German rap duo Kollegah and Farid Bang, whose songs include lyrics that many consider anti-Semitic, are at the center of a rapidly widening uproar that has drawn in a wide array of commenters after the group won the country’s Echo Award last week for having the top-selling album of 2017, according to reports in The Guardian and Music Business Worldwide. The duo, who deny they are anti-Semitic, won the award on Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The duo’s win was roundly criticized on the Echo Awards stage by Campino, lead singer of veteran German punk band Die Toten Hosen, who received a standing ovation.
The album in question, “Jung, Brutal, Gutaussehend 3” (“Young, Brutal, Good-Looking”) includes lyrics in which the rappers say their muscles are “more defined than Auschwitz prisoners’” and “I’m doing another Holocaust, coming with a Molotov.” The album, which has sold more than 200,000 copies in a market that is still largely based on physical sales, topped the charts in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
Several artists have returned their Echo Awards in protest, and Airbus CEO Tom Enders is the most recent high-profile commentator to join in the fray.
“That hurts Germany’s international reputation. Is antisemitism becoming acceptable in Germany?” Enders told Bild am Sontag, fueling the fire by adding he believes anti-Muslim lyrics would have generated far more controversy.
Yet apart from the group, the entity receiving the most criticism is the German music industry association, BVMI, for presenting the award to a group that had already received extensive criticism from many organizations for its lyrics, particularly amid a general political swing toward the right and an overall rise in antisemitism in Central Europe. The German government recently appointed its first commissioner to oversee the issue.
While the BVMI initially said the award is in recognition of sales, not content, but its chief Florian Druecke told the RND newspaper chain the nomination and selection process for the Echo Awards will be reconsidered in light of the outcry.
German newspaper Die Welt criticized the “cowardly silence of the music industry.”
“Antisemitic provocations do not deserve a prize; they are repugnant,” said German justice minister Heiko Maas to Der Spiegel.
Kollegah — real name: Felix Martin Andreas Matthias Blume — was born in Germany and has released several solo albums as well as a documentary on his YouTube channel about his visit to the Palestinian territories and the West Bank. Farid Bang — Farid El Abdellaoui — was born in Spain and is of Moroccan descent and has also released several solo discs. The pair have released three collaborative albums, all titled “Jung, Brutal, Gutaussehend.”