Hip Hop in Austria

A brief history of hip hop in Austria from 1982 – 2014 without any claim of completeness

The first hip hop incentives in Austria came from pop musicians that either paid tribute to the young genre or used its aesthetics. In this sense “Der Kommissar” by Falco in 1982 was the first rap record in Austria, but Falco never saw himself as part of the hip hop culture – even though he had a summit meeting with the “godfather” Afrika Bambaataa in New York and the Ö3 Musicbox radio show urged him to record a German translation of Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5’s “The Message”. On the other hand, the Styrian group EAV responded to the unexpected worldwide success of “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang with their very own “Alpenrap”.

The Moreaus
Five years later, The Moreaus from Vienna presented their anarchistic vision of hip hop for the very first time. Songs like “Neanderthal Man”, “I Hear The Ladies” or “Waikiki” sparkled with the liberal use of well-known samples and a mix of English chant and rap. The band landed a record and video deal, and thanks to the later solo successes of its members (Peter Kruder, Rodney Hunter, Sugar B. and DJ DSL) are still today considered as the origin of the Viennese electronic music scene of the 90s.

Austrian Flavors
As of 1990 the Austrian Ö3 Musicbox broadcasted a weekly hip hop radio radio show called “Tribe Vibes & Dope Beats”, hosted by Katharina Weingartner, DJ DSL and later Werner Geier aka Demon Flowers. In 1992 the program hosts organized a competition to find the greatest rap and scratch talents in Austria. After a surprising number of good entries from all corners of the country, the winners were invited to record tracks for the compilation “Austrian Flavors Vol.1”. During the recordings, the later known Aphrodelics met each other for the first time and Total Chaos, DJ Cutex and DJ Megablast incidentally also completed their first steps on vinyl over instrumentals by Peter Kruder, Rodney Hunter and Werner Geier.

Megablast was also part of the formation Schönheitsfe(h)ler, together with Marimba, CM Flex, Masta Huda and Operator Burstup. In 1993 the Viennese crew released the first record with German hip hop music in Austria: The EP “Broj Jedan”. Due to lack of industry sources, they founded their own label Duck Squad, which later also released the debut records of Total Chaos (“Aus dem Wilden Westen”) and Texta (“Geschmeidig”). In the song “Ichdran”, MC Marimba reflected on his everyday life as a child of Yugoslav migrant workers in times of rising xenophobia in Austria. This theme ran repeatedly through the lyrics of Schönheitsfehler, and was even more explicitly addressed in the partially Serbo-Croatian rapped track “Tu Sam Ja (Druga Generacija)”.

Throughout their career, the band became well known for their experiments: From the acid bass lines on “Knarzige 303- und Breakbeat-Energie”, the first Viennese dialect rap song „A Guata Tag“, up to the collaboration with the indie rock band “Heinz” on “Mein Ruf Ist Im Eimer”. The fact that they squinted in the direction of mainstream with the album “Sex, Drugs & HipHop” in the year 2000 was however not taken lightly by some of their older fans. The first radio Ö3 airplay with “Kopf Hoch” was surprisingly not until they released their farewell double album “Aussenseiter Spitzenreiter” in 2004.

There is no arguing that together with Schönheitsfehler, Total Chaos and Texta formed the Austrian triumvirate of German hip hop music in the 90’s. The first scene-review “Das Gelbe Vom Ei” in 1995 represented mainly songs of these three bands. Notable exceptions: “Untergrund Poeten” embodied an Austrian interpretation of the U.S. gangsta rap and landed a record deal with the major label Universal, and “Das Dampfende Ei”, a collaboration of Marimba, DJ Cutex and Skero from Texta.

In the early 90s, the Upper Austrian city Linz was also struck with the hip hop fever. Inspired by the first Advanced Chemistry songs, five musicians who had previously played in some hardcore and rock bands such as Groove, Babelfish or Seven Sioux, chose to try their luck with beats and raps in German. This resulted in Texta, a band which is now by far the longest existing hip hop crew in Austria. With their label Tonträger, they managed to also establish a platform for other, mainly Upper Austrian, artists and at times turned the city of Linz into the “hip hop capital” of the country.

It was the combination of producer Flip’s catchy beats, concept-heavy lyrics from Huckey, Laima, Skero and him and DJ Dan’s carefully selected scratch quotations, which resulted in countless radio hits by Texta: The song “Walkmania” honored the now antiquated mobile music player, “Sprachbarrieren” tried to break the communication barriers between Austrians and Germans with a rapped dictionary  and in “(So schnö kaust gor ned) schaun! ” the band created the genre “Austrofunk” together with rehearsal room neighbors Attwenger  – just to name a few examples.

