American Influences on Genre Construction in German Rap

Solveig Luedtke

Leibniz University Hannover, Germany University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

WS139: Hip-hop across the globe: what exactly is going global?

Based in part on the systematic textual and discursive analysis of numerous American and German raps (Lüdtke 2006), the study offers a framework for the analysis of linguistic features including vernacular speech, metaphors, roles and social categorizations, narrative structures and forms of conversation within lyrics of different communities of practice. The application of vernaculars and African American verbal traditions in American and German rap lyrics provides insights into the linguistic flows within rap’s globalized culture. To enrich these insights, the study investigates German rap fans’ attitudes toward Anglicisms and codeswitching, as well as fans’ use of these on an online hip-hop forum, capturing the currency of English in the German rap community.

By examining linguistic features of American rap and their reoccurrence in Germany, this study views German rap as ‘not merely an imitation … but the outcome of a recontextualization process, wherein a globally available cultural model is being appropriated in various reception communities’ (Androutsopoulos and Scholz 2002: 1). Reconstructing the defining functional and structural properties of rap texts as a genre is a precondition to discovering convergence and divergence in American and German hip-hop communities.

The first part of the analysis focuses on features characteristic of the entire genre. In comparing topic, discourse and linguistic conventions of German and American rap, the study explores divergences from American genre conventions. English elements in non-English lyrics are classified into categories set forth in Androutsopoulos and Scholz (2002: 26-7). These are used to analyze lexical borrowings and discursive patterns from American lyrics which are found in the German data and cases of code-switching in both American and German rap texts. The analysis demonstrates the referential function of nonstandard expressions from American rap with respect to the main competences and activities of the culture while confirming that slang terminology and formulaic expressions are used to stylize rappers as authentic in a subculture. While rap’s function as a platform for articulation of artistic creativity and verbal expression of identity does not prevent stereotyping, it has the transformative capacity for creating new hybrid forms of social identities.

The second part of the analysis examines data collected from the German-language hip-hop forum, revealing fans’ attitudes toward English influences on German rap and capturing fans’ rationale for borrowing and codeswitching in their own textual identities. Hip-hop Anglicisms are compared with Onysko’s (2007) findings on borrowng and codeswitching to investigate usage patterns in overt vs. covert prestige situations.

This two-part analysis views borrowing and codeswitching in terms of production (by artists) and reception (by fans), yielding a more complete account of the German hip-hop community as a community of practice.

ANDROUTSOPOULOS, JANNIS and SCHOLZ, ARNO. 2002. On the recontextualization of hip-hop in European speech communities: a contrastive analysis of rap lyrics. PhiN, 19.1-42.

LÜDTKE, SOLVEIG. 2006. Globalisierung und Lokalisierung von Rapmusik am Beipiel amerikanischer und deutscher Raptexte. Münster, Berlin: LIT Verlag.

ONYSKO, ALEXANDER. 2007. Anglicisms in German: Borrowing, lexical productivity, and written codeswitching. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

Session: Workshop
Hip-hop across the globe: what exactly is going global?
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 10:30-12:00
room: 01