A Conversation with Cro, Germany’s Most Successful Rap Artist
You might not even know it, but Germany is one of the biggest and most influential music markets around. One of its biggest players is 24-year-old Carlo Waibel, better known as Cro, from Stuttgart, the home of Mercedes and Porsche. However, don't get it twisted. His music is not about Beamer, Benzes or Bentleys, but rather a fusion of hip-hop and melodious pop elements, called "raop," a term he coined and named his debut album after. This light-hearted sonic approach made him Germany's most commercially successful rapper in recent years. The hype has been initiated by his music video-turned-viral phenomenon "Easy" with over 40 million views on YouTube by now. Besides his catchy music, he's also notorious for hiding behind a panda mask, which has created a fascinating mystery surrounding his musical persona.
In order to grasp his full impact on the German and European music industry, we've prepped just some stats from the aforementioned debut album, Raop. Published in 2012 via the independent label Chimperator, the long-player stayed at the top of the charts for five weeks, reaching double platinum status and garnering critical acclaim like the Echo, Germany's most important music award. His chart-topping sophomore album, Melodie, has further cemented his status as one of his country's biggest recording artists. We caught up with Cro and spoke to him about the trans-atlantic exposure of his music, and more.
What was your first reaction to Germany winning the World Cup?
Right after the match (Germany vs. Argentina), we played on the main stage of one of Europe’s biggest festivals, called 'Splash Festival.' So for me the game was a real hell ride. First, because I wanted our team to win but second, I didn’t want to play right in front of a crowd which just lost the World Cup. So when Götze scored the goal, I really flipped and jumped around like crazy.
You just released your second album Melodie after the immensely successful Raop album. What was the biggest change this time around?
Actually there weren't a lot of changes necessary. I went back to my mother's home and recorded the album in the basement -- just the same way I worked on my previous album. Naturally, due to the great success of Raop, I felt a little bit scared in the beginning. But the further the recording process went, the less I thought about it, and the better it all went. My personal expectation was to make exact the same album I wanted to, and an album that I can listen to. I'm happy to say that I succeeded in both.
How do the international markets, especially the North American one, receive you? How important is it for you that kind of exposure?
We are currently getting a lot of feedback from all over the world. We have people from all different countries -- like Poland, the Czech Republic, Brazil, and more -- that frequent my social media pages. There are also fans in France, in the UK and the States. It's really a great feeling. However, as long as I make music in German, it will hard for me to take a solid step into the international market. Time will tell the rest.
How would you describe the German music scene to an American?
About approximately five years ago, the German music scene seemed like a delayed mirror reflection from the States. What happened there, happened here one year later. In the meantime, the music scene has now emancipated itself. We have artists that bring their very own ways and styles of music to the table. I highly recommend acts like Haftbefehl or Tua. They both do completely different stuff but in respectively unique ways. A lot of different scenes have developed as well. You can now find anything ranging from „street rap“ to electronic-inspired stuff to Raop, which is how I call my music style. All these different facets now exist side by side in Germany, which is great. On the other hand, the German scene can be a real dickhead. If you are too successful, they will hate you. There's always something to discuss about the exact definition of rap. There's even talk about how tight a jeans is expected to be, and so on. However, it's a good time to be in Germany right now. A lot of exciting things are happening right now.
Besides the language, what is the biggest obstacle for German artists to break into the U.S. market?
The facts that you are not physically there and you don't know the market. It makes it extremely difficult if you want to break that kind of market. The U.S. is a fucking huge country compared to Germany. Actually we don't know a lot about how your market works. So besides the language –- which is the main reason -- you will also have a good time over there. A team that understands the dynamics and laws of the American music market. People that work for you and know what they are doing.
Where do you see the weaknesses and strengths of the German music scene?
The aforementioned „Gemecker“ (English: criticism). I was searching the English term for it on Google, and it supposedly means „to baa." Germans generally tend to criticize and always find something they can dislike. Instead of saying „yeah, this album is the bomb,“ the prefer to say, „mhm, well, i liked it BUT....“ Regarding our current big strength, I'd say it's good to see a lot of artists from different scenes working together, which means a lot of creative walls are breaking down. Additionally, the indie acts are getting stronger and stronger. It's not necessary being backed up by a major label in order to reach the top of the charts.
Any collaborations with American artists in the making?
No, not at this moment.
How do you deal with criticism?
I don't care. Obviously not everyone can or will like my music. The most important thing is that I like what I do.
How does your life outside of music look like?
Since my second album just dropped, my life is all about music right now. I'm doing a lot of videos, interviews, concerts, etc. at the moment. Fortunately, I'm wearing my mask. When I take it off, I'm just a regular guy, nobody knows me. I hang out with my boys, talk with my mum, and chill at the lake.
What is the status of your fashion label VioVio?
It’s growing and it’s been developing nicely. We ́re going on a little backyard selling-tour through Germany's biggest cities this summer. Check out our website for more infos.
Any word to our readers?
Hi there, thanks for taking your time and reading and nice to „meet“ you. Hope my English wasn’t too bad. Till the next time!