Herne and its Hip Hop Activists

Agora: “We want to connect Hip Hop activists”

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Agora considers itself as a Hip Hop collective of musicians and poets. In 2015, the crew Freshe Connection (MC Verbal & Si2Dman) and the rapper and bassist Hermes Kannakis created the vision to establish Agora as an open platform for local artists. The collective seeks to encourage collaboration among various artists and musicians. They also acknowledge Hip Hop’s educational approach and  want to use it as tool for getting a message across. In this spirit they spread the values of Hip Hop across the Ruhr Area: Peace, Love, Unity and Having Fun.

 

M.I.K.I: “My Hip Hop meeting point is my studio”

M.I.K.I

M.I.K.I, Foto: Romina Nowosatko.

Michél Puljic alias M.I.K.I is probably the most successful rapper from Herne. Born in Castrop-Rauxel, the 27-year-old rapper grew up in Herne-Börnig where he still lives today. Since 2013 he has been part of the Dortmund-based independent label Kopfnussmusik. In the same year, his first album Malochersohn entered German charts on the 94th place – quite high for an artist from the small city in the Ruhr Area.

With his music, M.I.K.I combines his three passions: soccer, rap, and the Ruhrpott. Hip Hop means to M.I.K.I more than just music as it “stands for expressing one’s opinion, also if it’s not that nice. Hip Hop stands for creativity, for many it is an outlet – for me as well.” For the whole-hearted local patroit, the Ruhr Area represents honesty, a down-to-earth attitude, and social cohesion. This can be seen in the track “Ruhrpott” which he recorded with Dortmunder artists Reece and Sonikk:

 

Pottporus: “We are the Center”

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Pottporus has been a registered society since 2007 and is based in Herne. It is characterized by urbanity and street art and combines those elements with established art forms. The Pottporus comprises the Junges Pottporus (Young Pottporus) addressing young people, the dance productions of the dance theater group Renegade, the annual Pottporus Urban Street Art Festival and the Danceschool. The society supports young creatives and tries to open up new perspectives for them. Pottporus considers itself as a network of artists, inspiring new ideas.

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“My Hip Hop meeting point is my studio”: A Portait of M.I.K.I

M.I.K.I

M.I.K.I, Foto: Romina Nowosatko.

Michél Puljic alias M.I.K.I is probably the most successful rapper from Herne. Born in Castrop-Rauxel, the 27-year-old rapper grew up in Herne-Börnig where he still lives today. Since 2013 he has been part of the Dortmund-based independent label Kopfnussmusik. In the same year, his first album Malochersohn entered German charts on the 94th place – quite high for an artist from the small city in the Ruhr Area.

With his music, M.I.K.I cobmines his three passions: soccer, rap, and the Ruhrpott. Hip Hop means to M.I.K.I more than just music as it “stands for expressing one’s opinion, also if it’s not that nice. Hip Hop stands for creativity, for many it is an outlet – for me as well.” For the whole-hearted local patroit, the Ruhr Area represents honesty, a down-to-earth attitude, and social cohesion. This can be seen in the track “Ruhrpott” which he recorded with Dortmunder artists Reece and Sonikk:

Follow M.I.K.I on Facebook

Watch M.I.K.I on YouTube

M.I.K.I and Ruhrpott Rap: “The Hip Hop scene in Herne is almost dead”

M.I.K.I

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.

Herne’s Agora: Is Anybody Out There?

Herne’s Hip Hop artists all share the belief that a missing network is the main reason why the Hip Hop scene is not visible in Herne’s cityscape. Because of this lack, the scene is forgotten in the perception of activists: “You always think you are the only rapper in Herne,” says Tim from the Hip Hop collective Agora. MC Verbal, Si2Dman and Hermes K. founded Agora in 2015 in order to establish an open platform in Herne. They want to connect Hip Hop activists and other artists and musicians to make visible what remains largely unseen at present. Similar to the rapper M.I.K.I and Zekai Fenerci, the artistic director of Pottporus, the artists problematize the fragmentation of the Hip Hop scene in Herne and the Ruhr Area. Though there are many local scenes, they coexist more or less isolated from each other.

Bunker1

Der Bunker, Rehearsal and Performance Space of the Agora Collective (2016). Photo: Johanna Buderath.

According to the Agora activists, the missing visibility of Herne’s Hip Hop culture mainly comes from a lack of initiatives to support collaborations and to seek exchange between artists. Apart from that they stress the distinction between Hip Hop culture and rap music. In Hip Hop culture the community-thought is a guiding principle, which is also essential for the collective’s self-perception as Hip Hop activists. In their view, many rappers stick to themselves and thus would not pursue networking activities and participate in community events. Thus, the uniting factor of the different Hip Hop artists is not so much the local aspect, but the community-thought that goes beyond city borders.

