Teaching Culture through Hip-Hop


Teaching Culture through Hip-Hop
DRAFT VERSION – to appear in Unterrichtspraxis
Teaching Controversal Topics in Contemporary German Culture through Hip-Hop
Michael T. Putnam
[email protected]
Michigan State University
Almost every foreign language instructor at one point has attempted to infuse music from
the target language and culture into the classroom. In recent years hip-hop music (a.k.a.
rap music) has found its way into many classrooms due to its popularity both in Germanspeaking Europe and throughout the world. Hip-hop music also has a natural pedagogical
appeal because of its use (and sometimes creation) of new vocabulary, slang phrases and
linguistic constructions. It provides students with an accurate impression of the evolving
modern German language within this ever-growing hip-hop culture. Foreign language
instructors who only use hip-hop solely for its linguistic and “fun” appeal, however, fail
to utilize the fullness of this rich educational tool. One of the global aspects of hip-hop
music throughout the world is its embodiment of the views and opinions of those who
feel under-represented and marginalized within a given culture. Perhaps no form of
musical expression has ever been so open – and sometimes abrasive – in exposing
cultural taboos and expressing the viewpoint of minority cultures to mainstream society.
German hip-hop is no exception. American hip-hop, once defined by Chuck D of Public
Enemy as “the black man’s CNN” has found its equivalent in modern German hip-hop
which has been tagged as “die Stimme der Migranten”. Building upon the work of
Schmitt (2003), the purpose of this article is to provide examples of how German hip-hop
music can approach sometimes controversial topics in German cultural studies not only in
a university setting but also potentially in the high school classroom. Due to the countless
possibilities afforded to us through this medium, this article has has been restricted in its
content and mission by focusing on two relevant topics addressed in modern German hiphop: Racism experienced by German citizens who enjoy non-German heritage and the
current relationship of today’s German youth to Nazi Germany.1 This article will adhere
This article is dedicated to my students at the University of Michigan who participated in my
course German 426: 25 Jahre Hip-Hop Deutschland during the Winter 2006 semester. Our discussions
were insightful and stimulating and I feel that I have learned as much from you as you did from me. I
would also like to thank my colleagues Tom Lovik for suggesting the creation of this article, John
Littlejohn for his constant help and suggestions and the comments of two anonymous reviews who helped
to improve the original draft of this paper. All shortcomings and inconsistencies remain my own.
As pointed out by an anonymous reviewer, little attention is given to songs and artists whose
agenda is predominantly apolitical. The lack of coverage of these bands and their music is in no way meant
as a slight towards them. Rather, for the focus of this particular article on politically charged/potentially
controversial texts, coverage of these aforementioned groups was minimal. In a follow-up article I will
discuss other successful groups (e.g. Fanta Vier, Tic-Tac-Toe, Fettes Brot, Massive Töne, etc.) and their
potential impact on the foreign language classroom.
Michael T. Putnam
to the following structure: In Section 1 a brief history of German hip-hop and its parallel
and divergent developments in comparison to its American counterpart is provided.
Section 2 addresses the racism experienced by young Germans who are not of European
heritage through the song Fremd im eigenen Land (1992) by Advanced Chemistry.
Section 3 tackles the controversial theme of Vergangenheitsbewältigung through Fler’s
Neue Deutsche Welle (2005). Throughout both Sections 2 and 3 easy-to-find references
and relevant materials to aid in constructing teaching units on these topics is provided.
This article concludes with Section 4 and is followed by a references section replete with
additional material references.
German Hip-Hop: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
Although heavily influenced during its initial years of development by its
American counterpart, over the past two decades German hip-hop has evolved into a selfsustaining, independent form of expression dedicated to modern German culture and
society. The earliest exposure to the American hip-hop phenomenon came through
contact with American soldiers, radio and television stations such as the American
Armed Forces Network (AFN), established to serve personnel of the U.S. Army and the
documentary films Wild Style (1983) and Beat Street (1984).2 The first German Hip Hops
were drawn to the breakdancing aspect of this budding hip-hop culture. In the early
1980s, German pioneers in the hip-hop scene would populate many Fußgängerzonen to
perform. Unlike its American parent whose roots can be directly traced to the Bronx in
the late 1960s, it is difficult, if not impossible, to pin-point an exact geographical location
that serves as the birthplace of the German hip-hop scene. Sascha Verlan and Hannes
Loh, authors of 20 Jahre Hip Hop in Deutschland, report that “Die ersten zehn Jahre von
HipHop in Deutschland liegen im Verborgenen. Es gibt keine Möglichkeit, sich Platten
anzuhören, in Magazinen zu blättern oder Videos anzuschauen, um das Selbstverständnis
der Old School-HipHops zu verstehen, welche Leute wichtig waren und wie sich die
kleine Szene langsam entwickelte” (2002, 87). Major metropolitan areas like Heidelberg
and Hamburg as well as smaller towns such as Lüdenscheid fostered clusters of
individuals wanting to become a part of this emerging movement. Throughout the 1980s
contact among dispersed hip-hop groups throughout Germany was sustained and fostered
through jams hosted on the weekend in various party halls and Jugendzentren throughout
Binnendeutschland. This Jam-kultur provided those interested with the opportunity to
exchange tips and addresses with those harboring similar interests.3 Initially, many
Afrodeutsche were heavily involved with the hip-hop scene in Germany. As reported by
Kofi Yakpo (a.k.a. Linguist from Advanced Chemistry) it was important for many
Afrodeutsche young men and young women to associate themselves with Afroamerican
Although the 1980s marked the intial contact that Germans enjoyed with hip-hop culture from the
United States, there was already a tradition of German Sprechgesang earlier in the 20th century (see
Brecht/Weill for ample examples).
