad certainly gave me the first kick.

Are you interested in Ghana from a musical point of view?

I'm open to many things: We Ghanaians like to experiment with music. We like cheerfulness - we're not necessarily into depressing, aggressive music. But when I started out, I felt a good deal of aggression, depression and hatred, and I conveyed it, too.

Was racism a problem?

Yes, and it was more of a problem back then than now. Or perhaps I don't notice it as much today because I don't let it touch me. You develop a thicker skin. But of course, when I was younger, there often was the N-word and talk like that.

What did that do to you, how did you react?

Well, I always reacted with violence, because I didn't have a father or brothers to defend me verbally. So I defended myself.

In "Himmel" (Heaven), you rap about a jail. A few years ago, you spent some months in investigative custody. How do you perceive that period now and how did it change you?

I'm older now, and I got married, had a child and so on. But at first, my life was completely different, I have to admit it didn't take long for me to use my fists. Aggression was my main problem. One thing I've learned in my life: A person's development is like a pyramid, step by step. There's nothing I'd say was terribly bad, or shouldn't have happened. I am who I am because of everything that happened.

Has anything in particular bothered you, been on your mind recently?

Not too long ago, someone used the N-word in a talk show. Some conservative politician [Eds: Joachim Herrmann] used the N-word. He said Roberto Blanco was a "wonderful negro" and that some others were playing in the Bayern Munich team. This got me upset, because my brother plays for Bayern and he is not a "wonderful negro," but a normal person who offers an unbelievably good performance. And no one in the audience or on the stage reacted to this. It's not just about Africans or "Blacks," no one should be allowed to speak so deprecatingly about a "race." Germany needs to start thinking about why some people can say that kind of stuff on public TV and no one complains.

Now that the album is out - what's next?

I don't have any plans yet but I do have a few ideas. I'll certainly continue with the music, after all, you can't stop a river from flowing.

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