Stuttgart, Hamburg, Berlin – these are the cities that immediately come to mind when it comes to German hip-hop history. Heidelberg is often forgotten, although decisive impulses for the establishment of rap culture in Germany emanated from there. In order to finally make this clear to the whole world, the Baden-Württemberg city chose an interesting path: It applied for Heidelberg hip-hop to be included in the Intangible World Cultural Heritage – and was successful. This week he was entered in the corresponding register of Unesco.
Rightly so. For example, Cora E., one of the most important German rappers, started her career in Heidelberg. And when most hip-hop-loving kids were still imitating American role models, Frederik Hahn, aka Torch, was already freestyling in German. Born in Heidelberg in 1971 to a mother who came from Haiti and a father who was born in East Prussia, he was also part of the most important Heidelberg hip-hop pioneers, the group Advanced Chemistry.
In 1992, as a trio, they released the epoch-making song “Fremd im Eigene Land”, initially a larger collective, the first political rap song to be heard and noticed throughout Germany. As a direct reaction to the racist riots in Rostock, Torch, Linguist and Toni-L also addressed further abuses in their text. “Is it so unusual when an Afro-German speaks his language/ And is not so pale in the face? / The problem is the ideas in the system/ A real German has to look really German”.
Unfortunately, little has changed in the last 30 years. The feeling that is described in the central lines “Not recognised, a stranger in one’s own country / Not a foreigner and yet a stranger” is likely to remain very familiar to many Germans with a history of migration.
Advanced Chemistry only released one album, which was released in 1996. But their formative role in German hip-hop apart from fun and street rap is undisputed. In 2016, the much more successful beginners from Hamburg even named their fourth album after the Heidelbergers.
Torch’s solo debut “Blue Velvet” from 2000 was also recognized by colleagues such as Marteria (“Green Velvet”) and Sookee (“Purple Velvet”). And now Unesco also knows about it, which, by the way, has already twice refused to include Heidelberg as a city in the World Heritage List. Now thanks to rap there’s a happy ending.
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I have been working in the news industry for over 10 years now and I have worked for some of the biggest news websites in the world. My focus has always been on entertainment news, but I also cover a range of other topics. I am currently an author at Global happenings and I love writing about all things pop-culture related.