Loh and Güngör (2002, 19-21) report that participation in huge annual jam festivals in Stuttgart
have increased from 2,000 to 14,000 participants within the last decade.
Teaching Controversal Topics in Contemporary German Culture through Hip-Hop
role models in all walks of life including the music industry. The mindset of the
Afrodeutsche and the subtle racisim that they encountered in their everyday life led to a
desire to emulate the growing hip-hop culture in America.4
In its initial, forming stages German hip-hop was performed predominantly in
English. Few, if any, had dared to create freestyle raps (i.e. spontaneous lyrics) in
German. Pioneering MCs such as Torch, Toni L (both affiliated with Advanced
Chemistry), DJ Mike MD and Gee One were some of the first German rappers to attempt
to freestyle in German at the end of the 80s/beginning of the 90s. Not only did German
hip-hop undergo a linguistic shift from English to German during this time, but the
messages conveyed in the lyrics of these songs also began to focus on social issues
pertaining strictly to contemporary Germany. In other words, this once imported form of
expression became a localized forum to openly challenge and expose social ills within
Germany. Influenced by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s 1982 “The Message”
which depicts the despicable conditions of the urban ghetto, Advanced Chemistry
recorded the song “Fremd im eigenen Land” (1992) highlighting the subtle, yet
persistent, racism encountered by German citizens with Afro-deutsche heritage. Another
pioneering song in the history of German hip-hop is Fresh Familee’s “Ahmed Gündüz”, a
song that depicts the life of a Türkish immigrant with broken German at the beginning of
the song. As noted by Bennett (2004, 186), German rap groups such as Advanced
Chemistry were continually criticized for their failure to acknowledge any form of ethnic
identification other than that symbolized by their German passports. This failure is often
perceived to amount to a symbolic betrayal of the right of ethnic minorities to “roots” or
any expression of cultural heritage. This has led to the establishment and growing
popularity of Turkish rap groups in Germany such as Cartel. At the same time German
old school hip-hop emerged through groups like Advanced Chemistry, a musical group
from Stuttgart known as Die Fantasischen Vier (Fanta Vier) was beginning to receive
national and international notoriety, much to the initial disdain of the original pioneers
within the German hip-hop scene. Although Fanta Vier should be lauded for the
recording and distribution of entirely German albums, their lyrics on often banal themes
starkly contrast with the goals of old school hip-hop groups like Advanced Chemistry.
Furthermore, the fact members of Fanta Vier were not active participants in the Jamkultur of the 1980s has sparked much controversy for many within the German hip-hop
community towards this Stuttgart-based crew.
Towards the end of the 1990s, scholars such as Loh began to notice the increase
of violent military and racist references present in German hip-hop lyrics, perhaps in an
attempt by some to more fully identify themselves with the Gangsta Rap scene in the
U.S. In their recent contribution to the field (2002), Fear of a Kanak Planet: HipHop
zwischen Weltkultur und Nazi-Rap, Hannes Loh and and Murat Güngör attempt to show
the current bifurcated climate within German hip-hop. On the one side are those trying to
Michael T. Putnam
reconnect with the international message of brotherhood5 conveyed through hip-hop over
the last three decades and those that embrace potential right-wing terminology and
ideology. The polarized development of the German hip-hop scene in the coming years
will continue to challenge cultural taboos and question social norms in this local society
and culture. As outsiders to these communities, it provides us with insight into important
issues that clearly exist (e.g. the redefinition of youth identity), yet no one really wants to
talk about.
Advanced Chemistry: Fremd im eigenen Land (1992)
Most, if not all, standard German language and culture textbooks have sections
dedicated to exposing the multicultural composition of German-speaking Europe. In this
section, the ensuing discussion will elucidate how the integration of Advanced
Chemistry’s “Fremd im eigenen Land” (1992) serves as an excellent supplemental
resource/tool to any course and/or textbook chapter focusing on this topic. Another
attractive advantage to introducing hip-hop into the classroom is the relatively
inexpensive costs involved in acquiring necessary materials. For anyone interested in the
occasional use of hip-hop in their teaching units, the Reclam text (2003) Arbeitstexte für
den Unterricht: Rap-Texte is a highly recommended easy-to-find resource. The lyrics
contained in this text are fairly ‘canonical’ and are well-known in Germany. Furthermore
the songs are easy to find through resources such as iTunes.
