What does RAP
Rap is one of the four basic pillars of hip-hop culture and has become the most popular hip-hop element since it was commercialized (see hip-hop scene profile). The terms hip-hop and rap are therefore often incorrectly used synonymously. Correctly, the term 'hip-hop' describes (youth) culture as a whole, while 'rap' only means the linguistic-musical form of expression. Although many people in the scene are familiar with the historical roots of rap in hip-hop culture, many, especially young people, perceive rap today as an independent musical genre, with its own discourses, media and actors. One can therefore speak of a more or less self-sufficient rap scene.
As an element of hip-hop culture, rap originated in the New York Bronx in the 1970s. The already poor part of the city was characterized by gangs, (drug) crime, poverty and a lack of prospects. For this reason, many Afro and Latin American young people were denied access to leisure activities such as discos or dance schools. However, they quickly made a virtue out of this need and held their own so-called 'block parties'. On them the DJs developed the hip-hop-typical 'breakbeat' with two turntables, to which they danced (broken -> breakdance) and celebrated. Rappers, or 'MCs' (Masters of Ceremony) back then, were the people who commented on the skills of the DJs and tried to get people to dance. This often happened in rhyme form and according to the 'call and response' principle. This means that the MC turned to the audience with his / her announcement and the audience was asked to answer (e.g. MC: "Say hoo", audience: "Hoooo!" Etc.).
The term 'rap' comes from the English verb '(to) rap' and means something like to chat, to gossip. Some also translate the abbreviation rap as rhythm and poetry. Many of the patterns and techniques of rap, such as the 'call and response' principle, are rooted in Afro-American traditions. Rap's commercial breakthrough came in the USA in 1979 with the hit “Rapper’s Delight” by the cast studio band “Sugerhill Gang”, which, however, did not come from the block party milieu and caused a corresponding resentment in the scene. Since then, various sub-genres have developed, which are mainly characterized by different thematic focuses, but also regional peculiarities. 'Gangsta rap', which originated on the US west coast, is known for its relentless portrayal of life on the street, while rap from the east coast (e.g. from New York) has long been known for its more political orientation. This subgenre is usually referred to by the terms 'Conscious Rap', 'Political Rap', or 'Message Rap'. As a representative of gangsta rap from the 'Westcoast', for example, the group 'N.W.A.' can be considered. An example of political 'East Coast' rap would be 'Grandmaster Flash' or the group 'Public Enemy'.
The division East vs. West, or gangsta rap vs. political rap is of course generalizing and just one of many dividing lines that can be drawn to differentiate between different forms of rap. For example, there is also rap from the southern states, called 'Dirty South', or sub-genres such as 'Horrorcore', 'Crunk' or, more recently, 'Cloud-Rap', each of which is characterized by its own sound, thematic focus and history.
In the 1980s, hip-hop culture, and with it rap, finally reached Germany. Small rap centers quickly emerged, especially in areas where US soldiers were stationed, e.g. in Heidelberg. Because rap originally functioned as a mouthpiece for marginalized young people, young people from the first generation of guest workers in particular found themselves in hip-hop culture and began rapping in English or their native language. Important rap pioneering work was done, for example, by the groups 'Fresh Familee' and 'Advanced Chemistry'. The commercial breakthrough of rap in Germany in 1992 was not achieved by the actual pioneers, but by the group 'Die Fantastischen Vier' with their hit 'Die da!?! ‘. Because the four people from Stuttgart had hardly appeared in the hip-hop sector before, many members of the scene viewed this success critically.
Since the 1990s, rap has spread all over Germany and - similar to the USA - has developed different varieties and local centers. These include, for example, gangsta rap, street rap or more poppy variants of rap, such as that of rapper 'Cro'. Although a large part of the music scene takes place in the so-called 'underground', rap is one of the most successful music genres in Germany today. Above all rappers like 'Sido' or 'Bushido' have become more popular and can earn a living through rap music.
The rap scene can be structured historically, thematically or regionally, for example. In general, rap is practiced globally and especially in urban areas. The German rap centers of the 1990s can be roughly localized along a north-south axis. In cities like Kiel, Hamburg, Heidelberg or Munich, the first generation, also known as the 'old school', rapped primarily on political and social issues (e.g. 'Advanced Chemistry', 'Cora E.'). For the next generation of rappers, the main focus was on having fun with rhymes, word and language games. Examples of this 'New School' are groups such as 'Circle of Friends', 'Fettes Brot', 'EinsZwo' or 'The Absolute Beginner'. From around the turn of the millennium, the German rap axis then shifted horizontally. Especially the Ruhr area and Berlin, but also cities like Frankfurt have been important centers of the rap scene since then. With this regional shift, the content also changed. The lyrics became more aggressive, the mood darker. Sub-genres such as battle rap, gangsta rap and street rap developed and are currently among the most successful varieties of rap in Germany.
