Diversity, escapism, and becoming Pop
The status of Hiphop in the year 2022
With street fashion and rap music equally at their peak, Hiphop in Germany is bigger than ever. What is shaping the culture in 2022? We identified three meta trends.
The turn of the year was marked by three successful women. First, Shirin David made it to number four on worldwide (!!) streaming charts. Then Katja Krasavice delivered the most successful album of the first quarter. Finally, Badmómzjay became the first German rap artist to be on the cover of Vogue: Traditionally exclusive and elitist, the fashion magazine told the story of a 19-year-old nouveau riche from a working class and immigrant background. The issue’s theme was “attitude,” and that’s what hiphop delivers. All three female rappers openly identify as queer and address LGBTQI+ rights intensively.
Shirin David, Katja Krasavice, and Badmómzjay are the most successful examples of a vast, diverse group of women who are making their mark on German rap today.
The progressive LGBTQI+ statements of female rappers stand for themselves, generally political statements are rare in mainstream rap. The artists celebrate their achievements, telling hiphop-typical rags-to-riches stories. Brand mentions play an essential part in this, presenting a gateway for marketing measures.
The counter-trend to Gen Z’s apparent seriousness is escapism. At rap festivals, the right vibe and wild mosh pits take precedence over the showcases of rap techniques that past generations celebrated.
The concerts of big stars like Travis Scott (USA) and RIN (Germany) are all about a shared experience. Just escapist song lyrics take precedence over political statements.
3. Becoming Pop
The most successful female rappers mentioned above make no secret of the fact that they want to reach the masses. They don’t care much whether rap traditionalists criticize their use of songwriters. Their male counterparts are no less hungry for money and act accordingly.
The algorithms of streaming services have softened and smoothed out the music through the incentives they set. German rap’s young guard may look rugged with extravagant fashion taste and face tattoos but it is not afraid of catchy songs.
In a broad culture like today’s hiphop, there is a countertrend for every trend. For every Drake, who just released an easy-listening EDM album, there’s a Kanye West who wants to be avant-garde by all means. This also applies to Germany, where the New Wave often counteracts the smooth playlist sound with progressive content, artsiness, or a punky attitude. By the way, their sound also includes electronic dance music influences – but here, they are an expression of Berlin rave culture.
Gangster images and rap, which are out to provoke, are only a side issue in 2022. Best conditions for brand collaborations once again, which are correspondingly more frequent than they were seven years ago.
Part of rap music’s status as “the new pop” is its openness to neighboring subcultures. Hiphop always was a sampling culture.
Openness to new subcultures
Next to techno, some incorporate fun punk or nu metal into their music. One of the shooting stars of 2022, T-Low, comes from a fairly young hip-hop milieu: the emo trappers. Grunge is a frequent inspiration here. Rap and emo have been married internationally in the early 2010s. With T-Low, the genre can now be found on the German charts.
Kitschy samples are also en vogue, matching the Y2k trend in fashion. Nostalgia can be escapism, but Gen Z does not want to go back to the past. The musical and fashion quotes in hiphop culture are less an homage than a creative mash-up learned on Tiktok. Sometimes they are a plain mockery of times when society was less aware of its proximity to the abyss.
There used to be many youth cultures, now most of them are movements within hiphop. Youth cultures have been assimilated. Gen Z artists sample even more influences than the millennials before them. You see more and more skateboards in the hiphop world, be it through street fashion brands like Kiosq or rappers like Makko. Just as with basketball, the new closeness of skateboarding and hiphop closes a circle that began in the nineties.
The proximity between rap and street fashion is more significant than evener in 2022. German street fashion is bigger than ever, young rappers put a lot of emphasis on fashion. A generation of young brands is breaking into the mainstream. They grew up on Instagram and are closely linked to the success of their respective designers. The biggest of these brands, Peso, was founded by influencer Justin. Achraf Ait Bouzalim, whose brand was joined by fashion platform About You, is similarly successful. Others, like Low Lights Studios from Düsseldorf, are on the verge of breaking into the mass market.
In street fashion, too, it will be a matter of adequately spelling out hiphop’s position as a pacesetter in pop culture, balancing mass appeal and avant-gardism, escapism and attitude. Currently mass appeal and escapism are in the lead, but the counter-movements are big enough to keep the culture in balance.