Lesson Plan Suggestions
Depending on the level of your students’ German abilities and the time you are
willing to dedicate to this topic, you may wish to start with a brief introduction to hip-hop
in general (the forward in the Reclam text mentioned above is an excellent source for
such an introduction) and how the messages conveyed in these lyrics often reflect the
feelings and frustrations of minorities within a given culture. A potential starting point
may involve playing a rap song like Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s “The
Message” (1982) to illustrate how hip hop is an often employed medium to voice
frustration. I would also suggest purchasing this song through iTunes or an alternative online site.
The Message (1982)6
Broken glass everywhere
People pissing in the stairs
You know they just don’t care
Loh and Güngör (2002, 22) make the analogy that the Kanak-movement can be elevated to the
status of a pseudo-political movement.
This portion of “The Message” is also available in Loh (2003, 15)
Teaching Controversal Topics in Contemporary German Culture through Hip-Hop
I can’t take the smell, can’t take the noise
Got no money to move out, I guess I got no choice
Rats in the front room, roaches in the back
Junkies in the alley with a baseball bat
I tried to get away but I couldn’t get far
‘Cause the man with the tow truck reposed my car
Don’t push me ‘cause I’m close to the edge
I’m trying not to lose my head
It’s like a jungle sometimes, it makes me wonder
How I keep from going under7
Point out that the song paints a picture of the frustrations experienced by young people in
the impoverished Bronx ghettos of the early 1980s. Turning the students attention now to
German hip-hop, elicit your students’ opinion on how they think Afro-deutsche German
citizens and immigrants are treated in modern Germany. If racism exists in Germany,
what forms does it take? Obtain ideas from your students and make a list of potential
racist ideas and situations that may exist in Germany. After collecting the ideas and
preconceptions that your students have about racism in Germany, play Advanced
Chemistry’s “Fremd im eigenen Land” (1992). This song, and many like this from this
time period, was a reaction to the heightened xenophobia and subsequent attacks by neoNazi groups in the years immediately following the reunification of the two German
states which targeted buildings and communities dominated by minorities and foreigners.
At the beginning of this song, a news broadcast describing these events make this clear:
“…nach der vierten krawallnacht rechnet die polizei mit weiteren rechtsradikalen
ausschreitung in rostock…die stadt sei inzwischen ein sammelplatz für rechtsradikale aus
dem ganzen bundesgebiet geworden, sagte ein polizeisprecher in der nacht war es wieder
zu schweren krawallen vor dem inzwischen geräumten asylbewerberheim in rostocklichtenhagen gekommen...“8
This particular song was a reaction to the arsenic attacks in Rostock on August 24th,
1992. The lyrics are replete with clear allusions to the difficulties encountered by
minorities in Germany and quite often relevant rhetorical questions appear throughout the
song. For example, you may wish to focus on particular segments of the song such as the
Ich habe einen grünen Pass mit ‘nem goldenen Adler drauf
Dies bedingt, dass ich mir oft die Haare rauf
Jetzt mal ohne Spaß, ärger hab ich zu hauf,
Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five. The Message. Sugarhill, 1982.
Advanced Chemistry. Fremd im eigenen Land. MZEE Records, 1992.
Michael T. Putnam
Das Problem sind die Ideen im System
Ein echter Deutscher muss so richtig deutsch aussehn
Blaue augen, blondes haar, keine gefahr
Gab’s da nicht ‘ne Zeit, wo’s schon mal so war?
“Gehst du mal spatter zurück in deine heimat?”
Wohin? Nach Heidelberg? Wo ich ein Heim hab’?
“Nein, du weißt, was ich mein…” – Komm lass es sein9
The following ‘discussion’ occurs between a female voice representing a ‘real German’
and the rapper Torch who is also a German citizen (hence the green passport with the
golden eagle) whose parents come from Haiti, however he has spent his entire life in
Heidelberg. The questions in italics represent the stereotypical questions that confront
Germans, according to Torch, who might not have blue eyes and blonde hair. Later in the
same verse Torch identifies himself as a German citizen, even though in this song he is
often not regarded as such:
Ich bin kein Ausländer, Aussiedler, Tourist, Immigrant
Sondern Deutscher Staatsbürger und komme zufällig aus diesem Land
Denn ich bin kein Einzelfall sondern einer von vielen
Nicht anerkannt, fremd im eigenen Land
Kein Ausländer, und doch ein fremder10
In the last verse of this song, Torch and Linguist – another member of Advanced
Chemistry with Italian-German heritage – also question the apparent advantages of a
reunified German nation, insisting that many of the social ills that were prevalent prior to
– and perhaps those that did not exist before – the fall of the Berlin Wall live on:
In der Fernsehsendung die Wiedervereinigung
Anfangs hab’ ich mich gefreut, doch schnell habe ich’s bereut
Denn noch nie, seit ich denken kann, war’s so schlimm wie heut’11
An ocean of pedagogical possibilities is available when using this text when discussing
cultural topics like Wiedervereinigung, Vergangenheitsbewältigung and racism in
modern Germany. The potential for both small group work and inclusive class-sized
projects abound. The lyrics themselves are rich enough to support an entire lesson on just
this song alone or they can also easily be used as a smaller part of a lesson or unit on any
of these aforementioned topics.
