Capital Bra - Berlin lebt (Review)

Martin_Canine CAPITAL BRA
Berlin lebt

I have no idea how this came to be. Not long ago, hip hop - especially the German one - was a pure album genre in German speaking territories. But last year, this circumstance changed dramatically when Kay One and Pietro Lombardi peaked at the top with Señorita. But this success story wasn’t that surprising yet. While a rapper is the main artist, the tune is a Despacito clone in beat, attitude and melody, only that the verses are rapped and not sung. But then Kollegah’s and Farid Bang’s epic hardcore battle rap anthem Sturmmaske auf (Intro) went straight to number one, and that’s way more astounding. It’s very unusual that a song from this very dark end of the hip hop spectre makes it big, but maybe it was just a matter of time. Next to Bushido, they are the biggest names in the game, and the entire German hip hop community soaked up every new thing they released. While mainstream audiences were surely turned off by the highly aggressive tone, the rap fanbase is not exactly a small one, and if they collectively buy a song, they probably have an impact on the charts. Then Bausa’s melodic hip hop / RnB hybrid Was du Liebe nennst not only topped the charts, but was awarded the rare diamond certificate for a million sold units in Germany. But this didn’t baffle me either. It’s a catchy earworm about a man that wants to drown his sorrow in a physical relationship of which he knows the woman only pretends to love him, but he doesn’t want to hear the truth and gives in to the fake love, that contains no harsh language or violent references that would turn pop audiences off. But then the charts went crazy with hip hop, when Olexesh had a number one song with Magisch in 2018, a tune that has more rapping, although it’s essentially what Rap Critic calls a “Thugs need love too” track, and which was performed by a much, much lesser known artist. And now Capital Bra arrived, who has been a popular guest artist on trap records before, but now had a breakthrough in a way not even the biggest pop stars could dream of: in only 2 months, four of his songs hit number one on the German charts (needless to say, the album Berlin lebt also reached the top position, and he was also a memorable guest artist on Bushido’s first number one song ever). That’s… the most outstanding success I have ever witnessed - especially since German hip hop, as I said, wasn’t ever a song genre over here.

Somewhere between the original American trap and the currently trending French Afrotrap, Capital Bra releases music that obviously fits the current zeitgeist, combining two of the top genres that the youth of the late 2010s can identify with. It’s not unlikely the perfect formula for a hit these days: the combination of catchy beats with a certain summertime feeling as well as the autotuned singing should please every casual radio listener, while the hip hop swagger also attracts genre fans. This manages to gather Capital Bra a big fanbase full of different people. He’s nowhere near as aggressive and sinister as big names like Bushido and Kollegah, but he still has that certain street attitude to make him acceptable in rap circles - after all, he sings fun earworms about taunting the cops and taking drugs, but he doesn’t go as far as rapping about knocking your teeth out with a crowbar. At the same time, Capital Bra has a flow and vocal delivery that’s both very distinctive and impressively energetic and on point - while he doesn’t have the most creative wordings, he’s also definitely not untalented as s rapper. In that sense, Berlin lebt is a fun and varied record that flirts with a thug attitude but has quite a bunch of treats for those who like it a bit poppier.

For example, 5 Songs in einer Nacht, one of Bra’s big hit singles, is one of the year’s catchiest and most irresistible radio songs. While it just barely touches upon hip hop territory in the verses and doesn’t quite fit the tone of the rest of the record, once you hear its melody, it’s immediately stuck in your ear and won’t leave anytime soon. It’s one of these songs of which you immediately know they will stick around even when the hype for the artist is over. His other 3 number one hits from the album (Neymar, Berlin lebt and One Night Stand) don’t have the same earworm potential, but are solid fuel for trap and Afrotrap lovers. Gutes Herz wants to teach you a lesson about how being a good person will get you further in life, and on the album’s closing song Wann dann he politically positions himself against both the German and the American right wing, but without really raising the big questions.

On the other hand, the record also features some decent bangers that will surely get the more typical hip hop crowd going as well. Ballert couldn’t have been done much better by Migos, and Baba Flow is such a heavy, brutal psychotic trap bomb (with distorted laughing in the beat) that Bra himself stops the song for a moment, catching his breath and stating that he just started to become afraid of himself. It’s over the top, and it’s a lot of fun. Among the guest spots are such rightfully big names such as Farid Bang, Ufo361 and KC Rebell, but it’s AK Ausserkontrolle, who has a verse on Darby, that’s on the same vigorous level as the main artist.

It’s understandable why Berlin lebt is such a blockbuster, as there’s something for everyone, and it’s always at a professional high quality. Capital Bra has enough catchy pop rap tunes to please the average radio listener that usually isn’t too impressed by the rap genre, while also bringing in enough cutting edge material for the hip hop heads to make him fully accepted by genre fans - and it’s all sold well by a charismatic showman who knows how he needs to adjust his voice to work for the respective tune and immediately leaves an impression. And in the end, we get an album that, while it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, is quite a lot of diverse fun.


NOTE: in case you're interested, the crowbar line I was referring to is from Patrick Bang's guest verse on SpongeBozz's "Planktonweed" song. - Martin_Canine

Update: with "Melodien", a single that's not on this album, Capital Bra had his fifth solo number one song in 2018 (sixth song overall including the Bushido song, and seventh overall release including the "Berlin lebt" album). - Martin_Canine