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Max Herre in front of a night skyline (c) 2012 Universal Music GmbH / Nesola GmbH
Image: 2012 Universal Music GmbH / Nesola GmbH

German rap

Andreas Zimmer / als
September 20, 2012

Young German rappers like Cro and Casper are all over the German charts right now. But the old hats in the rap game have still got it, and Max Herre, one of the pioneers of the genre in Germany, proves it.


Rap found its way into German music thanks in large part to a group called Die Fantatischen Vier (The Fantastic Four) at the beginning of the 1990s. Most saw it as a trend that wouldn't last and largely a copy of its American prototype. But that changed dramatically over the years: Hip hop is now undeniably part of mainstream culture in Germany.

The latest parade of the genre's successes shows that it's not just youth who listen to hip hop, but also a steadily increasing number of adults. That's in spite of the fact that German hip hop has been declared dead a thousand different times. But there's life in the old dog yet.

Max Herre at the microphone Photo: Henning Kaiser dpa/lnw
Max Herre's gone back to the roots on his third albumImage: picture alliance/dpa

The German youth magazine "HipHop Bravo," for its part, just folded, reputedly because it wasn't profitable enough. But 39-year-old German rap pioneer Max Herre can't understand it:  "I think right now is a really interesting period because hip hop is opening up again," he said. Those who have been rapping for around 20 years must now redefine the genre for themselves - logically, that means stretching it beyond the youth culture nimbus that surrounded it up to now.

An old hand at hip hop

Following his last album that had more singer-songwriter influence and titled "Ein geschenkter Tag" (A Free Day), Max Herre goes back to his roots on his latest disc "Hallo Welt!" (Hello World!). The musician and producer, orginally from Stuttgart, sees himself as one of German hip hop's old hands, one who isn't afraid of young and aspiring music talents.

Herre, who now lives in Berlin, supports a "community" mentality - reminiscent of the "hip hop collective" style that marked his days starting out in Stuttgart. The performer has observed at least one difference between now and the competition-oriented past decade: "You can tell that there's a different spirit to it all now. People aren't trying to elbow each other out all the time like back then. Now, people want to work together to get something off the ground."

Herre walking along the street (c) 2012 Universal Music GmbH / Nesola GmbH
Pioneer rapper Herre likes a community-minded mentalityImage: 2012 Universal Music GmbH / Nesola GmbH

Special guests welcome

Together with artists well-known in Germany such as Phillip Poisel, Clueso, Patrice, Samy DeLuxe, Sophie Hunger, Aloe Blacc and many others, Herre blends genres on "Hallo Welt!," offering social critique in a way like never before. Musically, the father of three children is inspired by the soul and funk albums of the 70s, cleverly sampling them yet making them contemporary by way of modern beats, rhymes and excellent production.

Pirate radio on air

The somewhat banal title of Herre's third and most recent album may seem surprising; one might expect it more on a debut album. But the experienced songwriter says it stems from a thought he had back in his Stuttgart days of the 90s.

"I had this idea of a fictional pirate radio station," he recalled. "I was always imagining this listener sitting in front of his radio, searching for the frequency on which I was broadcasting."

Max Herre in the studio (c) 2012 Universal Music GmbH / Nesola GmbH
Herre in his makeshift studioImage: 2012 Universal Music GmbH / Nesola GmbH

Herre does not consider his new CD a concept album in the traditional sense, but more of a "clasping together" of various musical genres. The radio as a stylistic device, however, can be found throughout. There is a fictitious news presenter, as well as trailers and jingles that ingeniously link the album's 15 tracks. In this way, the album broadens the hip hop horizon - pointing the way ahead and lending a grown-up cast to what started as a youth subculture.

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