Advanced Chemistry. Fremd im eigenen Land. MZEE Records, 1992.
Advanced Chemistry. Fremd im eigenen Land. MZEE Records, 1992.
Advanced Chemistry. Fremd im eigenen Land. MZEE Records, 1992.
Teaching Controversal Topics in Contemporary German Culture through Hip-Hop
Fler: Neue Deutsche Welle (2005)
The sudden rise in success of the record label Aggro Berlin since 2002 has
exposed a harder variant of German hip-hop that attempts to place itself on an equal
playing field with gangsta rap in America. Aggro Berlin is home to many up-and-coming
rap stars in Germany (e.g. Bushido, B-Tight and Sido), however, to date the rapper that
has won the most publicity for this controversial label – for better or for worse – Fler.
Fler (a.k.a. Patrick Decker) grew up in Treptow, one of the more impoverished areas of
Berlin. Fler’s lyrics and imagery employed in his songs are controversial to the extent
that themes that can possibly be interpreted as racists or strongly nationalitic are
embedded therein.12 The album and subsequent title track to Fler’s Neue Deutsche Welle
(2005) will be used here to demonstrate the subtle interplay of nationalist imagery in
Fler’s work. First, consider the album cover. One of the first items to stand out is the
Fraktur script used to write Fler’s name accompanied by the Reichsadler. The subtitle to
this album is the following: “Am ersten Mai wird zurückgeschossen”. Although this
might fly under the radar of younger students with a limited background in history, this
statement is clearly a calqued rendition of Adolf Hitler’s famous quote that began World
War II with the invasion of Poland. The reason for Fler’s changing of the date in Hitler’s
quote is most likely to reflect the date of the release of this album on May 1st, 2005. This
article does not wish to insinuate that Fler, nor any of his music, openly supports a racist
agenda. The purpose in bringing these issues and allusions to the forefront is to uncover
their deeper intertextual meaning. For musicians who do embrace and promote rightwing
ideology (e.g. the German rap crew Dissau Crew), the constant threat of Verbot faces the
Rechtsradikaler-Szene. Fler’s music is more of an attempt to flirt with cultural tabus with
the goal of gaining notoriety and selling records.
Before moving to a critical discussion of the lyrics of the title track Neue
Deutsche Welle, instructors should be warned that portions of this song contain violent
and sexually explicit lyrics. To circumvent any problems this might cause, instructors
may choose to play only relevant segments of songs such as those mentioned in this
article depending primarily on the maturity level of the students and the focus of the
lesson. Unfortunately the lyrics to Neue Deutsche Welle are not found in the Reclam text
mentioned earlier in this article. However, they are quite easy to find on-line.13
Lesson Plan Suggestions
Again, depending on the level of your students’ German abilities and the time you
as an instructor are willing to spend on this topic, I would suggest asking your students
how contemporary German society deals with its National Socialist past. (This discussion
will flow nicely in a contextual unit dealing with Vergangenheitsbewältigung or a similar
The increased usage of and allusion to right-wing ideology appears to have expanded beyond
German hip-hop to other genres of music (cf. Büsser 2001).
Michael T. Putnam
topic.) One successful method in getting every student involved is to divide students into
small groups for 3-5 minutes requiring them to come up at least three issues of
Germany’s Nazi past that they have observed and how the Germans approach/discuss
these situation. Turning to Fler’s album Neue Deutsche Welle, I recommend starting out
with the album cover (which can be found at the following URL:
http://www.musikbase.de/cd-reviews/F/Fler/Neue-Deutsche-Welle/). Explain the subtle,
yet distinct references to radical political tendencies on the album cover.
Leute renn’ in den Shop,
Wollen die Neue Deutsche Welle
Ich bin dein Hip-Hop-Tsunami,
Weil ich Leute überschwemme
Das ist Schwarz-Rot-Gold, hart mit stolz14
First, Fler is not the first “neue deutsche welle” in the history of modern German music;
Neue Deutsche Welle was a genre of music originally derived from punk rock and New
Wave Music in 1976.15 Many one-hit wonders and short-lived bands marked the early
collapse of this music genre in 1982-83. By associating himself and his album with the
title of a previous music movement, Fler is essentially promoting himself to the level of a
new age of music accomplishment.16 Second, ask your students to speculate what the
verse “Das ist Schwarz-Rot-Gold, hart mit stolz” means. This is clearly an allusion to the
German flag and to German patriotism. Although at first appearance it is tempting to
write off Fler as another neo-Nazi, in the same verse he speaks of the multicultural
environment of Berlin that he current resides in, much to his liking.17
Es macht Klick, Klack
Jetzt schiebt der Deutsche n cotton
Komm nach Berlin und du siehst
Wie sich die Leute hier boxen
Das ist normal, das hier ist Multi-Kulti,
Meine Homies kommen von überall
Ihr holt die Bullen, wir sind die Aussenseiter,
Wir sind Aggro Berlin
Schwarz; Weiss- egal,
Jeder ist hier Aggro in Berlin18
Fler. Neue Deutsche Welle. Aggro Berlin, 2005.
