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the masked rapper

Germany's panda-masked rapper Cro debuts on the big screen

His fans don't know what he looks like because Cro always wears a panda mask on stage. But despite the make, we get a lot closer to the enigmatic rapper in a new film that's opening in German cinemas.

Top German rappers Sido and Bushido already have their own films under their belts, and now Cro has followed suit with "Unsere Zeit ist jetzt" (Our time is now). The 26-year-old singer stars as himself, alongside popular German actor Til Schweiger, who plays Cro's future alter ego in the wildly convoluted story. But a film starring a popular rapper who has sold about four million albums over the past few years could easily prove to be a box office success.

The story: Rapper Cro commissions three young artists to come up with an imaginative film on his past, present and future. They're a wild bunch - a young female director who suffers from Asperger's works on the documentary, an artist devises a cartoon and a womanizer drafts a cinematic version of Cro's future. First there's confusion, then the many questions about the rapper's life draw the three closer together. Fans shouldn't expect a linear biopic - and no, Cro won't take off his panda mask, either.

The story of the momentous rise to fame of a young man by the name of Carlo Weibel is worth telling.

Actors and Cro (picture-alliance/dpa/J. Carstensen)

'Our time is now' - producers and actors

He was 22 years old when he released his fist album, "Raop," in 2012. He produced almost the entire album - a mix of rap and pop - in a studio he built in the basement of his parents' house. "Raop" was in the charts for 85 weeks total - five weeks at the top. He was showered with awards and two years later went on to produce another album, "Melodie" - again in his parents' basement.

Protective shield

That streak of down-to-earthiness has stayed with Cro. And the signature panda  mask? It's like wearing a gigantic mascot costume, he told DW in an interview in 2014. "You can do whatever you want with it on. I could even be naked, and it wouldn't matter because no one recognizes me. "It's like a protective shield," he said."Without it, I couldn't be as relaxed and cool on stage as I am." Over the years, he's worn out more than 100 panda  masks.

Cro rose to fame in Germany in 2011 with his hit song "Easy." The YouTube video that doesn't show him even once has been viewed 50 million times. Cro's songs are clever, cheeky, spiked with puns - in short, feel good music.

First and foremost, the 26-year-old wants to entertain. "I do not want to moralize and tell people what they ought to do," he said. "I do have my own opinions, and I'm committed to them, but I am not going to badger people with them."

He added that he doesn't feel responsible for educating his audience. "That's their parents' job." Cro sees himself as more of a companion, he said.

Showcase concert

Apart from music and the new movie, fans who can't get enough of Cro can check out a 2012 biography and the rapper's fashion line featuring t-shirts, sweatshirts and caps.

In 2015 Cro recorded an MTV unplugged album, complete with a 22-member band and an orchestra. At 25, he was the youngest artist ever to receive that honor.

 

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