Mid-May in south Cologne. The line in front of Veedel Club is winding down Luxemburger Strasse on one of the first really warm, early summer evenings. About 500 people showed up tonight to see a free concert by Lgoony and Crack Ignaz. With free mixtapes, an unconventional sound and sold-out tours the two are something like pioneers of a new generation of German rap. And they aren't just making friends, they're also getting a lot of hate from the Realkeeper faction. But none of that's around this evening – not outside on Luxemburger Strasse and not inside the club's rancid backstage area, where LGoony and Crack Ignaz are preparing for their concert with their entourage.
The backstage area – which is an empty, three-room apartment below the club – is made up of two, worn-out sofas, a lot of tools and a lot of construction waste. A glass door is opened onto a large terrace behind the building, where a portable speaker is blasting contemporary American rap. Young Thug is gurgling incomprehensible lines over spherical synthie surfaces and deep 808 drums. LGoony and Crack Ignaz are standing around with their boys drinking beer, eating cold pizza and talking the most absurd and at the same time amazing bullshit you can imagine.
They're initially talking about the correct pronunciation of Desiigner's adlibs and then about G-Eazy's concert, which is happening that night too. "He has ILoveMakonnen as a supporting act, how mystical," is the concise judgement. Somebody else makes a joke about Nelly, who is also playing in Cologne, and his bandaid. DJ Heroin, LGoony's long-haired, unremarkable friend and producer of violent productions like "Wasser" and "Oida Wow," looks out the window at the line leading to the club. "So depressing, half of them won't make it in and they're still waiting, because they think it'll work somehow – it's so German."
Juicy Gay, who is opening tonight, proudly presents his new T-shirt. It's from the Cologne video director, Kurt Prödel, who has made trashy seeming clips for Money Boy, LGoony, Crack Ignaz and Juicy Gay. He's also celebrated for his mini films called "Kurt ihm sein Hund," in which a catastrophically-designed and poorly animated dog has adventures around the world. Kurt Prödel ironed the dog onto the T-shirt. Juicy Gay wants to wear it later for his performance. Someone shouts, "The shirt is just RAP." Juicy Gay responds grinning, "Goosebumps bruh, real rap."
You stand for five minutes between LGoony and Crack Ignaz and their people at times and it's all Greek to you, but you realize, something's about to happen – or better, something just happened. Within the last 12 months, a sub scene has come together in German rap. Rappers, producers, video directors, and people who don't have a clearly defined area of expertise are unhappy with what's going on in rap right now.
MCs have become pitchmen who will do anything to go viral. Their music gets packed into overpriced deluxe boxes filled with junk and hawk their loveless products and work overtime shooting video statements for their social media channels, in which they threaten their competition with a tour beatdown. Obviously there are alternatives, but the bulk of mainstream rap is unparalleled in being irritating. With their own alternative made up of musical innovation, a never-seen-before understanding of style, their own language and the internet as a free distribution tool for their music, LGoony and Crack Ignaz and their cohorts are defying the prevalent and admittedly boring as hell hip-hop conventions.
"We're accepted in certain parts of the scene, but other people label us as trash," LGoony says during an afternoon interview at the Hyatt Hotel. The real accusation? "They're copying Americans," Crack Ignaz says. "And then I think, dude, what's with your boombap? Where does that come from?" Another criticism: The realness. If LGoony raps about having thousands of euros worth of bling on his arm, that all his homies are strapped, or Crack Ignaz's buddies are stabbers, it really gets the attention of hip-hop traditionalists with a realness fetish."
Neither of them get it. "Music is just about feeling and you can just express certain feelings nicely that way. If you want the mood to be dark, then you can say things like that." Crack Ignaz elaborates, "I say, 'All my Hawaran are stabbers.' If I said, 'A few of my Hawaran are stabbers,' it would be more correct but it has no feeling, and that's what it's about really. How you say something is important, not what you're saying."
This maxim doesn't just apply to the boys, but also to their audience. You already get a striking impression during Juicy Gay's performance. The self-proclaimed Trapgaylord – a play on A$AP Ferg's similar alter ego – plays songs like "Musik ist Haram," "Ich wollte nie ein Alman sein," "Sace Sace" and a remix of the hedonism hymn, "Wie kann man sich nur so hart gönnen" by Fruchtmax and Hugo Nameless from Berlin. Within twenty minutes they're almost depleted, before LGoony and Crack Ignaz go on after a short break. They play songs together, let each other take the stage for solo songs, and they even play a preview from the mixtape they're dropping this summer called "Intergalactica."
The fact that all the songs are recited with half playback, doesn't seem to bother anyone. The 250 guests let into the little club have become a big mosh pit, the air is sticky and even the people standing at the edges are sweating like crazy. This kind of energy hasn't been seen – to be honest – at rap concerts for years. On their record, the songs also sound effortless and original, like you may have heard in Berlin's underground rap scene in the late-90s, early-2000s. And really important figures in rap came out of that scene. Maybe that'll happen to LGoony and Crack Ignaz, too.