Azet - Fast Life (Review)

Martin_Canine AZET
Fast Life

I already said it when reviewing Olexesh’s Radioaktiv, and I will say it once more: Afrotrap with sing-along Autotune choruses and hardcore lyrics about street life, drugs and violence just don’t fit together. Like, at all. Nevertheless, it’s everywhere in the German hip hop landscape since 2017, becoming a crucial part of the scene in 2018. Since the trend hasn’t become big yet in the USA, let me explain what all of this is about. The trend apparently came over here from France, and has its roots deeper in the country’s multicultural social backgrounds by mixing European, American and African approaches of music, which definitely has every right to exist and whose existence is absolutely fitting for Europe’s modern society. But it’s not that kind of Afrotrap I am talking about. I am talking about the German language adaptation. I am not very familiar with the French rap scene, I only know that it is much respected and full of social commentary and statements. German hip hop is usually more of a show, it is the most stylish with the fewest substance. It doesn’t matter because it’s usually technically great. In Germany, Afrotrap means trap inspired music with a touch of dancehall, usually with a certain beat pattern in a 4/4 time signature. It is characterized by a very distinctive use of a dominant snare drum in a fashion we know mainly from summer hits. An American hip hop song that happens to have said pattern is Cupcakke’s Crayons, successful (and good) German language songs of the genre are Miami Yacine’s Bon Voyage and ApoRed’s Billo. If you have listened to the songs, you’ll notice that it comes off as upbeat, cheerful and light-hearted. However, in German speaking territories, it is used with lyrics that are just as dark and street centered as the regular gangsta rap. Trap can be altered to fit this mood - it can range from light hearted summer jams by artists such as Lil Pump to the dark, atmospheric bangers of Future or the melancholy of Drake. However, Afrotrap’s signature pattern gives it little to work with - it always sounds more cheerful than sinister.

Austrian rapper Raf Camora brought the genre to Germany, and he found the right way to do it: he raps very casually, rather neutrally and does not dwell into darkness or sunlight territories, to put it metaphorically. It always feels like you are accompanying him on a trip through the Viennese urban life, with all the ups and downs along the way. Now, Azet is the newest of the many newcomers who jumped on the bandwagon that Camora's 2017 blockbuster Anthrazit created, and succeeded in that he managed to immediately top the German charts with his debut.

Fast Life is a professionally produced, carefully recorded, solidly performed and not at all badly written collection of hip hop songs that lack any personality and are solely made to fit the trend. I get it: when new trends are all the rage, a bunch of new artists appear on the map that claim the throne for themselves. As I said, Raf Camora made it big, and Miami Yacine followed and managed to re-create it at almost the same quality. Then came Zuna, Olexesh, and now there’s Azet. They are actually equally good in what they do, but distincting them is quite the problem. All of them took the underground elements of Camora and made it their main focus: drugs, a tough image and illegal money dominate their world. This is nothing new and has been executed a hundred times better before. Notably, not in the Afrotrap subgenre. After few tracks, you know what you are in for, and it will go on until the end of the record without changes in mood or sound. He always delivers the very definition and stereotypes of the style without any intention of innovation.

We had a similar situation when Kollegah made lyrical complexity paired with a hardcore hip hop approach the big thing in the early 2010s, which still is a big deal as of today. But there is one major difference: being a Kollegah clone meant having multisyllabic rhyme schemes, making clever use of word play and writing hard hitting punchlines. In other words: every Kollegah clone HAD to be talented to jump on the train. With Afrotrap, the approach is simple: flowing solidly over the always very similarly sounding beat. That’s about it. Kollegah’s style was all about competing. Who has the most advanced and intelligent lines while selling the most entertaining image? For this premise, you needed to have a high quality. But you don’t need all this high entertainment value for Afrotrap.

Azet’s debut record topped the German charts. But he appeared so fast that it would be a wonder if he wouldn’t disappear just as fast. Having started last year, the thirst for Afrotrap isn’t over yet. People want more. And more rappers like him will find their way to the charts, most likely even to the top. But when the craze is over, who of all these guys will still be known to the public? Right, Raf Camora. The man who brought this musical style to German speaking territories as a form of then-unique artistic expression. And when the next trend kicks in, Azet will likely adapt that formula and leave his current style behind. And Camora will still perform his signature sound. On the plus side, Azet is not untalented, and who knows, maybe the next movement in German hip hop will force him to show more creativity.