Anis Mohamed Youssef Ferchichi, better known as German rapper Bushido – which means ‘way of the warrior’ in Japanese – is arguably Germany’s most success rapper. Having sold more than 1.5 million albums in Germany alone, him and his label Ersguterjunge was described by German Vice as Germany’s answer to Maybach Music in terms of success – and the answer in to Rick Ross in terms of scandals. Here, we take you through some of Sonny Black’s brushes with controversy, alongside his essential playlist, to get you better acquainted with Germany’s most significant hip-hop export.
Bushido, censorship and moral panic in Germany
Since dropping his first full-length album on tape way back in 2001, Bushido has been no stranger in controversy in the German press. Frequently criticised for lyrics that are considered to glorify violence, misogyny, crime and homophobia, in the early 2000s Bushido was placed on a German media watch list usually reserved for neo-Nazi hardcore bands. The German Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young People even went as far as to ban some of his early tracks.
Rap music didn’t take off in Germany until comparatively recently; it takes particular skill to rhyme with a German compound noun, or Mammutwörter (which means mammoth word – for example, the German word for allergy, Nahrungsmittelunverträglichkeit). However, Bushido burst on the German scene in the wake of the growing popularity of American acts like Eminem, Lil Wayne and Snoop Dogg.
The ensuing alarm amongst the older generation was justified by the insistence that the music glorified a ‘ghetto fantasy’ that didn’t exist in Germany. However, in an interview with popular German paper Der Spiegel, Bushido claimed rap music was becoming an important mode of expression for kids from immigrant families in Berlin’s toughest neighbourhoods.
The Odd Couple: Bushido and his neo-Nazi fans
Born in 1978 to a Tunisian father and a German mother, Bushido identifies as Muslim and has a background typical of many modern, multi-cultural Berliners. However, in the wake of the controversies surround the raw aggression in his music, some unusual fans began turning up to his gigs: neo-Nazis. Against all logic, in the mid-2000s it was reported some young ultra-right fans were showing up at Bushido concerts asking the rapper to autograph their shaved heads.
Hannes Loh, former German anti-fascist hip-hop artist and author of Kanak Planet: Hip Hop Between World Culture and Nazi Rap, commented, “though I think it is wrong to over-exaggerate the problem, the far right are definitely getting more interested in German hip hop, more so since the genre become so popular in mainstream culture.”
When asked for comment, Bushido chimed with Loh’s take on the matter, and implied the bizarre connection between rap and the far right was more of a product of moral panic over hip-hop than any real issue. He said, “I’ve always distanced myself from this far-right rubbish…there is no trying to understand Nazis, but what are you going to do? If that guy is cool with me during the hour in which I’m giving my concert and respects the other people, then I think I’ve done a good job.”
Bushido takes on the German establishment
In more recent brushes with German current affairs, Bushido’s 2013 track Stress ohne Grund nearly got the rapper sued, with German politicians Klaus Wowereit and Serkan Tören filing a lawsuit against Bushido. The song, which takes shots at German politicians across the political spectrum, features lyrics including “I want Skeran Tören to bite into grass” – a German expression for dying – and I’ll shoot Claudia Roth, and she’ll have holes like a golf course.”
Despite the media circus, Bushido brushed off the scandal insisting the lyrics weren’t threats, but merely response to insults against him made previously by the politicians. In a television interview, Bushido commented, “From the perspective of business, this was great. We are number one on the trends, 1.2 million clicks in under 48 hours.”
Since the scandal, Bushido has stayed in the headlines in German politics due to his outspoken pro-Palestine views on the Middle East conflict. Furthermore, last year, Bushido was invited to take on the spokesperson for the far-right AfD party in a debate about Islam, organised by German media outlet Hyperbole.
Bushido’s brushes with the law – and his passion for, er, fishing
Bushido’s bad boy image has resulted in several brushes with the law since the beginning of his career, including charges of GBH, libel and obscenity. Furthermore, in 2010, a German newspaper reported on Bushido’ alleged links to Lebanese mafia. However, Bushido’s more recent encounters with the German police force have been somewhat tamer. Whilst enjoying his favourite glamorous, gangland pastime of fishing, Bushido was apprehended by the water police, leading to the rapper posting an image of his fishing license on Facebook and asking that the German water police kindly leave him alone. Below are Bushido and his big catch, plus one of his latest drops, Sodom & Gomorrha.