A further subdivision of the scene can be made along the distinction between 'underground' and 'mainstream'. Many people in the scene are critical of the commercialization of rap. Successful rappers who sign contracts with large record companies are therefore often accused of 'sell-out', which means 'having sold their ideals'. The establishment of independent record companies ('Independent Labels') is rewarded accordingly within the scene. Such independent companies have repeatedly achieved great commercial successes, for example the Berlin label 'Royal Bunker' at the turn of the millennium or currently the Stuttgart label 'Chimperator Productions'.
The size of the rap scene is difficult to determine. There is no solid core, nor would anyone who listens to rap music consider themselves a follower of the rap scene. Overall, it can be said that there are significantly more recipients of rap than producers. But the rap scene is not just about rappers and fans of music. Producers (e.g. from Beats), label owners, music managers and music journalists are also part of the scene. Rap music is one of the most popular music genres in Germany. The most commercially successful rappers and rap groups since the 'Fantastischen Vier' in the 1990s are, for example, 'Sabrina Setlur', the Stuttgart rappers from 'Freundeskreis' or the rappers 'Cro', 'Bushido', or 'Kollegah'. They all sold more than 200,000 records. In addition to traditional record sales, the Internet is becoming increasingly important today. In the meantime, the scene's internal recognition of rappers is largely measured by the number of clicks (e.g. on YouTube) or the size of the following on social media such as Facebook.
Overall, the rap scene is very heterogeneous. While it was initially more male and migrant, the composition of the scene changed with the development of various subgenres and thematic focuses. In addition to the more masculine and migrant forms of gangsta or street rap, there is a wide range of rap types in which people of different ages, genders, origins or political views can find points of contact. In Germany there is not only left-wing political rap, but also so-called hipster or emo rap, which means (often somewhat derogatory) pop-heavy forms of rap. Relatively new subgenres are also 'trap rap' and 'cloud rap'. The latter is mainly characterized by atmospheric beats and sometimes absurd, very reduced texts. In general, rap appeals to a rather young target group, between 14 and 34 years of age. Especially on the producers' side, however, the average age is much higher, which is why the term 'youth culture' does not go far enough in the rap scene. The fact that rap has been produced, lived, consumed and received in Germany for over 35 years has also resulted in a widening of the age range. Many representatives of the first and second rap generation are now well over 40 years old and have, so to speak, 'grown' with the rap scene.
Unfortunately, there are always interpreters who try to spread nationalistic content through rap. This so-called 'NS rap' or 'Nazi rap' is, however, a marginal phenomenon and is hardly or critically noticed by a large part of the scene.
Because rap is a global form of expression and originated in the USA, the American rap scene has a certain worldwide reputation. Collaborations with artists from the United States are therefore often particularly rewarded. In addition - depending on the regional location - there are usually good contacts to neighboring scenes, for example French rap in southwest Germany.
But there are also overlaps with other music genres. Because many rap techniques go back to African American traditions, there were points of contact and collaboration with elements from jazz and blues, as well as the reggae, ragga or dancehall scene from the start. An example of this is Jan Delay a.k.a Jan Eißfeld, who combines rap with reggae and funk elements. There are also classic collaborations in the field of rap with genres such as soul and R&B. Since its commercialization, however, there have also been new, rather atypical hybrid forms. The rap duo 'Die Atzen' celebrated great success by combining rap with electro and techno-heavy party music.
Even if the rap scene can increasingly be understood as an independent scene, the other elements of hip-hop culture still play a major role. Many rap music videos play with the aesthetics of graffiti or visualize dance forms from breakdancing. Many rappers are also former graffiti writers or practice both forms of expression at the same time. Rap is also one of the most popular genres of music in breakdancing.
The rap scene also has intersections with other scenes regardless of music. As far as the style of clothing is concerned, it is based - similar to the skater scene - on, for example, streetwear branded clothing.
Originally, rap is all about performing well and developing your own style. This style should be original and as unique as possible, so that it stands out from that of other rappers and has recognition value. The goal of rapping is to get recognition ('fame') and as much encouragement ('props') from the scene as possible. The creation of images and the monetary aspect of music have not only been in focus since the commercialization of rap.
