Denis Cuspert was drawn early to gangsta rap, and later to Islam. Born and raised in West Berlin, jeered at as a half-African child and often at odds with his American stepfather, he fell in with Salafists in Germany, left for Egypt in 2012 and made his way, eventually, to Syria. By last spring, the German authorities said, he had joined Islamic State guerrillas and swore allegiance to their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
This week, Mr. Cuspert was transformed again. The American State Department announced Monday that, as “a willing pitchman” for the extremist group’s “atrocities,” Mr. Cuspert was now a “specially designated global terrorist” sought worldwide. The designation means that Mr. Cuspert, 39, has gone from being a notorious figure in Germany to one recognized everywhere, and it puts him in the cross hairs of American intelligence in the Syrian region.
What follows, of course, is a sympathetic portrait of (in the words of the story’s headline) a “rapper, shaped by tumultuous German youth,” if by tumultuous you mean the strangely familiar tale of an African father and a Caucasian mother. The father, reports the Times, “soon left the family,” and was replaced by an American stepfather who was a former soldier and a strict disciplinarian:
… conflicts at home increased until Mr. Cuspert spent five years in a home for troubled children. “I grew up with racism,” he told The New York Times in 2011… ‘Mr. Cuspert, a.k.a. the rapper Deso Dogg, now goes by Abu Talha al-Almani, according to German and American officials’
With the victim card played, the story is free to celebrate Mr. Dogg’s artistry in the singing of Islamic devotional music:
According to security officials and excerpts from videos posted online, Mr. Cuspert sings of the comradeship of battle. His themes include martyrdom: “I wish for my death and can hardly wait for it/Armed with bombs and grenades,” goes one song from 2013, according to a report on Mr. Cuspert compiled by security officials in Berlin.
That report concluded that “in just four years, he developed from a respected, but financially not very successful, ‘gangsta rapper’ to an internationally recognized propagandist of jihad and Salafism.”
Unfortunately for the heart-warmingness of it all, Mr. Dogg seems to be a pretty nasty piece of work:
In 2011, when a 21-year-old immigrant from Kosovo, Arid Uka, fatally shot two American airmen at the Frankfurt airport, he said he had opened fire after seeing a video that claimed to show a Muslim woman being raped by men in United States military uniforms. Mr. Cuspert acknowledged posting the video, which Mr. Uka copied. American officials said it was staged.
In 2012, Mr. Cuspert fell in with an Austrian, Mohamed Mahmoud, and they started a group, Millatu Ibrahim, that was banned after a clash with the police. The two men left for Egypt, reportedly heading for Mali, but landed eventually in Syria.
Gotta love that classic Times‘ PC bit: an “Austrian” named Mohamed Mahmoud. Good grief.