German rappers Kollegah and Farid Bang won an Echo, one of Germany’s most important annual music prizes, for an album containing alleged anti-Semitic lyrics.
The rappers, Kollegah and Farid Bang, won the award for the top-selling album of 2017. Debate is now raging about anti-Semitism in German rap, and it’s not confined to the music industry. Who are the artists accused of inciting anti-Jewish sentiment? What do their lyrics say? Do they really express hatred of Jews? Hip-hop is the dominant youth culture in Germany. Rappers make millions with their music and are extremely successful on streaming platforms and YouTube. Their videos can garner more than ten million clicks. But there is a dark side: Even well known rappers promote anti-Semitic clichés. “It’s easy to rap hateful or anti-Semitic lyrics and later claim it’s all just an art form,” says Daniel Neumann, director of a Jewish association in Hessen state. To what extent are such lyrics affecting German youth? One pupil in the city of Offenbach admits: “The term ‘You Jew’ is a common insult around here. I’ve heard it since elementary school. It means you’re miserly.” Other youngsters concede that they don’t think twice about saying phrases like “Don’t be such a Jew.” They insist it belongs to their culture, is not meant as an offense, and is simply an inherent part of the music they listen to. Children and teenagers download scores of songs by controversial German rappers onto their mobile phones. Is this really the soundtrack of the German schoolyard?