Outrage over lyrics of prizewinning duo accused of anti-Semitism
German rappers accepted Echo prize on day of remembrance for Holocaust victims
German musicians Farid Bang and Kollegah at the Echo music awards in Berlin. Photograph: Clemens Bilan/EPA
On Thursday, Israel’s day of remembrance for Holocaust victims, thousands of young Israelis took part in the annual “walk of life” to commemorate the Warsaw Ghetto uprising of 1943 and the millions murdered at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in occupied Poland.
Meanwhile, 550km west in Berlin, Germany’s biggest music awards celebrated a muscular German rapper duo who, in one song, claim to have bodies “more defined than an Auschwitz prisoner”.
To loud boos and walkouts, rappers Farid Hamed El Abdellaoui, alias Farid Bang, and Felix Blume, stage name Kollegah, accepted their Echo prize for their album Young, brutal and good-looking 3.
The album debuted in the German charts at number one with gold status and all 17 tracks are among the country’s most-streamed on Spotify.
But their nomination caused a storm of outrage and forced an intervention by the Echo Prize ethics committee.
It dubbed the album “borderline” but said it “didn’t cross the line [of artistic freedom] to an extent that would justify excluding them”.
The duo’s best-selling album is a long series of energetic provocations. The song with the Auschwitz reference, 0815, also contains the lyric “f*** me around and I’ll f*** your pregnant wife/then I’ll f*** your ma, the refugee slut”.
The “battle rap” duo thrive on shattering taboos and stirring up controversy. In 2016 they faced accusations of anti-Semitism for a video appearing to show a Jewish man at the head of a secretive global banking conspiracy.
At the awards ceremony on Thursday evening the duo denied their latest album tracks were anti-Semitic.
“It’s a shame they’re trying to pin that one on us,” said Farid Bang, saying they had distanced themselves clearly from anti-Semitism.
Earlier in Echo awards ceremony the German singer Campino – frontman of the band Toten Hosen – used his own acceptance speech to criticise the nominated duo.
Provocation in music can be useful, he said, but tolerance of provocation ends “when people make insults that are misogynistic, homophobic, right-wing extremist, or anti-Semitic”.
While Campino’s speech was greeted with a standing ovation by the audience, the winning duo mocked him as an angel and “moral instance” when they claimed their prize.
As the last winner of the evening, they sang another song from their album with the lyric: “The only women’s movement I respect is twerking.”
The decision by the Echo prize jury was greeted with widespread outrage in Germany on Friday.
Foreign minister Heiko Maas dismissed the song as “disgusting” and anti-Semitic and said it was “shameful that such a prize was awarded on Holocaust Memorial Day”.
The awards show was largely panned in the German media. Spiegel Online said it left a “stale aftertaste how the stage was handed over, without a struggle, to Kollegah and Farid Bang for their triumphant appearance”.