For more information on the Neue Deutsche Welle music genre of the late 1970s and early 1980s
visit the following website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neue_Deutsche_Welle
As an interesting side note, Fler samples Falco’s – a prominent pop star in the prime of the Neue
Deutsche Welle – “Rock me Amadeus” in his song “Neue Deutsche Welle”.
As pointed out by an anonymous reviewer, May 1st is also International Worker’s Day and the
primary holiday of all Communist countries, so this is probably also a less-than-subtle swipe at the DDR he
may have grown up in, and other leftist political leanings continuing in post-Wende Germany.
Fler. Neue Deutsche Welle. Aggro Berlin, 2005.
Teaching Controversal Topics in Contemporary German Culture through Hip-Hop
Throughout the song Fler refers to himself as der Deutsche, however, based on the verses
that immediately follow this patriotic – and potentially right-wing assertion on the part of
Fler – we learn that Berlin is “Multi-Kulti” and that Fler’s homies “kommen von
überall”. Fler appears to use his nationality as a form of self-identification that can be
understood ambiguously. This is in actuality no different than patriotic Germans
supporting their national soccer team during the World Cup. In the second and third
verses of this song Fler continues to intersperse nationalistic images and allusions in his
Ein Deutscher schiebt Welle,
Jetzt bin ich endlich am rappen
Und jahrelang war es cooler
Blöd auf Englisch zu rappen
Ne neue Ära beginnt,
Das ist wie Volksmusik
Die Medien boykotieren mich,
Doch ich werde vom Volk geliebt
Meine Gnade hat ein Limit,
Du bist grade am Limit
Die Neue Deutsche Welle guck,
Man sieht die Fahne am Himmel19
Fler constantly ties his music to the sense of Volk; a form of music that is touted to be
considered Volksmusik. Although such imagery could potentially be interpreted as racist,
it remains unclear exactly what characteristics this Volk possesses. One possible
interpretation sees Volk as an entity of people who are opposed to the mainstream culture.
In a sense, Fler promotes himself as a quasi-modern-day Robin Hood that defies the
media and mainstream culture to deliver to the Volk what they really want to hear. Even
though potential rightwing symbolism is employed throughout this song, Fler’s music
has less to say about racism and more to do with a changing German national identity
which is becoming more open to positive patriotism.
Coming back to the pedagogical potential of this song in German Cultural
Studies, Fler’s Neue Deutsche Welle signals a changing of the guard so to say in younger
Germans’ opinions about their relationship with their Nazi past. Has modern Germany
finally reached a point where such references as those found in Fler’s music is no longer
viewed as blatantly nationalistic? Of course, neither Fler nor German Hip-Hop can be
treated in isolation with regards to this issue. The growing tendency of right-wing
terminology and ideology in mainstream music is a concern to many in the media and in
the field of cultural studies (cf. Büsser 2001). Songs like these are an excellent resource
Fler. Neue Deutsche Welle. Aggro Berlin, 2005.
Michael T. Putnam
to stimulate in-class discussions pertaining to the feelings and opinions of young
Germans and their relationship with Germany’s past.
The rapid expansion of hip-hop from a strictly local to a global music
phenomenon in the past two decades has also increased a necessity to mine this music
genre for its educational and cultural messages embedded in song lyrics. This article
discussed two well-known German rap songs and provided brief suggestions on how they
might be used in the advanced high school or university classroom setting. The
discussion provided here elucidates how German hip-hop could serve to bolster and
strengthen lessons centered on contemporary German culture and society, however,
German hip-hop is a topic worthy of individual academic pursuit in and unto itself.
Building upon an advanced undergraduate seminar I designed and taught at the
University of Michigan during the Winter 2006 semester (entitled German 426: 25 Jahre
Hip-Hop in Deutschland), I have enclosed the current syllabus to the course I am
currently teaching at Michigan State University this fall, German 445: Deutscher HipHop im 21. Jahrhundert. The course readings for both courses focus primarily on the
development of hip-hop in America and Germany and the social impact of rap music on
modern society. Although I constructed a “canon” of German hip-hop songs that I found
to be a solid representative sample of German hip-hop over the last 25 years, I
encouraged my students – in the form of oral presentations – to seek out songs that were
not included on the list. The capstone project for the course was a 10-12 page paper (in
German) on a unique topic/thesis developed and researched by the student throughout the
semester. Research for these projects was often conducted in non-traditional settings as
far as term papers are concerned; rather than spending a lot of time at the library, much
“research” was conducted in active chat room forums dedicated to German hip-hop.
