There are three types of good hip-hop: one where the rapper is skilled, another where it’s the musical background that is exceptional, and the rare case when both are true.
In the latter case, the music is more than just the backdrop for the lyrics, while the rapping doesn’t simply deliver a textual message but is music itself. This group is, of course, the most exclusive one. Everyone has their own pantheon, mine includes among others Kendrick Lamar, Oddisee, Archy Marshall, Earl Sweatshirt – and of late Goldroger.
Sebastian Goldstein is a young rapper from Dortmund. In 2015, he releases his debut mixtape “Räuberleiter” as Gold Roger, one year later he changes the name to Goldroger and the music from bass-heavy, traditional hip-hop beats to an idiosyncratic hybrid he calls “Krautrap or Cloudrock”.
The main element is non-conformity. His second album, 2016’s “Avrakadavra”, is much more adventurous than “Räuberleiter”, musically as well as lyrically. His lyrics reference figures as diverse as Plato, Van Gogh, the Beatles, Baudelaire, Alf, Thomas Mann and Superman, without it being simple name-dropping.
He doesn’t see himself as a “Zecke”, a left-wing activist, but he slaps out slogans like “peace for the cabins, war against the palaces”. If Goldroger’s vocabulary is simply stunning, it’s the way he integrates it into his already sophisticated storytelling flow that makes him a great rapper.
The music, meanwhile, is the product of Dienst & Schulter and incorporates elements from dub, rock, blues, chillwave and electronica. It’s not really kraut-y, but psychedelically spacey. “Avrakadavra” stands out among other contemporary hip-hop productions, especially in Germany where only Knowsum has really surprised me in recent years.
Goldroger’s songs even work as King Krule-style acoustic blues versions, as the live EP “Live aus der Leere” (“Live from the Void”) demonstrates.
His latest single, “MK Ultra”, opens “Avrakadavra” like the first sunrays start the day. With its soft guitars and the reverberant voice, it’s slightly surreal and soothingly inviting. Internal rhymes heighten the dizzying effect of Goldroger’s acrobatic flow.
It’s the perfect introduction to an album that opens up German hip-hop to a diversity of atmospheres, topics and sonic worlds.
Stream “Avrakadavra” on Bandcamp.