Rap music promotes violence


Crime scene: a playground. Two teenage girls kick and hit a third and only let go of her when a boy present interferes half-heartedly. The tabloid press quickly finds a name for that part of the youth who also makes fun of the victims in the so-called "Stammeldeutsch" in beatings videos on YouTube: "Generation Bushido", headlined the BILD. Young people are becoming more and more disrespectful and violent, it is said in the media, and to blame for this is a genre of music whose content has absolutely nothing to do with school-free afternoons next to sandboxes and swings.

If you follow this media, which headlines in January with headlines like "Violence, Hate, Sex", it would appear as if the subgenre of a musical genre had an incredible influence: gangsta rap by artists like Kollegah, Farid Bang, Bushido or Arrest warrant, currently also economically very successful, educates young people to become brutal, criminal and sexist sociopaths - at least that's what it is suggested when the music is associated with real acts of violence. In fact, rap originated in New York in the 1970s to counteract such developments. Instead of a physical argument, opponents should clarify their problems with words. The often bloody fighting turned into a creative contest for the best lines. Rap has never lost this battle character, apparently the desire for non-violence has.

When the N.W.A. with rappers like Ice Cube or Dr. Dre made the breakthrough at the end of the 1980s, the rise of gangsta rap began, a sub-genre of rap whose protagonists sometimes more, sometimes less authentically portray their violent and criminal everyday life. What seemed hopeless as a situation was glorified, and the rappers became heroes and role models for the frustrated city youth from socially disadvantaged backgrounds. A few years later, the constructed universe of rap feuds and provocative diss tracks between the east and west coast of the USA imploded: With The Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac, two figureheads of the divided hip-hop camp were murdered. But even that didn't harm the genre's popularity: Even today, gangsta rap is one of the most commercially successful music genres.

Rappers instead of varnishers

Change of scene. At the end of the 1990s somewhere in the middle-class south of Berlin: A young man is working on his songs. Anis Mohamed Youssef Ferchichi doesn't want to work as a painter and varnisher in his apprenticeship - and he's ambitious. Because he knows that the path to success is rocky, he gives himself a Japanese name, which means something like "the way of the warrior" (Bushido). On the track "Schlangen" from his first demo tape, he raps "Take care of HipHop, because that's your passion". In 2003 he published "Vom Bordstein bis zur Skyline", a milestone in German rap history and probably one of the first authentic-sounding gangsta rap albums in Germany. Bushido grabbed it: away from the abandoned high school education and the first problems with the law towards a promising music career. Criminal connections are still said of him and those around him, the rapper himself has been accused of insulting in the past.

Many have followed Bushido & Co on this path. By telling their own story, expressing their self and realizing it through music, the genre opens up new possibilities and perspectives for young people, regardless of social class. Be it as a hobby that gets you off the road and motivates you, or actually as a professional perspective. So it's no wonder that even Christian youth welfare organizations like "Die Arche" in Berlin work with gangsta rap musicians and invite their "problem children" in special workshops to process their story musically - and in their own language. In 2009, money was even explicitly collected for the youth welfare organization with the rap sampler "Germany's Forgotten Children".

Gangsta rap between art form and real violence

Rap, also gangsta rap, can help to transform difficult life situations such as violence or social injustice into something creative. But gangsta rap is also a film for the ears, an atmospheric entertainment instrument which, according to sociologist Christoph Liell, is often denied any artistic right to exist "without any knowledge of contexts and meanings typical of the scene".

That's a shame, because artists like Kollegah, who also studies law, outdo each other in absurd crime and violence scenarios and use the linguistic possibilities of the text-intensive music genre rap. Arrest warrant, on the other hand, does offend - especially when it becomes political - with its texts and has already received severe criticism. But if he is a simple and charismatic boy from the street, it is above all his unique voice that he uses as a real instrument - in the style of French rappers and with a mixture of different languages. With "Babo" the native of Offenbach also provided the youth word of 2013.

However, there has not yet been a single empirical study that has been able to establish a connection between perpetrated crime and gangsta rap. And that although the discussion about such interactions is not new. As early as 2002, the sociologist Christoph Liell brought the elementary problem of such research approaches to the point in his lecture "Music and violence in youth cultures": "It remains unclear [...] whether specific musical preferences actually cause a higher affinity for violence, or, conversely, whether respondents do not already have existing strong tendencies to violence prefer to listen to certain styles of music. " The important thing here - as in so many cases - is the dialogue between young people and adults with established values. Anyone who knows that not all women are "whores" will better classify such a statement in the context of a rap song - whether as a deliberate exaggeration, as a deliberate attack in the context of a verbal argument or as stupid propaganda by a less reflective musician. Of course there is there is also the other side. The one that seems to confirm any criticism of the criminal role model potential of violence-glorifying, discriminatory or misogynistic gangsta tones and the commercial success of their representatives. Rapper Xatar is in jail for robbing a gold truck. Bushido's ex-pupil Kay One wants to testify against those around him and now allegedly has to fear for his life. That has nothing to do with the music and the hard image celebrated with it, but these are clearly real cases of violence and crime. When young people in particular hear all day long how supposedly vigilant justice, drug trafficking and the general disregard for the German rule of law are - how should they not be negatively influenced by it? This is also the main argument of the critics.

If young people feel left alone in their fears and anger, then perhaps they need someone like Azad from Frankfurt, who raps: "We are the last in the long line to the cash register of life." Azad knows what he's talking about. It may be difficult for outsiders to understand that exactly the same artist starts rhetorical sparring one song later and hits his imaginary opponent in the jaw. But if someone should find an outlet in this rap part and go to school with a little less aggression in their stomach - then the music has fulfilled its role.


On bpb.de: "Music and violence - walking a tightrope between art and manipulation"
On rap.de: "Hip Hop Hilft - Guest at the Workshop in the Arche"
spex.de: "Nobody wants to have said anything"
The Lyrics for "Phoenix" by Azad