Some of my students were fortunate enough to arrange interviews with past and present
German rappers and b-boys for their final projects. The final projects are a testimony of
their hard work and, dare I say, passion for this topic and its implications for modern
German society. Some projects focused on German censorship laws in comparison to
American laws and standards, while others focused on topics such as female rappers in
Germany, references to Adolf Hitler in German gangsta rap and so forth.
I truly believe I learned as much from my students through these projects as they
learned from me in duration of the course. I have also affixed a copy of my current course
syllabus (i.e., German 445) in the appendix of this article for those who may be
interested. In close, I hope that I have provided both rationale and material resources that
make a case for the pedagogical possibilities to be found through the integration of
German hip-hop into the foreign language classroom.
Teaching Controversal Topics in Contemporary German Culture through Hip-Hop
Bennett, Andy.“Hip-Hop am Main, Rappin’ on the Tyne: Hip-Hop Culture as a
Local Construct in Two European Cities.” Eds. Murray Forman and Mark
Anthony Neal. That’s the Joint! – The Hip-Hop Studies Reader. New York:
Routledge, 2004, 177-200.
Büsser, Martin. Wie klingt die neue Mitte?: rechte and reaktionäre Tendenzen in
der Popmusik. Mainz: Ventil Verlag, 2001.
Loh, Hannes. Arbeitstexte für den Unterricht: Rap-Texte. Stuttgart: Reclam, 2003.
Loh, Hannes and Güngör, Murat. Fear of a Kanak Planet: HipHop zwischen WeltKultur und Nazi-Rap. Höfen: Hannibal Verlag, 2002.
Schmitt, Johannes. “German Rap Music in the Classroom.” Unterrichtspraxis 36,1
(2003): 1-14.
Verlan, Sascha and Loh, Hannes. 20 Jahre HipHop in Deutschland. Höfen:
Hannibal Verlag, 2002.
Verlan, Sascha and Loh, Hannes. 25 Jahre HipHop in Deutschland. Höfen: Hannibal
Verlag, 2006.
Yakpo, Kofi. „’Denn ich bin kein Einzelfall sondern von vielen’: Afrodeutsche
Rapkünstler in der Hip Hop Gründerzeit.“ Cybernomads. 1. Sept. 2006.
Advanced Chemistry. Fremd im eigenen Land. MZEE Records, 1992.
Falco. Rock me Amadeus. A&M Records, 1985.
Fler. Neue Deutsche Welle. Aggro Berlin, 2005.
Fresh Familee. Ahmed Gündüz. Ratinga 1991.
Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five. The Message. Sugarhill, 1982.
Additional Resources
Buhmann, Heide and Haeseler, Hanspeter. HipHop XXL. Mit 2 CDs. Fette Reime
und Fette Beats in Deutschland. Frankfurt: Rockbuch Verlag & Haeseler, 2001.
Forman, Murray and Neal, Mark Anthony (eds.). That’s the Joint! – The Hip-Hop
Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, 2004.
Krekow, Sebastian and Steiner, Jens. Bei uns geht einiges: die Deutsche HipHopSzene. Berlin: Schwarzkopf, 2000.
Michael T. Putnam
Deutsch 445: Deutscher Hip-Hop im 21. Jahrhundert
Prof. Mike Putnam
A-637 Wells Hall
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 5-4762
Office Hours: Mon. 1:00-2:00, Fri. 9:00-10:00 und nach Vereinbarung
Course Overview:
Perhaps no form of music has generated more controversy and interest in the last quarter
century than Hip Hop. Since its conception in the Bronx in the mid 1970s, Hip Hop has
risen to the status of a global phenomenon, becoming a popular form of expression and
entertainment in diverse geographical areas from New York to Sydney, Australia. The
messages and images conveyed through Hip Hop are abrasive and shocking, while at the
same time complex and intellectually enlightening. In this course we will examine the
roots of this form of artistic expression and its eventual development in German-speaking
Europe. We will follow German Hip Hop through its grass roots development in the early
1980s into various epochs and schools of thought throughout the last 25 years. We will
not only acquaint ourselves with the most influential rappers but also the messages
embedded in the lyrics of their songs. The lyrics expose a view of contemporary German
society unattainable through any other medium of social discourse. We will also attempt
to view and interpret the development of Hip Hop in the contemporary German music
scene in comparison with other genres of music (e.g. techno, NDW, NDH, etc.). The
ever-growing Hip Hop culture in Germany provides a way and means to investigate
conflicting schools of thought and factions within societal structure as well as resulting
linguistic change on the German language itself. The materials analyzed in this course
afford us the opportunity to hone in on key questions pertaining to modern German
identity and other relevant issues. From a more global perspective, we will attempt to
discover the primary function of Hip Hop in the global community within the framework
of rhetoric and social movement theory. The language of instruction will be
(predominantly) German.
Required texts:
Buhmann, Heide. 2001. Hip Hop XXL. (Mit 2 CDs) Fette Reime und Fette Beats in
Deutschland (Gebundene Ausgabe). ISBN: 392763820X
Loh, Hannes and Murat Güngör. 2002. Fear of a Kanak Planet: Hip Hop zwischen
Weltkultur und Nazi-Rap. ISBN: 3854452101.
