When an unknown assailant fired four bullets at German rap star Massiv in Berlin in mid-January — one of them grazing the rapper’s right arm — the initial outrage soon gave way to questions. Was the episode really an attempted murder, perhaps the opening salvo in an emerging turf war among rival rappers, or had Massiv staged the attack himself as a publicity stunt? Threats of violence are, in any case, commonplace among rivals in the German rap scene. Among Massiv’s most adamant foes, for instance, is the Stuttgart-based rapper Bözemann [roughly, “Badman”], who likes to appear in the persona of an armed Albanian guerrilla fighter and who makes a point of his Muslim faith, as does Massiv.
Last summer, Bözemann came out with a “diss” track titled “The Challenge,” the video for which has already been played some 340,000 times on YouTube. The challenge in question is addressed to none other than Massiv. In the song, Bözemann announces, among other things, his intention to chop his enemy’s head into four pieces with an axe. In the video, moreover, one sees him digging a grave for Massiv and setting up a wooden cross next to it. The cross does not only bear the name of Bözemann’s hated rival, but also — as the ultimate put down — a Star of David. The implication is clear and on his MySpace page, moreover, Bözemann has made it even clearer. Thus, last July, the German “Bad Blog” found the following message for Massiv on Bözemann’s page: “HEY MASSIV!! … I JUST WANT TO BOMB YOU AWAY I SH*T ON YOUR FAME AND YOUR LABEL ON YOUR TATTOOS YOUR MOUNTAINS OF FAT YOUR GAY SONGS YOUR GAY VOICE AND YOUR MUSLIM POSING BECAUSE THERE IS NO WAY YOU ARE A MUSLIM YOU ARE DEFINITELY A JEW AND YOU’RE DRAGGING THE QURAN THROUGH THE MUD!!!!”
Following the shooting incident, the video division of the German magazine Spiegel, Spiegel-TV, produced a report on Massiv. The report also featured Bözemann and his hate-filled tirades. Bözemann’s anti-Semitism, however, not only played no role in the Spiegel report; it was outright made to disappear — literally. The scene with the grave and wooden cross from Bözemann’s “The Challenge” video is shown, but the Star of David is no longer to be seen. The producers have obscured it, seemingly according to the motto that “what should not be, cannot be.”
The pride expressed by Bözemann in the alleged exploits of his grandfather — namely, while fighting with Nazi Germany as a member of the Albanian SS division “Skanderbeg” — was likewise of no interest for Spiegel-TV. “MY GRANDPA WAS ALSO THERE!!” Bözemann has been cited as having written on a “pro”-Skanderbeg division MySpace page, “LONG LIVE THE 21. SS SKB [Skanderbeg] DIVISION!”
But as observer of the German rap scene Robert Peschke has explained in an interview with the website Hagalil, Bözeman’s anti-Semitism is hardly an exception in German rap anymore:
… since in recent years the word “Jew” has again become a general purpose insult, precisely among young people. Some German rappers also use the term “Intifada Rap” to describe their music and they see themselves as belonging to a “Generation Jihad.” They do everything they can to adopt the look and tone of Jew-haters. In videos that are accessible to anyone on YouTube, rap fans celebrate Hamas activists and other Islamist terror groups and challenge the right of Israel to exist. In these circles, Osama bin Laden has long since replaced Che Guevara as a symbol of emancipation.
The Violence Prevention Network is an association dedicated to counteracting extremism and xenophobia in German youth culture. In a recent lecture on anti-Semitic tendencies in German rap, Jan Buschbom of the Violence Prevention Network comes to the same conclusion as Peschke:
In the so-called “Underground Rap” milieu — which, despite the name, includes genuine hit parade stars like Sido and Bushido and which dominates German-speaking hip-hop — anti-Semitic remarks have become part of the consensus, or, at any rate, they are not perceived as scandalous. In light of the violent imagery, misogyny, sexism, and homophobia that are commonplace in recent German-speaking rap, it seems that hardly any of the young musicians and fans are bothered by the expressions of anti-Semitism. … In German-speaking hip-hop, the Islamist terrorist has become a metaphor for masculinity, toughness, and soldierly virtues. Thus in his rap “September 11,” the Berlin-based rapper Bushido describes himself as a “Taliban”: “I am the terrorist, whom the youth believe in,” he sings.