No Place Despite Vacancy = No Scene Despite Community

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Emtpy Stores in Wanne-Eickel (2016). Photo: Johanna Buderath.

A flourishing Hip Hop scene needs locations, on one hand for its very creation and on the other hand for getting broader public attention. Especially in Wanne-Eickel, a structurally weak district in Herne, the severe vacancy is dominating the cityscape. Still, cultural venues for a younger audience are scarcely to be found. Dennis criticizes that the decision makers in Herne would pursue only economic interests. Urban development projects like the reconstruction of the old Karstadt building, which has been empty since 2014, into the New Höfe Herne, would only attract financially strong elites. Students’ and lower-class residents’ needs for affordable housing would not be taken into consideration. Consequently, there would be any influx of young people and the creative development of the city would stagnate: “Herne must be made more attractive to students and young people. Instead there are so little students based in Herne that nobody even thinks about opening a bar – where you could organize Hip Hop sessions.”

flottmannhallen weit

Flottmann-Hallen (2016). Photo: Johanna Buderath.

The existing venues, stages and bars are mainly addressed at an older, more traditional audience or are dominated by rock music. This scene is better organized, has a higher visibility, and functioning networks which results in increasing rehearal room rentals such as the Flottmann-Hallen.

The Agora collective seeks to spread the idea of unity and wants to actively shape the cultural cityscape by encouraging collaboration and exchange.

Here you find more information on their project.

Locating Hip Hop Culture in Herne: A Visual Exploration

Herne Hip Hop History: Displacement from Public Space

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HipYo! Open Air, Wanne-Mitte (2016). Photo: POTTPORUS.

Back then you were allowed to dance on the streets, that’s not the case anymore. Concerning culture, Germany has recessed. Now, everything is controlled; you are not allowed to do anything on the streets, not even painting the ground with crayons.

(Fenerci)

Zekai Fenerci is the founder of the officially-registered associatoin Pottporus. Pottporus, founded in 2007 and specializing in dance, signifies urbanity and street culture and combines those elements with established art forms. Fenerci, grown up in Wanne-Eickel, has been an active member of the local Hip Hop culture for many years and, therefore, has a comprehensive view of the scene in Herne. In our interview he talks about a development that, according to him, led to the situation today where there is no well-connected Hip Hop scene in Herne anymore.

A major aspect of this development is displacement: displacement from the streets and, hence, displacement of the culture. In the 1980s, when Fenerci saw the first breakers dancing in the city center of Wanne-Eickel in front of the Hertie and Karstadt department stores, Hip Hop was lived and celebrated on the streets. The fragmentation of the scene today might be owed to the fact that officials have increasingly restricted  the formation of youth groups in the city center.

I remember times when we as youths were not even allowed to stand around downtown. The police used to come and impose a ban on us. As a boy you couldn’t hang around with your buddies in the city. And then politics and the public wondered why it was you developed so negatively. Groups were emerging, always looking for places where you could meet up without attracting attention.

(Fenerci)

According to Fenerci, the approach of social policies also resulted in a shift of Hip Hop life from public space to more private spaces: By establishing so called Jugendhäuser (youth centers) it was ensured that youths gathered in a controlled environment; Hip Hop in Herne became domesticated. Today, the education/social policy makers continue this practice by initiating and fostering Hip Hop projects at schools. So, again, the idea of addressing and reaching young people is realized at the cost of the containment of Hip Hop within institutional structures. This instrumentalization, the cultural appropriation of Hip Hop by the authorities, could be one reason why Hip Hop culture nowadays does not develop and is not expressed freely in public.

In addition, the temporal limitation of Hip Hop-related projects is problematic, as Fenerci adds:

In my opinion, those school projects do not even put out the fire, on the contrary, they kindle it. When we do a project for a year and the kids like us and think we’re cool, it is problematic to just go [because funding is not extended] and leave them on their own again. Those young people would feel like being let down.

(Fenerci)

pottporus weit

Pottporus (2016). Photo: Johanna Buderath.

This ephemerality hinders the development of a scene, as does the missing interconnectedness between groups and initiatives in the Ruhr Area: a recurrent theme in our conversations with Hip Hop key players not only in Herne, but also in other cities in the Ruhr Area.

 

Hip Hop: A Matter of Give and Take

As far as Fenerci is concerned, Hip Hop can only live when you give something back; something he tries to do in his own way in the Pottporus project. This association provides a space for the scene. The HipYo! Festival, organized by the Junges Pottporus (Young Pottporus), is one example. The 4-day festival took place for the first time in the summer of 2016 and addresses children and young people from 4 to 18 years. Through games, workshops, and performances they get to know and try urban art forms – break dance, beat boxing, Hip Hop dance, graffiti, dance theater and street art. So, especially the Junges Pottporus and its festival and workshops – aimed at enliven public spaces – can offer young people the space to develop personally.