Verlan, Sascha. 2003. Rap Texte. ISBN: 3150150507.
Teaching Controversal Topics in Contemporary German Culture through Hip-Hop
Verlan, Sascha and Hannes Loh. 2006. 25 Jahre Hip Hop in Deutschland. ISBN:
Recommended background texts in Hip-Hop Studies:
Forman, Murray and Mark Anthony Neal eds. 2004. That’s the Joint! The Hip-Hop
Studies Reader. ISBN: 0415969190.
George, Nelson. 2005. Hip Hop America. ISBN: 0143035150.
Light, Alan ed. 1999. The Vibe History of Hip Hop. ISBN: 0609805037.
Required music:
It is difficult – if not impossible – to establish a set ‘canon’ of songs for German hip hop
(or any other genre of music for that matter). After issuing this caveat, I have a fairly
extensive collection of music (mostly in MP3 format) that we will be listening to in class.
If at any time you are looking for a song, please check w/ me first; it might save you a lot
of time. (Note: I’m in the process of finilizing a list of the MP3 and CDs that I own and
will make them available to all of you in a couple of weeks.)
One of the unique, and quite possibly the most interesting, facets of research German hiphop (and hip-hop in general for that matter) are the discussions that take place in
chatrooms. Chatrooms afford users the opportunity to be simultaneously a researcher and
a participant in discussions.
www.viva.de (this isn’t a chatroom per se, but should give you access to brand new
music videos)
This list of sites is anything but comprehensive, but at least it’s a good start.
Grading rubric:
Attendance & Participation
Song analyses (3)
Oral Presentations (2)
Final paper
Michael T. Putnam
Attendance & Participation: You are allotted two (2) unexcused absences throughout
the duration of this course. Any unexcused absences beyond the second one will result in
the reduction of your overall course grade by 3%. Absences will only be excused with
proper medical documentation or family emergency. If you know you are going to miss
class, please try and contact me in advance. As for participation, I expect you to come to
class prepared, i.e. having read all the assigned readings for a given class session. All
homework assignments are due at the beginning of the date indicated on this syllabus. No
late homework will be except without proper medical clearance.
Song analyses (3):
You are responsible for three (3) song analyses in this course. My
definition of a song analysis is where you profile either a particular song (perhaps two or
three?) of (i) an individual artist or group, or (ii) songs that focus on a common theme
and critically analyze the lyric content of the song. The course readings are also intended
to be an excellent soure to rely upon to support the claims you stake in your analyses.
These analyses must be written in German and should be roughly 3-4 pages in length.
The song analyses can also be used as materials for other projects in the course (i.e. oral
presentations and the final paper).
Oral presentations (2):You must complete two (2) oral presentations in German – either
on your own or with a partner – of roughly 5-10 minutes in duration. The topic of these
presentations is relatively open; however, I request that you check your desired topic with
me at least a class session prior to the date you (or you and your partner) wish to present.
Midterm paper & final paper: The capstone project for this course will be a final paper of
8-10 pages in length in German over a selected topic at the student’s discretion.
Although there has been marginal research on this topic in Germany, to date any
scholarly debate on this subject matter from an external point-of-view is virtually nonexistent. This is quite a daunting task, however I feel that it will be a very worthwhile
venture for you to produce such a lengthy work in German and make a unique
contribution to this field. At the ½ way point in the course, you are required to turn into
me a 2-3 page document that represents that core argument that will appear in refined
form in the final paper (including bibliographic sources, too, when possible). The other
projects in the course, namely the song analyses and the oral presentations, can and
should be used to feed and support your argument in this final project. Throughout this
course I will work with you directly in helping you find sources and crafting a solid
Semesterplan (subject to change)
Woche 1
Aug. 29
Einführung – Was ist
HipHop? / einschlägige
Aspekte vom HipHop
Texte: Verlan (2003:7-24),
Buhmann (2001:10-16)
Lieder: „Electro Ghetto“
Teaching Controversal Topics in Contemporary German Culture through Hip-Hop
Aug. 31
(Bushido), „NDW“ (Fler),
„Mit freundlichen Grüßen“
(Fanta Vier)
Die Wurzeln vom Hip Hop Texte: Verlan (2003: 7-24),
Verlan & Loh (2006:38-59)
Lieder: „The Message“
(Grandmaster Flash & The
Furious Five), „Rapper’s
Delight“ (Sugarhill Gang),
“Planet Rock” (Afrika
Woche 2
Sept. 5
Sept. 7
Die alte Schule in den USA Texte: Verlan/Loh
(2006:112-33), George
Lieder: „The Adventures of
Grandmaster Flash on the
Wheels of Steel“, “Fight the
Power” (Public Enemy)
Kontrast: HipHop, alte
Texte: George (2005: 34Schule, Gangsta Rap
50), Dimitriadis (2004)
„Hip-Hop: From Live
Preformance to Mediated
Woche 3
Sept. 12
Sept. 14
HipHop in Deutschland –
der Anfang / HipHop
Entwicklung der BattleKultur
Texte: Verlan/Loh (2006:
94-111, 161-205)
Texte: Verlan/Loh (2006:
320-349), Verlan (2003: 2568)
Lieder: „Fenster zum Hof“
(Stieber Twins), „Höha,
schnella, weita“ (R.H.P.)