Massiv too, who always performs in a keffiyeh and proudly refers to his Palestinian heritage, has similar material in his repertoire. Thus, for example, his tune “Blood Against Blood” contains the following lines:
My lines are explosives, my hand is on the button!
I put a dropkick on your head, your blood doesn’t stop!
You all make pop sh*t, the bullet’s coming for you!
Let’s stay real now, give me the money and don’t laugh!
The climate is too hot, Palestinian heritage!
I’m registered as unemployed, but I still buy a Beemer!
I don’t stop, as if I were Al-Qaida!
In “Festival of Sacrifice,” a track in which Massiv “disses” the rap group Shokmusik, he says: “I’m planning a nasty terrorist attack with the Lebanese guy/I’ll be coming at you with a 100-day beard!/The Shokkers get bombed like the World Trade Attack!” And in “Homeland,” which he recorded with the rapper Basstard, he sings the praises of the suicide bomber: the “Shahid, who is born again in Heaven.”
Extreme misogyny and unbridled homophobia have long been staples of prominent “Aggro-Rappers” (so-named for the record label Aggro Berlin). In his “Zero Tolerance,” for instance, the Berlin-based rapper G-Hot (pronounced “Jihad”) calls for gay men to have “their pricks chopped off.” In the meanwhile, anti-Semitism has been added to the mix, with “Jew” joining “c*nt,” “slut,” and “fag” as standard insults. But Robert Peschke is right to point out that this development is not simply to be explained by the Muslim immigrant background of the rappers: “Not a single German rapper would have enough money to keep his refrigerator stocked, if it was not for the purchasing power of the white middle class kids who buy their recordings. They are drawn to the toughness of the Islamophile German rap and they pay hard cash for it. But they also can get their anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism on offer from ‘white bread’ rappers.”
The “white bread” rappers in question are presented at length by Jan Buschbom in his lecture. Examples include the Dessau-based rap crew Dissau Crime. On their CD titled Zyklon D: Frontal Attack — an allusion to the Zyklon B gas used in the Nazi gas chambers — one finds lines such as the following:
To each his own
Think about this phrase
On the way to the gas of my city
I fire with the flak
On the whole Jew pack
Zack — I f*ck up this filthy society …
The album Enzyklonpedia of the Berlin-based group Zyklon Beatz provides another example. Buschbom notes that “hardly any of the classical expressions of anti-Jewish resentment are missing” from the album:
The anti-Semitic legend of Jews poisoning water sources is used, as well as a slightly modernized version of the myth of Jewish ritual murder of children. Jews are dehumanized, presented as animals, and demonized as devils in human form: “Satan’s crowning achievement,” to which all the evils of the world have to be attributed. The anti-Semitic master narrative of the Jewish world conspiracy is also present in underhanded form: disguised, namely, as criticism of the U.S.A. and Israel, who are supposed to be bent on imposing their economic interests across the globe.
Whatever the outcome of the police investigation into the Massiv shooting incident, it is clear that all this is not just a matter of harmless verbal “dissing” without real consequences. Buschbom aptly sums up what is more generally at stake: “Within milieus in which anti-Semitic attitudes and prejudice are tolerated as part of the ‘normal’ range of opinions, there will always be a certain percentage of people who are prepared to give a more concrete and tangible expression to their Jew-hatred.” To not want to recognize this fact or even to deny it or suppress it — as, for instance, Spiegel-TV has done in manipulating the Bözemann video — amounts to minimizing anti-Semitism, rather than confronting it as an ideology with potentially deadly consequences.