Knightstalker and Le First are two emcees from Berlin, Germany who present their collabo-album, Foreigners. Although the two being born and bred in Berlin/Germany, performing in foreign languages is one of the reasons for the album’s title. Despite commenting on their status within the German rap scene, the two lyricists also tackle personal topics as well as recent political and social issues that are not just local but global issues.
With Knightstalker and Le First rapping in English and French respectively, Foreigners is already a bilingual effort but the numerous guests add even more international flavor by performing verses in German, Russian and Polish.
I sit down with the duo as they speak more on Foreigners and tackle more on the issue of hip hop.
When did you fall in love with hip hop?
Le First: When I was 12 or 13 years old, I already listened to a lot of rap music from Germany that, lookin’ back at it, wasn’t that dope. But I remember one song that really caught my interest: a classmate made a presentation about Eminem and played the track “Under the Influence“ by Eminem and D12.
Knightstalker: When I started my first year in high school, I also began playing basketball. On the playgrounds we went, at least one guy had a boom box with a self-made mixtape or better yet compilation with’em. And by this time, everyone over here at the playground was bumpin’ that first Method Man album ‘Tical’, especially “Release Yo’ Delf” and “Bring The Pain”. And those two joints been blastin’ out of these boombox speakers for hours on repeat. And by that, I really got into HipHop music. I copped Wu-Tang album after Wu-Tang album and from that I learned about the labels and connections to other crews and began really getting into the music and the culture at last. The first concerts, ciphers and so on followed and the rest is history.
How is the hip hop scene in Germany?
Le First: It’s getting better over the last few years. Since 10 years, this is the first time that I can tell you that the German rap scene is on a better level than the French rap scene for example. Before that it was vice-versa. Right now, you have a scope of different rap-styles that are quite nice; good street rap, good conscious rap, good fun rap and so on. At the moment, I really enjoy German rap and its scene, even if I am not really a part of it because I rap in French.
Knightstalker: I totally agree although I’ve never been that much into German rap music, except for a couple local and befriended acts but I really dig that the scene itself is still evolving and that there is a lot of good stuff happening lyrically as well as creatively and sound-wise. I still don’t really feel like I’m a part of the scene due to the language barrier and a different focus ‘n attitude.
How did you guys come together to form this duo on Foreigners? How did you come up with this project’s name?
Le First: We know each other since 2009, in 2010 we dropped the ‘Lost in Translation EP’ that was really appreciated by the German public. So after our solo projects, we decided to drop a collabo-album.
Since we both rap in a foreign language, Me and Knightstalker are mostly getting ignored by the German rap scene. We are treated like foreigners even if though you can read “Nationality: German” on each our IDs. So we decided to choose this project-name, plus we come up with a lot of political stuff that describes how people that the system considers as “foreigners” are treated and oppressed by the system.
Knightstalker: Yeah we met around 2009, recorded our first collaboration soon after which evolved into an EP a year later. Since we clicked from the first moment on, it was just natural to record a full length album together. We share a lot of political and social views and even if we differ, we can still combine both our opinions and make it work on a track. And as Le First already said, the name ‘Foreigners’ has two meanings for us: First of all our position within the local HipHop scene and second of all that we are all “foreigners” somehow and in every country of the world foreigners somehow get oppressed in a certain way. So we combined that HipHop-representin’ type of attitude with our political views.
Tell us a little more about the Foreigners album.
Le First: It was a hard way, we started recording in 2011 before I went to actors-school. Then during my studies, we continued, shot the first videos as well as pics for the cover art.
Yeah and 2016 it is finally here! We had personal und study-stuff to do during the years and we are still proud that we realized this project, because it is unique. A French and an English rapper from Germany on one album. To me it’s the essence of HipHop; no matter where you come from, which language you speak, which religion you believe in, HipHop is a universal language.
I‘m doin‘ a rap-workshop with a few refugees from Iraq, that don‘t speak German, or if they do it’s still very elementary, but we are freestyling together, going to the studio to do songs. HipHop brings cultures together and this album is one of the best proofs.
Knightstalker: Well, we have producers from all over Europe on this project as well as guest verses in all types of languages; you got English and French bars of course but also German, Russian and Polish verses on there. And all that represents who we are and what we stand for. Add that to a lot of political raps and social commentary over diverse production and you’ve got the ‘Foreigners’ album.
Are there any new emcees that you like to listen to? Anyone you would love to work with?
Le First: I thank Knightstalker that sometimes he shows me new stuff from the States from time to time, because I’m not really into it any more.
