Is German Children's Hip-Hop the Balm Our Souls Need?


Screenshot: YouTube

Who’s to say how a particular YouTube rabbit hole gets rabbit-holed? I’ll tell you one thing: I did NOT find the German children’s hip-hop group Deine Freunde (DIE-nuh FROYN-duh, or “your friends”) by searching please Internet give me something that does not make me want to shriek into the overflowing sky of wasted stars, no matter how fulfilling Rilke says that is to do. No, I definitely did not happen upon their hit song about homework (position: anti), or their hit song about chocolate (position: pro; also pro-grandmas), or concert footage of a thousand German kids going straight-up batshit at a totally hip-ified version of the kids’ standard “Häschen in der Grube” (literally a song about a rabbit in a hole, just like my life watching these videos), by searching please, dear sweet Dark Lord Internet, show me something that is not about Katie Roiphe before I disintegrate into molecules and those molecules explode out of angst.

I don’t remember how I found My Friends and then assiduously researched their entire oeuvre (with the notable exception of their official YouTube channel, which is blocked in the United States—WHAT GIVES!) but I’m pretty grateful I never have to live without them again. And now you don’t have to, either.

The verses of this song, “Hausaufgaben” (HOWS-owf-GOH-bun) are in the voice of an EVIL parent who’s MAKING A KID DO HIS HOMEWORK, BOO—You can’t always do whatever you want…and if you’re still sitting at this table tomorrow morning, I don’t care!—and the chorus includes the triumphant cry of the homework-averse kid: BYE BYE, AUFWIEDERSEHEN! Also, the super rappin’ breakdown lists a series of subjects that German children have homework in, and it includes ethics and economics, which explains a lot about every German (except I guess my EX-boyfriend, Christian Lindner, who apparently skipped both classes).

A few views of “Hausaufgaben” plus some concert footage of “Schokolade” and I was off down an endless vortex of Germans rapping and sort-of-rapping. And now I can’t stop.

I should definitely not like this. It’s normative, it’s appropriative, it’s every grad-school word for wack there is. But I have a somewhat permanent soft spot for German hip-hop, probably (okay, definitely) because my very first German boyfriend, “Johannes,” was in a hip-hop funk group with his friends and, truth be told, they were pretty good.

German hip-hop and R&B. Yeah. So, yes, this is a thing that exists (and regularly tops the German charts), and it’s a very strange mixture of cultural theft from black Americans (I don’t know if it’s better or worse when Germans do it), cultural homage to black Americans (I definitely don’t think it’s better when Germans do it?), and its own thing (German has some very, very long words to rhyme, obviously).

Although many German “black music” artists (yep, that’s what they call it) are predominately white (looking at you, BAUSA), not all are—and Germany even has its own straight-up awesome R&B scene, featuring Ace Tee, a sublime, adorable and pitch-perfect 90s throwback who wasn’t even born yet when CrazySexyCool dropped:

(Yes, German artist Kwam.e’s rap interlude has a rhyme about Goethe. Of course it does.)

There’s also an entire genre of German hip-hop where groups track down U.S. national treasures who might be, erm, past their prime (an uncharitable jerk would say!), and re-release their biggest hit, but change the hook to “Germany does it like nobody does,” which I am not sure is true.

But back to My Friends, who just released a new record called Keine Märchen (KINE-uh MARE-schun), which means “no fairytales.” This, I guess, means that Deine Freunde are way too cool for such foofy little kids’ stuff as fairy tales—of course, in true German fashion the opposite is true; Deine Freunde’s kiddie raps are cute and sanitized and definitely not something that would get my daughter expelled from preschool (unlike her current favorite thing, which is to say BOOBIES as loudly as she can), whilst the old-school Grimm fairy tales are gruesome and sometimes even pretty sexual. BUT FOR ONCE, I don’t want to be pedantic. I’m too existentially tired.

So, My Friends: The Hamburg-based HipHop-Crew (actual German word)—Florian Sump, Markus Pauli and Lukas Nimscheck—has been delighting the Kinder (and apparently also parents who have similar soft spots for HipHop) since 2013. It was then, according to this piece in the Tageszeitung, that they played a breakout show that entranced both generations at the Roter Salon—a venue in Berlin where I used to chain-smoke and drink vile Jack Daniel’s on the rocks and “dance” German style (i.e., jump up and down) to drum and bass in the wee hours during the 90s, where the red light made everyone look mysterious and sexy. This is, presumably, also true for Deine Freunde?

Anyway, according to the TAZ, “five years, three albums and countless concerts later,” Deine Freunde are still touring, and most of their shows are sold out, largely because of the parents. (In this concert video, the guys—some of whom, just like my other best friends The Wiggles, started out as preschool teachers—ask the boys, girls and parents to take turns seeing who makes the most noise; the parents win by a mile.)

In case you are wondering, Deine Freunde is not the only German children’s HipHop-Crew. But what other sorts of German children’s hip-hop is out there, Rebecca? you are definitely asking. FUNNY THAT YOU ASKED, Katie-Roiphe-ennui-suffering-Internet, because here is another substantially less charming joint by Bibi & Tina, a “Battle Rap” called Mädchen gegen Jungs (“Girls Against Boys”):

Indeed, luckly for all of us, the YouTube Häschengrube (GET IT) of German hip-hop is relatively deep, so as long as there is another unreadable news day, there is also a great break with a song literally called “The Great Break Song.” For a few more months at least, we can German rap-battle—or at any rate rap-deflect—the inky, putrid Finsternis (FINN-stur-niss, or “gloom”) of the world.