Die Fantastischen Vier
Pioneers of German Hip Hop
Die Fantastischen Vier, or Fanta4 for short, were formed in 1989 in Stuttgart
They knew each other from childhood and came into contact with hiphop through the
GI discos around the American military bases. At first they tried to imitate idols like Kurtis Blow
and Grandmaster Flash
. But soon they wanted to go their own way, and began writing German lyrics.
They found themselves a record deal and released their first single "Hausmeister Thomas D." in 1991,
followed by the album "Jetzt geht's ab
". This was their early phase, with easy beats
and sometimes goofy lyrics, however their growing popularity already earned them criticism
from the underground for their pop style approach.
The big breakthrough came in autumn 1992 with the release of the album "Vier gewinnt" and the
single "Die Da", which shot right into the top ten and made them teenie stars, with
appearances in girlie magazines and tv shows and all. Of course, the accusations of being
a sellout got only worse, and escalated into a little feud especially with the
wannabe gangsta rapper Moses P. from Frankfurt Rödelheim. But all the flashy publicity was
soon too much, and the next album "Die vierte Dimension" is a metamorphosis
with a more psychedelic sound and thoughful lyrics. In parallel, they started their first side project as
Megavier - "a crossover trip into the land of stagediving and rock guitars".
This experience prompted Fanta4 to upgrade their own instrumentation, and so they
invited disjam to tour with them in 1995. The cooperation proved very successful and
disjam accompanied the band for all live appearences for the next years. The release
of "Lauschgift" - a nice wordplay on Lauschen (to listen) and Rauschgift (drugs) - marked an apex for the band with its excellent songwriting. They spent the next
year touring, but the question was, where to now? Their manager Andreas Läsker
encouraged them to found their own label, and so in 1996 they founded four music to
give themselves and others a base for new development.
The next years saw the band members follow their own plans - Smudo moved to Hamburg,
Thomas D. started driving around in a mobile home, Andy Y. built his own "studio ypsilon", and
Hausmarke concentrated on his djing. They released "live&direkt", a collection of their
work so far. Thomas D. and Hausmarke also recorded solo albums called "solo" respectively "weltweit".
In 1998 the band celebrated their 10 year stage anniversary and started work on a new album, which was
called "4:99" and released in spring 1999. Filmmaker Dieter Zimmermann accompanied the following
tour and created the documentary "Was geht" about the band.
In the year 2000, Fanta4 decided to play a special MTV unplugged concert. In a dripstone cave,
with their repertoire rearranged for a big orchestra. The cd release earned them platinum and is
in my opinion an absolute highlight. The development of the band continued: Hausmarke is also active as one half of the successful turntablerockers, Thomas D. bought himself a farm, recorded another solo album called "Lektionen in Demut" and started a punk rock band called Son Goku. A sixth F4 studio album is due to be released soon, the new single "Troy" is already a hit.
So to wrap this up, it is hardly possible to give an impression of the importance of Fanta4.
They were the pioneers of German hip hop (though they like to call it "Deutscher Sprechgesang"), they always went their own ways, they were hugely successful in doing so, and they continue to make fantastic music. Their songs I will never forget, and I guess nobody from my generation will. Do yourself a favor and listen to some of the following tracks:
- Sie ist weg
- Neues Land
- Der Picknicker
- Tag am Meer (especially the unplugged version, one of my favorite tracks ever!)