The reciprocal relationship between Hip Hop culture and place is clearly exemplified by the Pottporus in Herne and Zekai Fenerci:

Hip Hop cannot live if your hometown does not inspire you, it won’t work. If you have to go to another city to find inspiration, then it is not real, not authentic. […] That’s why I don’t mind living here in this piddling Wanne-Eickel. I could have moved anywhere with my work, but I have to say: Wanne-Eickel does inspire me, precisely because it is so crappy.

(Fenerci)

Hip Hop Herne: NOne Scene?

To get a picture of the Hip Hop culture in Herne, our group dealt with three Hip Hop key players: the Pottporus e.V., a community organization specializing in dance performances founded by Zekai Fenerci; the rapper M.I.K.I and the collective Agora. On the basis of our interviews we put forward the thesis that even though there are various individually active Hip Hop artists and agents, there is no comprehensive scene.

That does not imply that there is no Hip Hop culture in Herne at all but rather that there is hardly any networking between the various artists. While in the 1980s b-boys danced in the streets of Herne, the culture increasingly shifted from public space into more private spaces – also because of the politically-initiated displacement of young people from public places.

Apparently, as local Hip Hop artists are hardly connected, this impedes the development of a scene. Furthermore, there are hardly any platforms or public places in Herne which offer possibilities to shape and develop styles and performances. Even though the Hip Hop scene in Herne seems to have been shrinking during the last decades, there lies great potential in the existing projects: the Pottporus, for example, offers workshops for young people.

The ambitious collective Agora plans to expand the scene once again; for example, they want to use abandoned places or vacant salesrooms for Hip Hop events and, thus, offering the scene a new platform. This could be one possibility to work with structural change – caused by the deindustrialization of the Ruhr Area – and which benefits the Hip Hop culture. Therefore, it is possible that in the next few years the Hip Hop scene in Herne flourishes again.

Learn more about Herne’s Hip Hop activists.

 

 

Herne und seine HipHop-Räume: Eine visuelle Entdeckungsreise

 

 

Hat Herne (k)eine HipHop-Szene?

Um uns ein Bild von der HipHop-Kultur in Herne zu machen, hat sich unsere Gruppe mit drei Akteuren des HipHop in der Stadt auseinander gesetzt: dem auf Tanz spezialisierten Pottporus e.V., dabei insbesondere deren Gründer Zekai Fenerci, dem Rapper M.I.K.I und dem HipHop-Kollektiv Agora. Aus den Gesprächen mit den Akteuren ließ sich die These ableiten, dass in Herne – trotz diverser HipHop-Akteure – keine einheitliche HipHop Szene existiert. Damit ist nicht gemeint, dass es in Herne generell keinen HipHop gibt, sondern vielmehr keine Vernetzung zwischen den verschiedenen Akteuren.

Während in den 1980er Jahren noch auf den Straßen Hernes Breakdance getanzt wurde, ist die HipHop-Kultur – nicht zuletzt aufgrund der politisch initiierten Verdrängung der Jugendlichen von öffentlichen Plätzen – zunehmend aus dem öffentlichen in den privaten Raum gewandert. Offenbar besteht fast keine Vernetzung zwischen lokalen HipHop-Künstlern, was die Erhaltung und Entwicklung einer Szene erschwert. Außerdem gibt es in Herne kaum Plattformen und öffentliche Orte, an denen HipHop gestaltet werden kann.

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Leerstehendes Ladenlokal in Wanne-Eickel (2016). Foto: Johanna Buderath.

Obwohl die HipHop-Szene in Herne seit Jahrzehnten zu schrumpfen scheint, so existiert doch großes Potential: Der Pottporus e.V. beispielsweise bietet Workshops für Jugendliche an. Das ambitionierte Kollektiv Agora plant, eine HipHop-Szene in Herne zu etablieren. Sie haben zum Beispiel die Idee, nicht genutzte Orte oder leere Ladenlokale als Orte für HipHop-Veranstaltungen zu nutzen und so der Szene eine Plattform zu bieten. Dies wäre eine Möglichkeit, den durch die Deindustrialisierung ausgelösten Strukturwandel für die HipHop-Kultur fruchtbar zu machen. Möglich also, dass die HipHop-Szene in Herne in einigen Jahren wieder wächst.

Hier erfahrt ihr mehr über die Hernes HipHop-Akteure und relevante Orte.

Das Herner HipHop-Kollektiv Agora: Ist noch jemand da draussen?

