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And Now...Aryan Rap
German rapper Fler wears finger-thick gold chains and big baggy jeans, but his rhetoric would have made Adolf Hitler proud. In his recent album, New German Wave, the blue-eyed, baby-faced rapper rhymes, "Black, red, gold, hard and proud .?.?. believe me, my mom is German." In the accompanying video, Fler struts through Berlin, while Aryan-looking thugs wave an enormous German flag and battle with swarthy immigrants.
Meet the Fatherland's new shock troops: German rappers scaling the pop charts with violent, nationalistic lyrics and building a fan base that includes legions of neo-Nazis. Fler's album, for instance, debuted at No.?5 within a week of its May release and is set to become certified gold.
The growing popularity of the genre threatens to energize a growing far-right movement here and has pushed the government to censor rap albums for their sadistic content. "[Rap lyrics] are becoming increasingly pornographic, violent, and racist," says parliamentarian Monika Griefahn. "We need to restrict it in order to protect our individual rights and our young people."
For years, German rap had been about as edgy as Neil Diamond with sweet boy-band lyrics about school and sports. A few years ago, one hip-hop group scored a hit singing about how cool their sweaters looked. But recently, German rappers like Fler, Bushido, and Sido have been emulating American gangsta-style hip-hop and writing lurid, offensive lyrics that glorify violence and crime. And in an effort to be truly provocative in a country where overt displays of nationalist fervor have long been taboo, some rappers have been openly flirting with fascism: In his recent bestselling album, Bushido rapped, "Salute, stand at attention, I'm the leader like A." That is seen as a reference to Adolf Hitler, though the rapper denies it.
To be sure, the far right will not invite the rappers to headline a rally anytime soon. Although many neo-Nazis praise the lyrics, they believe that rap strays far from the Aryan ideal because of its African-American roots. For their part, the rappers deny being extremists. "I think skinheads suck. I've gotten into fist fights with them," says Fler. "I don't want to put down other minorities. I'm just saying that I think it's cool to be German."
Dangerous words. But the music often goes well beyond simple declarations of pride--Fler advertised his new CD with a quote from Hitler: "On May 1st, we'll shoot back"--and that scares many here. "This might all be a way to sell records, but it promotes National Socialism," says antiextremist activist J?rn Menge. "Such a mix of patriotism and violence in music is very dangerous."After a recent public outcry, the government placed some of the more violent titles on a watch list. The designation requires more than an "explicit lyrics" sticker: If an album is censored, it can't be advertised or sold to anyone under 18.