Die alte Schule in
Texte: Verlan/Loh (2006:
140-60), Loh/Güngör (2002:
Lieder: „Fremd im eigenen
Land“ (Advanced
Chemistry), „Ahmet
Gündüz“ (Fresh Familee),
Woche 4
Sept. 19
Michael T. Putnam
Sept. 21
„Alte Schule“ (Advanced
Hausaufgabe: Song
Die „vergessene
Generation“ / Die Fanta Vier Analysis (1) ist fällig
Texte: Verlan/Loh (2006:
206-48), Loh/Güngör (2002:
Lieder: „Die da“ (Fanta
Vier), „Tag am Meer“
(Fanta Vier), „Die Söhne der
Woche 5
Sept. 26
Sept. 28
Die Fanta Vier Krise /
HipHop in den Medien
Die neue Schule
Texte: Verlan/Loh (2006:
Texte: Verlan/Loh (2006:
Woche 6
Okt. 3
Okt. 5
HipHop als Kunst / Graffit / Texte: Verlan/Loh (2006:
„Space“ und „Place“
Texte: Forman (2004)
„Race, space and place in
rap music“, Verlan/Loh
(2005: 288-300),
Loh/Güngör (2002: 230-50)
Lieder: „Nordisch by
Nature“ (Fettes Brot),
„Mutterstadt“ (Massive
Töne), „Straight Outta
Compton“ (NWA)
Woche 7
Okt. 10
Globale, lokale und
„glokale“ Aspekte von HipHop / Urbanität in HipHop –
Was ist „echt“?
Okt. 12
Gangsta rap und
Volksverhetzung in
Hausaufgabe: Final Paper
Materials (2-3 Seiten)
Texte: Androutsopoulos
(2003) “HipHop und
Sprache: Vertikale
Intertextualität und die drei
Sphären der Popkultur“
Texte: Verlan/Loh (2006:
Lieder: „Colors“ (Ice T),
„Schwule Rapper“ (Kool
Teaching Controversal Topics in Contemporary German Culture through Hip-Hop
Woche 8
Okt. 17
Okt. 19
Frauenrap / HipHop in der
Texte: Verlan/Loh (2006:
332-349), Rose (2004)
„Never Trust a Big Butt and
a Smile“
Lieder: „Du liebst mich
nicht“ (Sabina Setlur),
„Lügt, ihr kreigt mich nie“
(Cora E)
Fette Reime und Fette Beats Texte: Buhmann
Hausaufgabe: Song
Analysis (2) ist fällig
Lieder: Siehe Buhmann
Woche 9
Okt. 24
Okt. 26
Fette Reime und Fette Beats Texte: Buhmann
Lieder: Siehe Buhmann
Das K-Wort
Texte: Loh/Güngör (2002:
Woche 10
Okt. 31
Nov. 2
Die Bedeutung der Sprache Hausaufgabe: Final Paper
im HipHop
Materials (4-6 Seiten)
Texte: Loh/Güngör (2002:
41-54, 171-218), Verlan
(2003: 118-39)
Lieder: „c’est comme ça“
(Ischen Impossible)
Brothers’ and Sisters’
Texte: Loh/Güngör (2002:
Lieder: „Die Stimme der
Vernunft ist leise“ (Doppel
Woche 11
Nov. 7
Nov. 9
HipHop-Kultur in
Chatrooms / Die Macht des
Vermarktung des HipHop Texte: Negus (2004) „The
Business of Rap: Between
the Street and the Executive
Michael T. Putnam
Suite“, Watts (2004) „An
Exploration of Spectacular
Consumption: Gangsta Rap
as Cultural Commodity“
Woche 12
Nov. 14
Nov. 16
HipHop und die neue Rechte Texte: Loh/Güngör (2002:
Lieder: „Frontalangriff“
(Dissau Crew)
Aggro Berlin
Texte: Webseiten
Lieder: „Electro Ghetto“
(Bushido), „Neue Deutsche
Welle“ (Fler)
Woche 13
Nov. 21
Open Mic
Nov. 23
Kein Unterricht
Hausaufgabe: Draft of
Final Paper (8-10 Seiten)
Woche 14
Nov. 28
Nov. 30
Moderner dt. HipHop in den Texte: Artikeln aus
Zeitschriften, Zeitungen,
usw. , Verlan/Loh (2006:
Die Zukunft für deutschen Texte: Verlan/Loh (2006:
Hausaufgabe: Song
Analysis (3) ist fällig
Woche 15
Dez. 5
Dez. 7
Oral Presentations
Oral Presentations