Top Ten Songs to Show that Casper is Rock Rather Than Hip HopCasper is an enormously successful and hugely praised German singer and songwriter that can fill stadiums of fans that range from sophisticated music lovers to rebellious punks to impressionable teenagers. His albums are acclaimed due to their brilliant and complex meaningful lyricism that often capture very different moods and feelings of modern day society and sometimes expose heavy issues such as the rise of violent groups. Critics all agree that he is one of the most magnificent songwriters of his generation and that he brings an awareness and social criticism into mainstream that hasn't been there for years if not decades.
But what genre is he?
Before having released any material, Casper was the vocalist of a punk band, which is where he destroyed his voice so badly that it gave him a hoarse and husky sound - bad for him back then, but retrospectively the best that could happen to him as it became his trademark.
He then discovered hip hop and started rapping, releasing one mixtape, one solo album and one album as part of the group Kinder des Zorns, all without commercial success and independently. The first two aren’t widely available anymore. He nevertheless caught the attention of Slick One who signed him to his label Selfmade Records in 2009. Hip hop heads knew Selfmade Records long before their big commercial breakthrough, it being the home of Kollegah and Favorite. He can be heard rapping on the label sampler "Chronik II". But even on here he calls himself a punker that just happens to rap, and some of his lyrics, such as the heartbreaking child abuse story “Vatertag”, offers more introverted poetry than the big show that is German hip hop usually features. In 2011, his breakthrough record “XOXO” was released and was certified platinum. The record did not only contain singer-songwriter lyrics instead of the battle rap typical for German hip hop, the music is often straightforward alternative or indie rock. Slow melodic guitars, percussion, keyboard. Casper’s vocals started blending singing and rapping. It was too slow paced and melodic to call it rap, but it was still bleak and intentionally monotonous. The only song that is straightforward hip hop is “Blut sehen”, every other song is debatable. The equally successful 2013 follow up “Hinterland” then completely threw hip hop overboard: it only contains folk and indie music with conscious lyrics. There is not a single use of sampling, boom bap drum kits, loops or similar stylistic resemblances of the hip hop genre. In 2017 he released the chart topping “Lang lebe der Tod”, which is a concept album capturing the different thoughts and moods in Europe surrounded by problems and issues, with many people being scared of the future. Since the songs are told from the perspective of different people, the styles are also different: again, there is indie rock, but there is also much industrial rock, and some experimental music as well - he even collaborated with Blixa Bargeld from the avantgarde group Einstürzende Neubauten, one of the most loved German bands in serious art circles. Again, little on this album hints at Casper’s former hip hop style.
But nevertheless, if you want to buy a Casper album, you will usually find it in the hip hop section of your record store. And Casper still does have a lot of fans in the hip hop community who still see him as a rapper - but really, I don’t see why. It seems only critics and me do realize he departed from the genre years ago. To me, Casper never really was a hip hop artist to begin with - and as far as I know, he never claimed to be. Even when he obviously rapped over traditional hip hop beats before his fame, it never felt like a typical version of the genre. He didn’t seem to care about hard hitting punchlines, rhymes or flow, he was simply a talented writer and poet that needed a kind of music to let it all out. He originated from punk, and as soon as he got big in Germany he went for original rock as his background music. Not rock rap, full rock music.
But judge for yourself. Here are some songs to show that Casper, while a great artist, is not hip hop.
Der Druck steigt (Die Vergessenen, Pt. 1)
Wo die wilden Maden graben
Lang lebe der Tod
Auf und Davon
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