Why This Guy Reshaped My Perception of German Rap

It’s a cold and windy Thursday evening – I‘m standing in the middle of a crowd of about 60 people in a small club called ‘Anker Werkstatt‘ located on the harbour in Stralsund. I’m waiting in eager anticipation for the German rapper ‘Prezident‘ to begin his concert. While doing so, I realize that the man is actually standing right next to me. It turns out that Prezident just wanted to listen to the supporting act from Rostock. Shortly after that little encounter, he not only went on stage and delivered 2 hours of finest rap to the audience, he also made this concert my favorite one so far.

But who is this guy and what makes him so special? Prezident, aka Viktor Bertermann, was born in 1984 and grew up in the German city of Wuppertal. At the early age of 13 he began to develop an interest in Hip Hop. Inspired by a variety of German and American musicians, he soon began producing his own beats and subsequently published several demo tapes. From 2006 onwards, Prezident released a number of mixtapes and albums, of which Limbus (2016) is the latest.

Categorizing his music is complicated. Prezident uses elements of storytelling and is sometimes also referred to as a conscious rapper in that he addresses social issues. His rap structure differs from the industrial standard in that he avoids hook lines in most of his songs and does not seem to care about such things as standard song lengths. Regardless of what kind of genre one might want to put him into, Prezident manages to give the listeners a sense of experiencing a different kind of rap – a more sophisticated one. The poetic impression his texts make also derives from the fact that they are influenced by writers such as Charles Bukowski, Franz Kafka and Ernest Hemingway.

Those features alone would not make him a good rapper if he wasn’t able to give a great live performance of his songs as well – but luckily that’s exactly what he does. While I was disappointed by live concerts featuring musicians like Genetikk because I expected their voices to sound different (i.e. better), I was stunned by the pure greatness of Prezident’s abilities – he maintained seemingly perfect control over pronunciation as well as pace and never seemed to get out of breath.

Looking at the ‘big players‘ in the German rap business, musicians like Bushido, Kay One or Farid seem to concentrate their content on a very narrow range of topics: fancy cars, lots of money, sexy women and,  in order to add some gangster-like flair, homophoby and a constant use of vulgar language has to be present, it seems. Those ‘representatives’ of German rap had a major influence on my overall opinion and led to an attitude bordering on total despair. Therefore I‘m incredibly lucky to have discovered an artist who is not comparable to these rappers in any respect – one who finally fulfilled my initial expectations, which, as I know now, I only lowered due to recurring disappointment. If, after reading this panegyric-like review, you want to form your own opinion, some good songs to begin with are ‘Menschenpyramiden’, ‘Mise en Abyme’, ‘Der talentierte Mister Prezident’ or ‘Mount Average‘. This talented young man changed my perception of German rap – let your mind and ears encounter the world of Prezident and he might have the same effect on you.

Florian Rehme

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