Album Review + Germany and the craze for deluxe boxes

Martin_Canine “Dreams” is the third solo album (fourth including the Bushido collaboration “CLA$$IC”) by German rapper and producer Shindy. It was released in 2016 and topped the German, Austrian and Swiss charts.

The album became infamous for its deluxe box. In Germany, where physical copies are still the majority of album sales, it has become obligatory in the 2010s for German rappers to release a limited big box that usually costs around 40 euros (44 dollars) as opposed to around 15 euros for the standard album, some a bit less, some a bit more. Those albums typically contain the main album, an instrumental CD with the beats, and a bunch of merchandising, plus other additional stuff. Most rappers decide to put in new music as well, most often an EP, but artists like Eko Fresh, Bushido or Kollegah have even released full length bonus albums with unreleased music that can compete with the main album. Others include vinyls. Back when this trend started those boxes didn’t contain much, but back then only a handful of rappers did that. Nowadays, everyone does that, even rappers that aren’t very famous, and even some artists that aren’t in the hip hop genre at all like Helene Fischer, Tokio Hotel or Boney M (whose boxes for the best of compilation “Diamonds” has received rave reviews for its usually big amount of music and content while being much cheaper than most boxes) started seeing the craze for these boxes - even American artists have created such boxes exclusively for Germany, such as The Game, and Evanescence have announced one too for “Synthesis”. There are even moderately popular YouTube channels solely devoted to present and review these boxes. So it’s just natural that the individual artists compete who has the best box, and so they often put in an amount of music and goodies that surpass the album’s price.

Now, Shindy created a hype around the box by keeping the content secret until the release date, but teasing the fans by stating it contains something that hasn’t been done before. In the end it turned out that the much talked about goodie was just a cheap grey backpack that one would expect to see at a discount score. And that was it. There was the album, an instrumental CD, a DVD with music videos and this backpack (which probably cost less than 10 euros). People were furious, and the box has been repeatedly called the worst box of all time (Cro topped that in 2017 with his box of the album “Tru”, but that’s another story).

The horrible reception of the box completely overshadowed the music on the album, and whenever this album was mentioned, the box incident was the topic of discussion.
But yeah, I didn’t buy the box, I bought the standard album and I have to say that it is simply wonderful, but not easy to like at first.
After my first listening, I was shocked, disappointed even. Shindy was known for his megalomanic production, with trumpets, pianos, strings, soul samples laid over catchy southern drum kits. “Dreams” start off with a song whose beat is mostly in reverse, followed by songs with strong trap elements and with drowzy echoing samples. It was like from a whole nother artist. Also, his attitude has changed. Shindy was very laid back plus he had a big ego. He loved luxury brands, fashion and high quality cuisine, but at the same time rapped about Disney movies, relaxing at home and enjoying not having to work anymore, now having reached his goal. And how despite all his fame and money his personality hasn’t changed. Well, it has in the meantime. Each of his albums topped the German charts, he established rap techniques such as the supa dupa flow and a certain type of beats in Germany and managed to become crucial to the modern rap game. All this has fed his ego to such an extreme he thinks of himself as a better being now - and acknowledges that. It took me some listens to realize this is Shindy’s beautiful dark twisted fantasy. It is filled with excess and strange experimentalism, and feels bleaker than what was before, but this is how Shindy has changed. He once felt like a normal guy who managed to make it to the top, but now he got so used to the top that he turned his head - but somewhere deep inside he knows. And this point in his life is what “Dreams” captures.

Shindy produced all but four beats on the 15 track album (most in cooperation with Oz, Beatzarre and Djorkaeff, the latter two of which have worked with him before), and it definitely is an artistic growth, even though it’s a bit harder to understand at first. You can feel that Shindy wanted to make the album as musical as possible. Like most German hip hop producers, Shindy always wanted to simply make beats that sounded cool so the focus is on his rapping. It is known that he has spent much time with Fler who is Germany’s pioneer in trap music and who focuses on melodious flow and production and sees the genre as an art form, and he obviously inspired Shindy to do the same. But being Shindy, his ambitions were completely insane, and while Fler sounds stylish, elegant but still hard hitting, Shindy came out very dreamlike and almost surreal, hence the album title.

“Statements” and “Playerhater”, featuring his frequent collaborators Bushido and Ali Bumaye respectively, are the only songs that resemble Shindy’s older, more light hearted style. When I first listened to the album those were the only songs I loved, now I feel like they don’t fit onto the album, but they are still good fun on their own.
Overall, whether you hate or love this album, or anything in between, the music on it deserves a closer listen. While of course I get that many people were frustrated by the fact they have paid money for such a low quality content like the cheap looking backpack, the album that’s supposed to be the main attraction was made with much creative thought put into it and needs to be treated like this. Hopefully, Shindy’s reputation hasn’t suffered from this incident. I am very sure people will be very careful with buying Shindy boxes from now on. And Shindy probably knows that. He will most likely reveal the content before the release, and hopefully will put new music into the box. Also it appears 2017 will be the first year without a Shindy album since his debut in 2013.