M.I.K.I, Foto: Romina Nowosatko.
Many people who are part of the Hip Hop scene in Herne remark that there exists no networked scene in the town anymore. Especially Hip Hop music is often practiced in private apartments and spaces. Furthermore, it seems like the Hip Hop scene in Herne has been constantly shrinking in the last decades.
The Herne-based rapper M.I.K.I confirms this thesis during our interview. The 27-year-old artist is very outspoken on this point: “The Hip Hop scene here is almost dead.” He comments that this has not always been the case: “When I was 16, 17 or 18 years old, there have been many rappers from Herne. The people who were making music [back then], but did not achieve anything, they lost their motivation. You get older and start a family. There were Lapaz and Urbanize in the past; he was the first rapper from Herne who made it into the charts. And there were Chillah & Goethe – that was rap from Herne.”
Today, only one or two active rappers from Herne come to his mind. One of them is Tatverdacht. Whereas Urbanize combines rap with singing, Tatverdacht is a so-called gangsta rapper. M.I.K.I distances himself from this popular subgenre of Hip Hop.
M.I.K.I thinks the downward trend of hip hop in Herne is a result of the shrinking numbers of active rappers. As an artist, he is less active in Herne than in Dortmund and other bigger cities of the Ruhr Area because his label Kopfnussmusik is located in Dortmund. Because he himself has less contacts to other artists from Herne, he might not be aware of emerging artists. A reason why he is increasingy peforming in larger cities is, for example, that there are more Hip Hop events supported. The city of Dortmund has a more vibrant scene than the city of Herne, for instance.
Rap Music in Herne: Lacking Public Spaces
M.I.K.I also confirms our thesis that there is a lack of public places where artists can practice Hip Hop. In 2011, M.I.K.I won the first prize in the Revierkönig (King of the Ruhr Area) competition at the Cranger Kirmes, one of the biggest public fairs in the state of North Rhine Westfalia which takes place in the Herne-Crange district every year. At the Revierkönig competition, several artists competed against each other and the one who got the most applause from the audience won. Since his victory at the fair, M.I.K.I has not been on stage in Herne again.
M.I.K.I continues that there have always been only few places where artists could listen to Hip Hop or freestyle together (freestyling means improvising texts). For example, he met his friends at the car park in front of his school when they were younger. Today, his meeting point for creating rap music is the studio of his label Kopfnussmusik. And for others? “There are certainly enough people celebrating and listening to Hip Hop.” Therefore, he stresses that it would be cool for young artists to have at least the opportunity to practice rap music and Hip Hop culture, for example, at jam sessions.
When he started rapping in 2007-2008, M.I.K.I produced some songs about Herne as well. He even dedicated a song to his district Herne-Börnig, “[b]ut during this time I made one track a day”, he adds. Unfortunately, none of his old songs about Herne are available on the Internet. Nowadays, none of his well-known songs centers on Herne. He points out that the town itself has no influence on his music anymore.
The emcee does not see himself in a particular genre of rap music. Some of his texts resemble so called message rap which he combines with his passion for the soccer club Borussia Dortmund (BVB). For example, he criticizes the pricing policy of the Bundesliga soccer clubs (the German soccer league). Other songs are more personal, address his own experiences, or that of his family.
M.I.K.I has mixed feelings towards his hometown: “I am proud to be from Herne,” he says. On the other side, he does not feel obliged to celebrate his hometown as other emcees often do: “Many people tell me that I would have to mention Herne more often, that I would have to represent the town. Well, Herne never gave me much either. Herne gave me my lousy school that I don’t like.”
The rapper dedicates himself and his art more intensely to the Ruhr Area or “Ruhrpott” with its industrial heritage and soccer culture. “I would say that I am more likely to call myself a ‘Ruhrpottler’ [somebody who comes from the Ruhr Area] than a ‘Herner’ [somebody who comes from Herne],” M.I.K.I explains. He recorded the song “Ruhrpott” in collaboration with the rappers Reece and Sonikk.
In “Ruhrpott,” they discuss what growing up in the Ruhr Area feels like, an area which is marked by structual change and a high unemployment rate. They rap about the values and traditions of the Ruhr Area but also criticize the social unequality in the region:
Ruhrpotter Asis, we have any reason to be proud here. [by calling themselves “Asis,” that is, antisocial, they appropriate a derogatory term used to describe poor people]
Coal and steel – millions of people, one dream. Worked without an end – lungs full of fine dust. That’s the Pott, where people are patriotic […] Ruhrgebiet, that’s the drug we are addicted to. Going to a Trinkhalle [a kiosk that sells alcohol that can be consumed in public space and part of the Ruhr Area’s culture], being exhausted from hard work. That’s tradition: Soccer and drinking a beer […]
That’s the Ruhrpott – where dreams are bursting, where friendships are growing. Where the air is full of dirt and the people are on schnapps. Yes here I grew up […] Where people are standing in front of the AG [jobcenter] with schnapps in their throats […] A wide range from upper class to lower class. Look, the high-ups are sticking with their kind.
In our project we investigated the interrelationship between rap music and space. We have come to the conclusion that there is little relationship between M.I.K.I’s music and his hometown Herne. Neither does he write lyrics about his hometown nor does it influence his music directly. However, the town and his social environment does indeed influence M.I.K.I.because he started rapping there.
As Herne is part of the Ruhr Area, it is the the Ruhr Area which leaves its most significant mark on him. M.I.K.I identifies himself both with the local dialect, the working-class culture, and with typical values such as honesty, a down-to-earth attitude, and social cohesion – values that the Hip Hop scene practices, communicates, and propagates as well. Interviewing M.I.K.I we ultimately learned that that Hip Hop in Herne is happening in a regional rather than in a local context.