A friend of mine showed me MHD from France, he‘s doin‘ “Afro-Trap”, I loved it and in Germany, I can only recommend you to listen to our friends MeSt One, Makaber, Damion Davis and Liquit Walker. I would love to work with Raf Camora, for me he‘s the best rapper here in Germany; French and German lyrics, doin’ all kind of styles, being really ambitious and musical. In France, I would love to work with Youssoupha and Method Man is still one of the best in the U.S.😉
Knightstalker: I don’t know if these guys can considered to be “new” emcees but I dig a couple guys that hold up the flag for New York city as it’s still my favorite town regarding HipHop music. I mean cats like Timeless Truth, Spit Gemz, Starvin B, Your Old Droog, Hus Kingpin ‘n the Winners crew. As for collaborations, I can honestly say that I already had the chance to do tracks with some of my favorite emcees like Meyhem Lauren, Maffew Ragazino and Reef The Lost Cauze for example but if I could make a wish for a collab it would involve two veterans: The GZA on a Godfather Don production. That would be sick.
As you can see the style of hip hop changing over the years. What is your hones opinion on the state of hip hop? Do you see it evolving?
Knightstalker: Well, right now a lot of people and especially HipHop purists be like “HipHop is dead”. And honestly, since I’m a 100% percent connoisseur of 90s HipHop music, no matter if it’s from the East, like NYC, Philly, Boston and them or from the West (Bay Area, L.A./Long Beach, Sacramento, San Diego) and the South (Houston, Memphis, New Orleans/Baton Rouge and Miami), I felt the same way for a short little moment…but then I realized that exactly all that change and diversity is what HipHop music is all about. it was just like that, straight from the beginnin’ in the late 70s, the early and late 80s, the whole 90s and everything right after: there’s been good rap shit and wack rap shit. And you always had to dig a little deeper to find the real gems, no matter past, present or future. That’s what I still love about our culture: it’s evolving, diversifying and growing all the time. With that said, I see a lot of really wack people droppin’ stuff but also a lot of dope music being released nowadays. It always depends on one’s very own perspective and how one judges the music. No matter what era or time frame you choose…it’s easy to keep it simple: there’s dope shit and there’s wack shit…and that ain’t changed…it’s been like that ever since…but in my personal opinion, I hope that real lyrics and lyricism keep on surviving…because that’s the essence of HipHop music! And I’m proud of our culture as a whole and even more proud to be a part of that special episode in mankind’s history!
I have spoken to many artists who feel that the fans overseas embrace fondly of the culture than in the States. In your opinion why do you feel that is the case?
Le First: And some German rappers will tell you that they see it the other way around.
At first, I think that in Germany, you have a totally different past, historically – and also HipHop wise. People from every culture and religion come together to break, spray, rap … to do HipHop together, what is the essence of HipHop to me. I had the impression that in the states due to the political and social problems concerning Black and Latino people it is not the same kind of community. In the states black people still get oppressed, there are still ghettos … this is not the case here in Germany. Even if some rappers won‘t tell it, but we don‘t have ghettos or racial segregation in Germany. Or at least by far not as much as in the States or in France.
What is next for you guys?
Le First: We will drop a mini-album by the end of 2016 / beginning 2017. I‘ll drop my solo next year, it‘s called “Dekaden” (Decades)
Knightstalker: Right before me and Le First will release that mini-album, I’ll drop a brand new single with some of my idols from back in the days, KC Da Rookee and Kinzmania (Pure G.O.D. Manifested & P.O.T.), part of one of the few groups (Kinzmen Clikk) rappin’ in English over here in the 90s . They dropped some stuff that was way ahead of their time and they’ve been a major inspiration ever since. And I’m also preparing the third volume of my ‘Kept In Perspective’ EP series with US-American producer Falling Down who produced for acts like Inspectah Deck, Killarmy, Buddha Monk, just to name a few.
Any shout outs?
Le First: To everybody who supports us! Thanks to everybody who worked with us on this album! And to the ignorant German HipHop media (and also to rap.de, although they been the only exception because they showed some love)😉
Knightstalker: A huge thank you to every single person that supports us and our music. We really appreciate the support. And to everybody that keeps ignoring our music for any given reason: you’re missing out on something mad fresh!
You can pre-order the Foreigners album, dropping September 12, on Bandcamp. In the meantime, check out the visuals to their “Le Produit De Berlin” remix featuring fellow lyricists Furious, Demskut, Yaswa, Vecz, Fonz, Rhobbin, MeStOne, Somis & Mischkonsum.
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