A good rapper is measured by his / her rap abilities ('skills'). He or she should have 'flow' as much as possible, i.e. have a rhythmic, harmonic and fluid rhyme style. The main criterion in hip-hop and also in the rap scene is and remains the aspect of authenticity ('realness'). A rapper has to be 'real', i.e. what he or she says should be believable. Anyone who does not succeed in this or who even copies a different style enjoys no respect and is quickly labeled 'fake'. The quality of a rapeseed has to be considered in the context of the respective variety. So-called battle rap, for example, is primarily about verbal annihilation of the other person ('dissing'). Accordingly, you should have puns, appropriate metaphors and a clean technique (see: 'Flow'). The rap scene as a whole also appreciates the ability to rap particularly quickly (e.g. 'double time'). In other sub-genres, e.g. Conscious Rap, the focus is more on narrative elements and substantial content. In favor of a 'message', less emphasis is placed on complex rhyme structures. But there are also varieties in which the actual rap plays a subordinate role and it is more about the sound or particularly appealing, e.g. hard or atmospheric bass. Examples of this are, for example, 'trap' or 'cloud' rap.
The rap scene - especially many of its older representatives - is largely based on the norms and value system of hip-hop culture from which it originally developed. As a ghetto culture and mouthpiece for the marginalized, political and social grievances were discussed very early on via rap. For many, rap is therefore a fundamentally political, anti-racist means of expression. In particular, varieties such as 'gangsta rap' (re) also produce the narrative of the 'big city fighter' and the perspective of creating social advancement by exercising violence and accumulating wealth. Materialism, but also (neo-liberal) performance thinking, are attitudes that result from this and that are shared by many people in the rap scene.
In the numerically male-dominated rap scene, a more traditional, sometimes even vitalistic-aggressive ideal of masculinity still prevails. Developed in the context of gang culture, the rap scene still attaches great importance to community feelings such as solidarity and loyalty within the (often masculine) 'crew' or 'posse'. This goes hand in hand with the demarcation and devaluation of other groups, which often results in homophobic, sexist or anti-Semitic content.
Respect and appreciation of legends and pioneers of culture are also part of the classic canon of values in the scene.
Overall, it has to be said that there is no such thing as 'the' attitude in the rap scene. You position yourself more or less depending on the sub-genre and ideological-historical classification. Anyone who sympathizes with conscious rap, belongs to the left-wing political spectrum or is an advocate of the 'old school', for whom rap is inseparable from hip-hop and a corresponding holistic attitude. For many younger rap fans or those who are socialized with battle and gangsta rap, tradition and the cultural idea often no longer play such a big role. Instead, rap is now more associated with fun, lifestyle and hedonistic aspects and celebrated as party music.
As in German society as a whole, there are also sexist, homophobic and anti-Semitic tendencies in the rap scene. These have increasingly found their way into the scene, especially since the turn of the millennium and the success of battle, gangsta and street rap.
Similar to the attitude, the lifestyle of the rap scene depends on which subgenre you sympathize with and which 'reading' of hip hop you have been socialized with. For many members of the first generation of hip-hop, rap is irrevocably linked to hip-hop culture and is more than just a taste in music. The hip-hop canon of values has accordingly become part of one's own identity and has become part of one's own language, thinking and habitus. Those who were born in the 1990s or later, or grew up with the 'harder' forms of rap, often set different priorities. Overall, it can be said that consumer objects have grown in importance since the commercialization of rap. Even if 'the' typical rap lifestyle doesn't exist, many people in the scene appreciate - at least in theory - expensive cars or branded clothing and accessories. Wide trousers ('baggy pants'), sneakers ('sneakers') or caps are also typical visual identifiers. Leather jackets and hoodies are also part of the rap scene's dress code. In particularly masculine-dominated sub-genres such as gangsta rap, a trend towards physical self-optimization can also be observed. Doing regular sports, preferably martial arts, is just as much a part of many male followers of the rap scene as a well-groomed appearance.
A constitutive part of the rap scene's lifestyle is also hanging out together ('chilling out'), for example to listen to or produce rap music. The consumption of soft drugs like weed is also a part of this for many. With the emergence of 'harder' sub-genres such as gangsta or street rap, cocaine also found its way into the scene more and more. In addition, the opiate codeine has been indulged for some time, a trend that has been adopted by the American rap scene.
The rap scene has numerous characters and codes that are heavily based on the symbols of hip-hop culture. Typical distinguishing features, from which one can read off the affiliation to the scene, are, in addition to a certain clothing, also the language / vocabulary and the general habitus. The rap dress code still includes loose clothing, e.g. baggy pants, but sneakers, hoodies and caps are also timelessly popular. In addition to the sports brands Adidas and Nike, people in the rap scene particularly like to wear streetwear clothes, e.g. from brands such as Rocawear, New Era, Pelle Pelle or Picaldi. The brands Carhartt and Dickies, which are more associated with the skater scene, are also part of the classic rap dress code.
With the establishment of new sub-genres such as the so-called emo rap or hipster rap, the clothing style of the rap scene has increasingly differentiated, so that the wearing of tighter clothes (e.g. skinny jeans) can also be found. Due to the sometimes materialistic character of the scene, status symbols such as expensive jewelry or cars are also part of their identifying marks. Many rap texts show a particular preference for brands such as Gucci and Versace, as well as for vehicles from the automobile manufacturer Mercedes. In rap forms such as gangsta rap, masculinity and toughness are also symbolized by the presentation of weapons or fighting dogs.
