German rapper Fler has attracted controversy with nationalistic lyrics
But coming from a musician in Berlin, that bastion of left-wing tolerance, and a rapper at that? As the art form of the African- American underclass, hip hop seems an unlikely vehicle for German nationalism.
No wonder that Fler, the Berlin rapper in question, has elicited so much hand-wringing from German newspapers, who have agonised over German hip hop's alleged swing to the right.
"German hip hop has become dirty - evil, grimy, mean, angry," lamented the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The Sueddeutsche Zeitung was similarly shocked: "In German hip hop of the new century, violence is a trump card and being homosexual is a death sentence - it's all about bragging, destruction and fucking."
Fler's imagery is an unmistakable red flag to the bull of Germany's chattering classes.
Self-styled as "Der Deutsche" (The German), the shaven-headed rapper has a logo consisting of a Nazi-style eagle next to his name in politically-incorrect Gothic script. The video for his song 'Neue deutsche Welle' (New German wave) features German flags and images of Fler with an eagle perched on his arm (a pose curiously echoed by ex-chancellor Helmut Kohl at an award ceremony in June of this year).
Perhaps not entirely coincidentally, Fler's flaunting of edgy patriotism comes at a time when several German rock bands are also flirting with nationalism. Berlin band MIA and Brandenburg rockers Virgina Jetzt! have drawn flak for unapologetically-nationalistic lyrics such as "If someone asks me now where I'm from, I don't feel sorry for myself any more" and "This is my country, my people."
Left-leaning German bands such as Tocotronic and Mouse on Mars have responded to this new breaking of decades-old taboos with an anti-nationalist initiative called 'I Can't Relax In Deutschland'.
The collective of musicians and journalists have released a book and CD package which sets out a theoretical framework condemning German music's new wave of nationalism. (Whether Fler and friends will be bothered by intellectuals quoting Adorno against them remains to be seen, however.)
All this controversy is somewhat foreign to the previously tame world of German hip hop, whose most successful exponent up until now has been the Christian rapper Xavier Naidoo, a crooner of lyrics you could safely quote to your grandmother.
The Fantastischen Vier, old style, not very scary German rap
While 1980s Los Angeles rappers N.W.A. could boast of being 'Straight Outta Compton' and impress suburban teenagers with their ghetto credentials, Germany is far too prosperous and equitable a place for its inner cities to hold such fears.
Even places which the German middle class see as urban jungles, such as the Berlin district of Neukoelln, would, if transplanted to the U.S., be considered tame and have bohemians queuing round the block to move in.
So if you are a German rapper suffering from a street credibility deficiency, how do you manage to get yourself noticed? Neo-Nazi imagery is the obvious answer. Nothing is more guaranteed to shock middle-class parents and win the respect and - more importantly - the disposable income of the key market of disgruntled teenagers.
This is a point made by Berlin magazine Zitty when it argues that all the furore in the broadsheets has provided unbeatable publicity for Fler and his record label Aggro-Berlin.
In his defence, Fler, like other German rappers accused of right wing tendencies, has denied he is a neo-Nazi, claiming "it was the media that made me into a Nazi".
He explains his decision to style himself as 'Der Deutsche' by talking about the allegedly hard life of being a white German in inner-city Berlin.
"When you go to school in (Berlin district) Kreuzberg, the Turks and the Arabs are the cool ones. As a German you get problems there," he says.
Still, some in the music business predict Fler may live to regret his flirtation with nationalist imagery, much as British rock star David Bowie is still paying for making a Nazi salute during his Thin White Duke era.
Fler's former label-mate Bushido, whose Hitler-alluding lyric "Salute, stand to attention, I am the leader like A" also got him plenty of publicity, is another controversial rapper who denies he is right wing.
Bushido points out that as the son of a Tunisian immigrant he can hardly be accused of racism. This didn't stop several of his albums being blacklisted by a German government media watchdog who accuse Bushido of sexism and inciting violence.
However Bushido may no longer need to resort to such questionable tactics to get himself noticed. He was recently arrested in the Austrian town of Linz after allegedly beating up a man for slashing his tyres, causing his gangsta stock to soar and showing that Germans too can "keep it real" - even if sleepy Linz cannot compete with South Central for street kudos.
Will Austrians become the focus of bitter lyrical attacks on his new album, which he was recording when arrested? The Wiener Zeitung newspaper is probably getting its editorials ready as we speak.
Subject: German music, rap
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