Their renowned discography also ensures that Texta still regularly and successfully plays gigs around the country. On the side, Flip oversees the Linz venue Kapu, where countless hip hop concerts take place every year, and together the band operates its label Tonträger Records,  which has been releasing the most promising hip hop artists and crews from Upper Austria since the late 90’s: From the dystopians  Brotlose Kunst,  pun loving MCs such as Kayo, Die Antwort  or the brilliant Marquee (aka Tibor Foco alias Jack Untawega or Kroko Jack) and his crew Das Rückgrat.

In the late 2000s, Flip, Huckey and Skero also each released solo and side projects. Skero even managed to land a big summer hit with the Brazilian baile funk inspired song “Kabinenparty” in 2010 – even though the album “Memoiren Eines Riesen” was released one year before.

Total Chaos
Total Chaos was founded in 1989 in Innsbruck, and was then formed by Manuva, DJ DBH and the British MC Creative Destruction. The participation in the Tribe Vibes & Dope Beats Contest and the follow-up release on “Austrian Flavors Vol. 1” with the  English song “Muthaland” paved the way for their debut album “Aus dem Wilden Westen” in 1994. This record featured a love declaration to hip hop, as well as a commentary on the rising xenophobia in Austria: “Traurig, Aber Wahr”.

In the coming years the band downsized to a duo and refined their jazzy sounds and thoughtful lyrics to release them in 1997 on the album “Werwaswannwiewo” with the German label Move. Soon afterwards, Manuva and DJ DBH moved to Vienna, where they founded together with the Waxolutionists and Symbiose the group Supercity Soundsystem and opened the Goalgetter Studio with an eponymous record store and mail order. In 2001 they released their last album  “Worte & Beats” with Intonation Records, which unfortunately  fell into bankruptcy with the parent company Libro shortly after the release.

Around the turn of the century, a new generation of Austrian hip hop artists had its say, for example the Waxolutionists, Das Rückgrat and Kamp. The “Boom Bap” compilations “Teil3VomEi” and “Die Boombastische Vier” are two good examples of the optimism of this time. In the following years many new groups and artists such as Wisdom & Slime, Kayo & Phekt, A.Geh, Hörspiel Crew and MAdoppelT appeared on the scene.
In 1997, DJ Zuzee and DJ  Meister Petz (later known as The Bionic Kid) joined forces to create the elaborate mix tape “Starmix 603”. At this time Zuzee was already a known b-boy and DJ in Vienna, whereas Petz just recently came from Vorarlberg, where he was active  in groups like Boys In The Chilling House (later Mad Mission and Gute Frage …). After they had just shortly met DJ Buzz, they developed the idea to combine jazzy hip hop productions with musical turntablism elements (where the turntable is seen as a musical instrument).

As a result, their debut album “The Smart Blip Experience” became an experience of a different kind: 18 tracks of mostly instrumental hip hop music with a lot of jazz and scratches. Hiding inbetween were also two songs with vocals, including “Nachtschattengewächs” with Manuva, which connoisseurs still recall as one of the greatest moments of German hip hop music.

On the following albums “Plastic People”, “Counterfight” and “We Paint Colors” the turntablism elements were pushed into the background in favor of produced songs with mostly international guest vocalists.

DJ DSL, Urbs & Cutex
Also dedicated to the instrumental hip hop sound with an international orientation were Viennese dopebeat masters such as DJ DSL, Urbs & Cutex. DJ DSL has influenced whole generations of Austrian DJs with his quick and precise mixes in the radio show “Tribe Vibes” and has gained international recognition with his producer album “# 1”. DJ Urbs already produced the anthemic “Closer To God” in the 90s along with the underground poet producer Chaoz – as a duo with Cutex he released two albums, which focused on their love for jazzy loops. Urbs then delivered in 2005 the album “Toujours Le Meme Movie” devoted to mostly French movie soundtracks and has kept himself busy in the following years with productions and remixes for Skero, JSBL and Der Nino aus Wien.

Markante Handlungen
The second generation of Upper Austrian hip hop musicians were in the spotlight just before the turn of the century: After debut releases, the three crews Das Rückgrat, Kayo and Die Antwort performed together so many times, that the next logical step was to form the super group Markante Handlungen. Even today, the 2005 released album “Vollendete Tatsache” is considered a benchmark for slang-rap from (Upper) Austria. After further collaborations in the guise of Die Unsichtbaren and the Tonträger Allstars, most of the musicians went separate ways: Markee of Das Rückgrat released solo albums under the pseudonyms Tibor Foco, Jack Untawega and Kroko Jack, and eventually joined with Bum Bum Kunst to be Sodom & Gomorrah and founded the Slangsta Movement. Kayo released his album “Des sogt eigentlich ois ” in 2011. “Glutamat” was Die Antwort’s last album in 2007.