Because rap originally comes from the US, the global rap language is characterized by a high proportion of Anglicisms (e.g. 'Flow', 'Skills' or 'Battle'). There are also numerous slang terms and overlaps with other language varieties, for example with youth language. Borrowings from the Turkish or Arabic-speaking countries, as well as the drug milieu, are also among the linguistic identifiers of the German rap scene.
After all, non-verbal communication is also used in the field of rap. Particularly noteworthy here are specific hand gestures when greeting and saying goodbye to like-minded people, or also certain gang signs or a regional origin, which is indicated by crossing certain fingers (e.g. an 'E' for East Coast or East or a 'W' for West Coast or . West).
The idea of competition pervades almost all elements of hip-hop culture and the so-called 'battling' (from 'battle') is a central principle in rap as well. A 'battle' can take place live in front of a jury and an audience, but also in written form, e.g. in an online forum. Depending on the rules, you 'perform' 'freestyle' (i.e. spontaneously improvising) or texts that have already been written down. In general: Whoever has the better rhymes, the more creative comparisons and the more adept rap technique wins. It is mostly less about money than about recognition ('fame') in the scene. The ritual of verbal competition goes back to African American traditions (e.g. playin ‘the dozens). The battle principle originally tried to channel disputes in the gang and fight battles with words instead of fists.
Another typical ritual in rap is the aforementioned 'freestyle'. The main thing is to rhyme spontaneously and to respond as best as possible to the respective situation, for example lyrically referring to the clothes of someone present. Freestyling is traditionally done as part of so-called hip-hop jams or at their own rap events. There you have the opportunity to put your skills to the test in front of an audience at the 'Open Mic'. Less officially, people also meet spontaneously as part of a so-called 'Cypher'. Originally one forms a kind of circle and performs alternately in turn. There are rappers who have particularly distinguished themselves through their freestyle skills, for example 'MC Rene', 'David P.', 'Samy Deluxe' or 'Laas Unltd'.
The rap scene traditionally meets at so-called hip-hop jams. These traditional events usually combine all elements of hip-hop culture, i.e. there are graffiti actions, breakdance battles, beatbox competitions and always a stage where people rap. Hip-hop jams often took place in youth centers and similar institutions in the 1990s. Above all, they served to network the rap scene with each other. Since the commercialization of rap music and the triumph of the internet, new types of events have been added. Today people meet at specially organized battle rap events in clubs or discos, or take part in so-called video battle tournaments online.
Of course, concerts and festivals are also among the events of the rap scene. Since 1998, for example, people have come together every year at Europe's largest hip-hop festival, Splash! In Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt. Parts of the rap scene also meet on other occasions. Especially in larger cities there are always panel discussions or workshops where important topics such as sexism in rap are discussed. There are also associations that are specifically dedicated to networking and making women in rap visible.
Where, when and whether members of the rap scene meet depends on various factors. If you are interested in battle rap or freestyle, you can, for example, take part in an online battle tournament or visit a classic hip-hop jam (see events). In order to meet like-minded people or to find out about current events, today you are less dependent on physical locations, such as record stores. Much of the discourse on the scene takes place in digital space, for example in Internet forums (e.g. www.mzee.com), on video portals (e.g. YouTube) or via social networks such as Facebook or Twitter. So people are increasingly being met online.
Other meeting places of the rap scene are the hip-hop jams already mentioned, as well as concerts, festivals, clubs or even the autograph session of a rapper. Of course, you also meet privately to chill out with the clique, listen to rap music or write lyrics. In order to produce and rappel songs, rappers also come together in the recording studio.
The rap scene uses numerous media formats to network and to obtain information. Hip-hop magazines such as 'Juice' or 'Backspin' have been among the central scene media since the mid-1990s and devote a large part of their content to rap. Television, especially the music channels MTV and Viva, also played a major role at this time. Formats like 'Yo! MTV Raps ‘or later 'Fett MTV' served as a window to the rap world in analog times and offered insights into the American or French scene. Since the triumphant advance of the Internet, communication in the rap scene has largely shifted to the digital sphere. Numerous online platforms such as www.rap.de or www.16bars.de have been reporting on current events in the scene, reviewing albums or providing information on current events. A large part of the scene discourse also takes place via the YouTube video portal and social media such as Facebook or twitter.
Since its commercialization, however, rap has also had a permanent place in media without reference to the scene. The spectrum of reporting ranges from benevolent homage in feature sections to scandalizing gangsta rappers in the tabloid media. Some particularly successful rappers have also published their own biographies, in the case of 'Bushido' even as part of a movie.
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