“Ich habe einen grünen Pass… mit einem goldenen Adler drauf...”
(I’ve got a green passport… with a golden eagle on it…)
This line still stands for how everything began. At least for me, that was the moment I knew the Germans had made it: they were making real serious hip-hop, complete with a political message and the whole nine yards. And topic-wise they were right on the money as far as current developments in newly-reunited Germany were concerned. The last year of the 80s and the early 90s saw a shocking surge of right-wing neonazi violence against asylum seekers and generally different-looking people. And the newly emerging hip-hop movement took a clear stance for the minorities and against the marginalisation of immigrants who, as the song said, might be German on paper, but not in real life.
German hip-hop may have existed before Advanced Chemistry stepped onto the scene as Torch, Linguist and Toni L (The Chef). The infinitely more successful “Die Fantastischen Vier” from Stuttgart had already released their second album, but the Fanta4′s more playful approach and generally cleaner appearance made them pale in comparison with the hard-hitting political music this trio from Heidelberg were making. Advanced Chemistry belonged to the founding circle of the German Zulu Nation chapter, heavily involved in the (inter)national graf and b-boying scene, diehard hip-hop heads since the mid 80s. Realness was still very much an issue, and Advanced Chemistry were real hip-hop in the flesh..
“Welcher Pfad führt zur Geschichte” (Which path leads us to history?) contains a nice handful of different tracks. The title track is a reminder of where hip-hop has its roots (correct answer: Zulu), then, “An das Publikum” (To the audience) is an adaptation of German author and critic Kurt Tucholsky’s poem of 1931, both of which address the audience asking if they are really that stupid. The track questions mainstream taste over some speedy e-guitar loops. The third track (before the accapella and instrumental) is a flatout battle joint (wait till after the inexplicably grating first 10 seconds.)
After these two singles, they put out another two before they released a self-titled album, consisting mostly of previously released tracks and a bunch of new ones before it got a bit quiet around them. Linguist has since dedicated himself to his studies and other musical projects while Toni L has continued to release solo albums, but the three still pop up on each other’s releases.
Torch has since been present at every other hip-hop jam in the German-speaking part of the world, founded his own record label 360° Records and dropped one full album as late as in 2000, but which was worth the wait. “Blauer Samt” is the kind of mature, insightful, clever and still-grounded-in-reality album only old hip-hop veterans like him can drop. He doesn’t have to tell people how ill he is or what he’s achieved in his life. (Okay, on some of the tracks he does, and it feels more like sad nostalgia than braggadocio, but on most of them, he doesn’t.). Actually he plays with his veteran status on a track like “Wir waren mal Stars” (We used to be stars) where he acts like it’s all over and he doesn’t have the fire anymore. Great storytelling on “Blauer Schein” (Blue Note, telling the story of a one hundred Deutsch Mark note.) A battle track recited in medieval poetry style on “Der Flammende Ring” (Blazing Ring)… I could go on and on.
Whenever I pop this in, I can’t help but listen to the whole thing twice in a row. Even the production, mostly handled by the man himself and some help by his buddy Boulevard Bou blows me away. Definitely an earphone experience. And if you’ve ever needed an excuse to learn German, this is it.
As a last thing: if you happen to stumble over a party in your area hosted by DJ Haitian Star, go there. That’s the name under which he rocks half of Europe and the occasional American crowd.
Torch – Wir waren mal Stars (We used to be stars)
The album’s nostalgia anthem. Packed with the big names of German hip-hop.
Torch – Gewalt oder Sex (Violence or sex)
You get the gist. Look out for the shepherd in the video. Look familiar?
The hottie in the bikini is none other than Donna Vargas. (Not that I’d know who that is…)
Torch – In deinen Armen (In your arms)
Great personal lyrics.