On 5 September, the day that German rapper OG Keemo released his new single 216, his Twitter timeline was headed by a retweet of one of his idols, American MC Earl Sweatshirt: “I guess this the part where white people call me racist for being pro black,” followed by the shrug emoji. A self-fulfilling prophecy, as it turned out.
For the next five days, in which Keemo’s song and its accompanying, brutal visuals sent ripples through the German rap scene, his notoriously funny Twitter feed kept quiet. Apparently, the track’s explicit imagery of everyday racism, black pride, self-hatred, and racial profiling left some feeling personally attacked.
“I wish I wasn’t the type of guy to read YouTube comments,” OG Keemo says, laughing. “People think because those themes don’t directly affect them, they simply don’t exist. I knew some people would get upset. But I never thought I would get called a full-blown racist for addressing their inherent racism.”
Since appearing on the scene in 2017, OG Keemo has been somewhat of an outlier in the current German rap landscape. The son of a Sudanese man who came to Germany in 1990, the 26-year-old is heralded as the future, mixing his thoughtful lyrics with street sensibilities. Growing up in the mid-90s between the southwestern cities of Mainz, Heidelberg and Mannheim (where he still resides today), Keemo was raised on a diet of Sade, Nelly, Coltrane and 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’.
Stylistically, he is an MC of the post-everything ilk who has mastered rap as a native language in itself; the kind that makes you wonder how people could have ever struggled to hold a beat or find clean, multi-syllabic rhymes for every curse word in the dictionary. His musical tastes and his rapping abilities are truly advanced.