Hip-Hop Music
Copyright - Mike Zenari
Hip-Hop Music

Hip-Hop Music


In Luxembourg in the 1980s, being interested in rap was a bit like being a salsa fan in Greenland or a black metal fan in Angola: it wasn’t mission impossible, but you had to rely on a handful of die-hard devotees who worked in the Grand Duchy’s slums. And that’s exactly where the problem lies: rap, one of the four pillars of hip-hop alongside break dancing, DJing and graffiti, draws its inspiration and most of the claims of its lyrics from life in red-light districts. And let’s be honest, there aren’t many red-light districts in Luxembourg. If hip-hop appeared at a block party in the Bronx in the 1970s under the leadership of DJ Kool Herc (who mixed in 2009 at the Philharmonie during the End-of-Season-Party), one might think that Luxembourgish rap was born in the former basement of the Place Émile-Hamilius, then the nerve centre of the capital’s urban cultures. Today, Aldringen no longer exists. Instead, there is a shopping centre with a Fnac store selling rap vinyl (not too many). And above all, rap made in Luxembourg no longer needs to hide in graffitied undergrounds. It radiates from North to South, from East to West and is exported beyond our borders, with a production quality that defies all competition and in all the languages that define our country.

DJ Kool Herc End-of-Season-Party, Philharmonie Copyright - Sébastien Grébille

First wave

In 1983, DJ Jerry mixed disco, funk and soul in Esch-sur-Alzette. He was probably the first one to scratch on The Sugarhill Gang behind the decks of a club in Luxembourg. With a group of friends, they founded the Breakdance Robot Electric Boogie Smurfing, the first hip-hop dance crew in the region. A few years later, from Bettembourg, Mike Welter aka DJ Mike MC produced a rap in English that was more clubbing oriented. With no other claim than to rock the dancefloor, he imposes his style which he describes as “Party Rap”. He released a maxi-single entitled “Want-Ya-Back” in 1988 with DJ Mich Van Tune (Master J). With his group DJ Mike MC & The Lyrical Force, the b-boy released Move Your Body at the end of 1989, the first hip-hop album made in Luxembourg. Dates abroad, especially in Germany, soon followed and Luxembourg rap began to make a name for itself.

The golden age of the 2000s

In the middle of the 2000s, Godié, Lil Star, Le K, CDB and Trèfle 4 hit the streets of the capital to sell their CDs. Rap was still underground, but the members of A.L.S. imposed their own style, especially with the album 5 Étoiles. In line with A.L.S., the Bossmen, two brothers who also rap in French, quickly stood out with their explosive flow. Alain Tshinza also revolved around this sphere of French-speaking rap in Luxembourg. In 2010, better known as Gospel Emcee (and incidentally brother of Kalo du 78, another talented rapper in the French-speaking rap game of the 2000s in the Stadt), he released the documentary Hamilius: Hip Hop Culture in Luxembourg, which narrates more than 30 years of activism. The multidisciplinary artist, now expatriated in Montreal, continues his flourishing career on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
In 2012, Godié launched the Punch Ligue, which, like the Rap Contenders and WordUP!, features live battles between MCs who compete a cappella in public for the sake of verbal dueling. It was a sold-out show at the Kulturfabrik in Esch-sur-Alzette with French rapper Youssoupha in the backstage.

If Youssoupha is hanging around Luxembourg, it’s because he got close to C.H.I., the Luxembourg beatmaker who had already composed, among others, for IAM. Éric Bintz quickly began to produce a lot of sound for him. Following this collaboration, Taipan, C.H.I.’s cousin, signed with Bomayé Musik, Youssoupha’s own label.

Op Lëtzebuergesch wann ech gelift!

However, the Grand-Ducal rap scene is also releasing flow in Luxembourgish. In 2003, as part of a road safety campaign, the group The Gentles composed “Why”, the first hip-hop track in Lëtzebuergesch to be played on the radio. Meanwhile, T The Boss, lived in Luxembourg’s station district, and his crew Foundation, produced albums and played on all the country’s stages. In 2009, their video clip was number one on the “Planet Hits” programme on RTL. The same enthusiasm can be found in Soleuvre with Z-Town Massiv with DJ PC and NUNZ on the mic, who represent their stronghold.

Rap in Luxembourgish is becoming more and more popular, and in 2006 the group De Läb, led by Corbi, David Fluit and Spenko, quickly built up a solid fan base. The trio depicted a very good social critique with sarcasm and second degree. Even today, De Läb is the spearhead of Luxembourg rap. Corbi is also active as a solo artist. De Gëllene Stull, his first album, was released in 2015. At the same time, Fluit set up his own label, De Läbbel, which became a real platform for urban music for a whole new generation that had incorporated the codes of its older brothers. Maka MC, Ananda Grows, but also the singer Nicool, who talks remarkably well about her daily life with rhymes, join the crew. Maz, for his part, unleashes a dark flow in English and has started an already very promising career.

Today and tomorrow

Turn Up Tun, Skinny J, Tommek, Bandana, Don Piano, Räpzodi, Culture the Kid et the group Stayfou are part of this new generation that raps in Luxembourgish and is all over YouTube with their videos. In the South, Young Loko and Jah Arrogante, both of Cape Verdean origin, rap in Creole. Lil JSA, also from Differdange, produces a melancholic rap in English a la Lil Peep. As for Esch-sur-Alzette, we can count on the group 40 Gvng. Also in Esch, the two beatmakers of Magestick Records managed to achieve the brilliant feat of going gold in the United States. One thing is for sure: Luxembourg rap is making a name for itself and has a bright future ahead.

Sébastien Vecrin