Already at the early age of 16, the young Kamp MC made himself noticed as a great talent  in the Viennese hip hop scene – especially when improvising freestyle rap. After he himself proclaimed to be the best in Austria in the FM4 radio show “Tribe Vibes”, the name “Kamp” became a term in the whole country. The concept EP “d.K.d.t.B.”, which housed very precise observations about the political situation in Austria in a fabulous frame story full of Santa Clauses and Easter bunnies, bestowed him with a unique and outstanding position.

Kamp took his time for his first album, releasing two EPs and two cassettes inbetween, before his debut album “Versager ohne Zukunft” was released in collaboration with producer Whizz in Vienna in 2009. The combination of the very soul-heavy beats and deep insights into Kamp’s psyche made the record exceptional. Even in Germany the album was celebrated by fans and the press – and contributed to the paradigm shift away from the prevailing gangsta rap.

Despite its roots in the slums of the U.S., hip hop in Austria was a long time middle-class phenomenon. The lyrics of most bands and artists are about everyday observations, wordplay or socio-political statements – for a long time there was no counterpart to the American gangsta rap, with the exception of the Untergrund Poeten. After the recovery of the “Strassenrap” in Germany, the tone in Austria started to get harder, with artists such as Phat Frank & EMC, Sua Kaan or Chakuza.

In the late 90s Verbale Systematik was formed in Linz, consisting of Big J, Chakuza and DJ Stickle. Due to a demo tape in the mid-2000s, the group got into contact with Bushido, a successful rapper in Germany, who brought Chakuza and Stickle to Berlin. There, they worked as a production team on various albums, simultaneously Chakuza signed as a rapper with the label ersguterjunge and released six records and mixtapes from 2006 to 2010. Meanwhile, Big J launched a solo career in Austria and was for a time the head of the label Black Wall Street Europe. While Chakuza eventually moved back to Linz, DJ Stickle is still in Berlin, where he works with distinguished artists such as Casper and the Austrian artist Gerard.

Although the Viennese with Persian roots has not been in the spotlight for that long, he has managed to release a long player every year since his debut album “Kinder des Himmels ” in 2008. Thanks to his work ethics and a strong social media presence (more than 160,000 Facebook fans) he has made it to the top ten of the Austrian and German charts with his last two albums . In 2011 he was also a star of the cinematic documentary “Schwarzkopf” by Arman T. Riahi.

Die Vamummtn
The three Viennese first brought attention to themselves with a diss-video regarding the “SBG Hot Boys”. This early Youtube success was transformed into a first physical release with the “Krocha Hymne”, released by Universal.  Ever since “Die Vamummtn” have been able to mobilize fans with their undogmatic dialect-rap on extensive tours in Austria and southern Germany, and released their last album “Rap Is (K)a Ponyhof” in 2011.

Brenk Sinatra

Initially supported by Kamp’s DJ Fester and producer Saiko, the producer quickly established himself as one of the best for hip hop beats in Europe. He has already left his musical footprints on dozens of Austrian and German records and also released three instrumental albums with the Cologne label MPM. Just recently he released “Supa Soul Shit”, the debut album of a collaboration with U.S. singer Miles Bonny and in 2013 one can expect an album by the Californian rap legend MC Eiht, which was largely produced by Brenk.

Affine Records
Although the Affine posse is usually seen in the context of electronic music, both the musicians and the label heads are rooted in hip hop. The center stage is taken by the electronic funk band JSBL, although the band members Dorian Concept, The Clonious and Cid Rim are better known as solo producers. In addition to releases with their Viennese home label, all three are also involved in internationally recognized labels such as Ninja Tunes, Kindred Spirits, Ubiquity or LuckyMe.

Ones To Watch Out For
The Upper Austrian Gerard is truly no longer a newcomer, but now seems to have found the right sound at the right time.The first two records before his album “Blausicht” (2013) have already received euphoric response in the German media and there is certainly a lot more to be heard from this exceptional artist.

Despite his young age, Def Ill has already been in the business for a long time and delivered his first guest verse on the Texta track „Verstanden“ at the age of 12. He now often collaborates with the Carinthian MC/producer Digga Mindz on a dark version of Boom Bap Beats with lyrics between battle rap and political statements.

Further hope bearers of Austrian hip hop include names such as Monobrother, T-Ser and Crack Ignaz.

Stefan Trischler
(translated from German)

Photo Texta © zoe*fotografie
Photo DJ DSL © Gianmaria Gava
Photo Brenk Sinatra © Robert Winter