Dark Circle Interview (by Chris Byrne)
Dark Circle were formed in 1994 by Anik and Hoycke while at school together in Hamburg, Germany.The group are based in Hamburg and London and consist of Anik and Hoycke (vocals), Pats and Son (production) and DJ Hysteria. Anik has collaborated with Defisis, Looptroop, and Natty and Dwella. Mystro and Skinnyman also both feature on their recent LP. UK Hip Hop seems to be linking with Germany (Joni Rewind etc) and vice-versa but nowhere else in Europe. I caught up with Dark Circle in the interest of Anglo-German relations.
Are you unique as a group having two bilingual rappers?
DC: No, not really. You get a whole load of European rappers who speak English as well as they speak their own native language, and who even rap in English better than a lot of native English speakers can, but we are probably one of the only groups who makes full and equal use of two languages simultaneously, especially Luga who will flip back and forth in the same sentence- we don’t even notice any more. Some guys will drop the occasional Spanish or French word or so on, but I don’t think many take it as far as we do.
Tell me about the difference between the German and UK hiphop scenes.
DC: The German scene is supported by a huge industry. It has definitely become very mainstream, with a lot of money being put in and a lot of money being made. The music is huge, breaking is huge, graffiti is huge – you get TV channels showing mostly German hiphop videos and it’s always on mainstream radio … but with the commercial success comes the commercial sound, the flocks of kids dressed straight out of a magazine, and very little originality. When we got into it, to be into hip hop was to be part of a minority group, you’d be an outsider, whereas now a hiphop kid in Germany is just following the mass, so it takes a different mentality. In comparison, the scene over here is still very underground- no-one starts making hiphop music ‘cos they wanna get rich, they’re doing it purely for the love, and the result is a very individual sound and a closer-knit community. Of course it’s good to be able to make a decent living doing what you love, but it does have its consequences.
Are you all based in London?
DC: Nein, Luga und Grey, die beiden MCs, und Pats der eine producer wohnen im moment in London. Son, der andere producer und unser DJ Hysteria wohnen in Hamburg, im Norden von Deutschland. Vielleicht ziehen sie aber auch nach London, mal sehn.
Why isn’t any foreign language rap making it big in English-speaking countries?
DC: Certain French groups like NTM, IAM, Saian Super Crew, and TTC are doing pretty well over here, but I guess the market is already saturated – people will usually choose something they understand over something they don’t, and the English aren’t really famous for speaking other languages and the Americans even less. Hiphop music is obviously very language based, so it’s understandable that if you don’t understand the lyrics, you’re not gonna buy the record. That’s the reason the scenes in France and Germany are doing so well, ‘cos they can understand it better than the American equivalent, whereas we here in England have the American market to contend with because it is accessible to us.
Who are the big UK rappers on the German scene?
DC: Schwierig, es gibt keine UK rapper die wirklich gross sind. leute kennen Roots Manuva und Blak Twang, und haben bestimmt auch schon mal von Ty, Rodney P und Est’elle gehoert, doch die mehrheit ist mit Deutschem und Amerikanischem hip hop beschaeftigt. Frueher hatte der ‘Britcore’ sound viele fans in Deutschland, gruppen wie Gunshot, Silver Bullet, Hardnoise and Killa Instinct sold loads out there even though not many people in England knew of them. There’s even a cat called KC Da Rookie from Berlin who says he’s from Notts but raps in American. He was pretty big two years ago.
Is French rap popular in Germany and vice-versa?
DC: Yeah but it’s not huge. Probably more French rap in Germany because it’s more established, and has reached a higher level of quality- the people who are into their music will know the bigger groups, but the majority of kids won’t really look out for it.
Anything you’d like to add?
DC: Yeah man, buy our LP “Civilians” on Jazz Fudge records, and check www.dark-circle.com for new shit coming very soon! DJ Hysteria’s killer mixtape “Magic Theatre” also available at www.suspect-packages.com for all progressive listeners. It’s all about Europe. Big up yourselves. Peace.
Thanks to Chris Byrne for the hookup.