Wie ein roter Faden zieht sich der Gedanke der fehlenden Vernetzung durch die Köpfe der Herner HipHop-Akteure: „Man denkt immer, man sei der einzige in Herne, der Rap macht,“ bringt es MC Verbal von dem HipHop-Kollektiv Agora auf den Punkt. Ähnlich wie der Rapper M.I.K.I und Zekai Fenerci, der Künstlerische Leiter von Pottporus, problematisieren die drei MCs die Zersplitterung der HipHop-Szene in Herne und im Ruhrgebiet. Es gibt viele lokale Szenen, die aber kaum in Kontakt kommen oder verstärkt in den größeren Städten wie Bochum, Dortmund oder Essen agieren.

Agora versteht sich als HipHop-Kollektiv von Musikern und Poeten. Entstanden aus der Kollaboration von dem Herner Rapper und Bassisten Hermes Kanakis und der HipHop-Crew Freshe Connection (MC Verbal & Si2Dman) entwickelte sie im Jahr 2015 die Vision, die Agora als offene Plattform zu etablieren.

Die geringe Sichtbarkeit einer Herner HipHop-Kultur ist laut Agora hauptsächlich der mangelnden Initiative geschuldet, Kollaborationen anzuregen und Austausch zu wagen. Außerdem heben sie die Unterscheidung zwischen HipHop und Rap hervor, die die Herner Szene präge. Viele Rapper der Stadt blieben unter sich und verfolgen nicht den Community-Gedanken, der für Agora essenziell sei:

Im HipHop scheint der Gemeinschaftsgedanke unterzugehen, der uns ganz wichtig ist. Im Mainstream HipHop steht das “Bling-Bling” im Vordergrund. Das kommt von Amerika nach Deutschland und ist zu einem Narrativ geworden, das auch die Jugendliche verfolgen wollen. Aber das ist für uns nicht, was HipHop ausmacht.

Der vereinende Faktor verschiedener HipHop-Künstler ist also weniger der lokale Aspekt, als der Gemeinschaftsgedanke, der über die Stadtgrenzen hinaus vereint.

Kein Raum trotz Leerstand = keine Szene trotz HipHop

Wanne

Wanne-Eickel (2016). Foto: Johanna Buderath.

Eine florierende HipHop-Szene braucht Räume – einerseits um entstehen zu können und andererseits um wahrgenommen zu werden. Insbesondere in Wanne-Eickel – ein strukturell schwacher Stadtteil Hernes – ist das verheerende Ausmaß von Ladenleerstand sichtbar und dennoch sind kulturelle Räume knapp. Hermes K. von Agora moniert, dass die Stadtpolitik lediglich wirtschaftliche Interessen verfolge und somit durch Bauprojekte wie der Umnutzung des alten Karstadt-Gebäudes in die Neuen Höfe Herne, zahlungskräftige Eliten anwerbe, statt studentische Bedürfnisse nach günstigem Wohnraum zu beachten. Als Konsequenz findet kaum Zuzug eines jungen Publikums statt, wodurch wiederum eine kreative Weiterentwicklung der Stadt stagniert:

Herne müsste sich attraktiver machen für Studenten und mit der guten Anbindung zum Campus der Ruhr-Universität Bochum werben. Stattdessen sind hier so wenige Studenten, dass nicht mal jemand auf die Idee kommt, eine Kneipe aufzumachen – wo man HipHop-Kultur an den Mann bringen könnte.

Flottmannhallen nah

Die Flottmann-Hallen beherbergen seit 1999 das Ruhrpottbattle (2016). Foto: Johanna Buderath.

Die wenigen Bühnen, Bars und Veranstaltungsräume, die Herne bietet, sind laut den Agora-Kollektivisten zudem vorrangig auf ein älteres Publikum ausgerichtet oder werden hauptsächlich von Rockmusikern dominiert. Die starke Präsenz und Vernetzung der Rock-Szene erklären sie sich mit der Anmietung von Proberäumen, die bei Bands stärker ausgeprägt ist und Kontakte fördert.

Das Agora-Kollektiv will den gedanklichen roten Faden, der Mangelerscheinungen einer schrumpfenden Stadt wie kulturellen Raum und Initiative verbindet, zu einer verknüpfenden Idee umlenken, die durch Kollaboration, Unity und Stadtgestaltung geprägt ist.

Sie verfolgen mit der Plattform Agora ein aufklärerisches Kulturprojekt, dass auch erzieherische Ziele im Blick hat. Hermes K., MC Verbal und Si2Dman wollen durch HipHop befähigen und mündig machen – was das deutsche Bildungssystem in ihren Augen nicht leiste. HipHop ist für sie gleichermaßen Mittel als auch Selbstzweck.

Hier erfahrt Ihr mehr über Agora, ihre Ziele, ihre Mitglieder und ihre Aufgabe.