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Image: picture-alliance/T. Gadegast

Backlash as German rapper enlisted for COVID-19 video

July 23, 2020

The German city of Düsseldorf has come under fire for collaborating with controversial rapper Farid Bang to produce a coronavirus social distancing appeal video. The artist has been accused of anti-Semitism in the past.


The anti-Semitism commissioner from Germany's most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, has sharply criticized a video featuring controversial German rapper Farid Bang which calls on people to observe COVID-19 social distancing regulations. 

The short video was produced in collaboration with the western city of Düsseldorf and posted to their official social media channels on Wednesday. 


"The choice of rapper, Farid Bang, for a public project, which is supposed to shed light on the topic of the coronavirus, is hard to bear," the former federal minister of justice and now state anti-Semitism commissioner, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, told the Rheinische Post newspaper.

"The role model function of a musician like Farid Bang must be questioned and discussed when he propagates anti-Semitism and, moreover, provokes time and time again lyrics glorifying violence and hostility to women," the politician from the business-friendly FDP warned.

"There is no place in public and democratic life in North Rhine-Westphalia for what Farid Bang represents," the commissioner added. 

Read moreWhy gangsta rap's aggro style appeals to the masses

Düsseldorf Lord Mayor Thomas Geisel said it was hoped featuring the rapper on their social media platforms would reach the intended target audience, as young people in the city's Altstadt (Old Town) have disobeyed stringent coronavirus social distancing rules in recent weeks.

The state capital, home to over 612,000 residents, has posted similar videos featuring other celebrities such as professional table tennis player Timo Boll and the lord mayor.

Thomas Geisel
Düsseldorf Mayor Thomas Geisel defended the choice of Farid Bang for the city's awareness campaignImage: picture-alliance/dpa/R. Pfeil

Auschwitz controversary  

Farid Bang has been accused of anti-Semitism in the past as a result of several of his songs. The 34-year-old, together with rapper Kollegah, caused a sensation at the 2018 "Echo" music award ceremony. 

The two were nominated for their song "0815," where they sing: "My body is more defined than those of Auschwitz inmates." Critics argue the two were comparing a trained body with that of starved Holocaust victims. 

Read more: Auschwitz: Evolution of a death camp and Holocaust memorial

The duo subsequently won "Best of Hip-Hop/Urban, National" album. Echo Awards organizers maintained the nomination and their inclusion in the show citing freedom of artistic expression. 

Backlash and protests from other artists, media and Holocaust survivors about the duo's appearance in the show ultimately  saw the award scrapped.

The pair later apologized for the lyrics and announced they would visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp

The Rheinische Post reported that Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger has commissioned a study into anti-Semitism in the German gangster rap scene.

"The study will provide an overview of the effects of music on anti-Sematic attitudes amongst young people," the commissioner said. 

jlw/nm (AFP, KNA, EPD)

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