Photo by Adam Kahan
Can anything say “fuck tha police” like “Fuck tha Police” on N.W.A.’s album Straight Outta Compton? The seminal L.A. gangsta rappers’ blunt interpretation of the relationship between cops and black youth is so powerful that even though it was released in 1988, it’s hard to find a track today that outdoes it: it takes four parts vitriol, mixes it with a liberal dose of scabrous pounding beat, and seals the whole thing with a chorus no one will forget.
“Fuck tha Police” combines the key ingredients of protest music in exactly the right proportions, but if you’ve ever been to Kreuzberg on May Day, you know that German leftists take their police hatred seriously – and they’re no slouches when it comes to the culture of protest tunes. To honor this tradition, we’ve assembled a list of German-language classics.
Yeah, yeah, ok, Falco is Austrian and Germans wouldn’t touch him with a 10-foot Wurst, but he was also a pop sensation with a hit that cannot be ignored. “Der Kommissar” catapulted to European success in 1982, although it was actually a cover version by the British band After the Fire that made it popular around the world. What this song lacks in lyrics, it makes up for in style: with his gelled hair, aviator shades and laissez-faire delivery, Falco is more Ferris Bueller than Sid Vicious. His super slick attitude makes the cops seem as threatening as truancy officers. In fact, the last time I got stopped for jaywalking, I smoothly handed over my passport and, without skipping a beat, uttered, “Alles klar, Herr Kommissar?” Worked like a charm. Thanks Falco!
Is it an anthem? Is it a children’s nursery rhyme? Is it a coked-up fantasy? YouTube the 1994 music video, and you’ll be suddenly transported to an era of grind dancers, fly girls and premium vintage Euro-trash. The man behind Mo-Do, a Deutsch-singing Italian named Fabio Frittelli, looks like he jumped straight out of a romance novel and into a Dorfdisco. How he manages to deliver the line ”Ja ja ja, was ist los, was ist das” with such Schwarzeneggeresque gravity is beyond me, but it makes the song doubly hilarious.
This deutschpunk band from Hamburg has more in common with N.W.A. than any other group on this list. Like Straight Outta Compton, Slime’s self-titled 1981 LP was banned because of its leftist political message and the fact that it advocated violence against police. It’s hard to choose just one anti-police anthem by Slime: the same album also includes “Polizei SA/ SS”, a song that compares modern police to Nazi officers, but it doesn’t rock the way “Bullenschweine” does. With an opening guitar riff that sounds like the love-child of the Sex Pistols and the Ramones, and lyrics shamelessly calling for revolt and violence, “Bullenschweine” keeps the punches flying and the adrenaline pumping. With lines like “Bomben bauen, Waffen klauen, den Bullen auf die Fresse hauen” (“Build bombs, steal weapons, hit the pigs in the face”), it’s no wonder Slime’s music was considered a threat to police security. These guys mean business.
In spite of their attempt to hide under angry, choppy punk power chords, there‘s something kind of jolly about this song. With its sweet sentimentality and simple catchy melody, it has more in common with Schlagermusik than it does with Black Flag. If the key to a successful anthem is its sing-along ability, then this tune is solid anthem gold. You just have to hear it once and I promise you will be humming the refrain for days. Now lift your Stein and repeat after me, “Ich bin Punk und ich bin frei; du bist bei der Polizei. Ich bin der Untergang der Zivilisation.”
“Ruf die Polizei” by Die Fantastischen Vier
You can’t talk about German hip hop without mentioning the Fanta 4, and you can’t make a list of “Fuck tha Police”-style songs in German without at least one example of Deutscher Sprechgesang (“German spoken song” a.k.a. rap). But now that we’ve done the honorable thing, allow me to voice the truth about “Ruf die Polizei”: it sucks! For a group that is known for clever lyrics and crazy rhymes, “Ruf die Polizei” sounds like hip hop on Quaaludes. Basically, this is a goofball tune for suburban teens who want to blast something with the word Polizei in it without pissing off their parents.