On September 5, the day German rapper OG Keemo released his new single 216, his Twitter timeline was headlined by a retweet from one of his idols, American MC Earl Sweatshirt: “I guess this is the part. where white people call me a racist for being pro black,” followed by the shrug emoji. A self-fulfilling prophecy, as it turned out.
For the next five days, as Keemo’s song and its accompanying brutal imagery sent ripples through the German rap scene, his notoriously funny Twitter account remained silent. The track’s explicit imagery of everyday racism, black pride, self-hatred, and racial profiling apparently made some feel personally attacked.
“I wish I wasn’t the type of person who reads YouTube comments,” says OG Keemo, laughing. “People think that because these issues don’t affect them directly, they just don’t exist. I knew some people would be upset. But I never thought I would be called a full-blown racist for addressing their inherent racism.”
Since bursting onto the scene in 2017, OG Keemo has been something of an outlier in today’s German rap scene. The son of a Sudanese who came to Germany in 1990, the 26-year-old is heralded as the future, mixing his thoughtful lyrics with streetwise 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’s a post-everything first MC who has mastered rap as a native language in its own right; the kind that makes you wonder how people could have had trouble keeping up or finding clear multi-syllable rhymes for every bad word in the dictionary. His musical taste and his rapping skills are really advanced.