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!

By: Staff / Interviews / August 8, 2014 / 22003 Views / Photographer: Delia Baum
 
  • Robocop

    LOL Who gives a fuck about this wanna be Wolf Gang Kid?

  • Guest1613

    Cro ist scheiße

  • petar_sucksondick

    Really Hypetrak?...REALLY!!

  • Lance

    whole germany to be honest

  • Nicolaj

    there are so many talented musicians in germany and you pick him....

  • Robocop

    The Fuck? Heard of his new album only through this article. I guess you meant only teenagers, because I haven't heard of him in a long time. Helene Fischer is the shit right now (though I don't like her too).

  • beflygelt

    Lol I am german and I don't give any fucks about Cro or any other german artist anymore...
    Cro made a really nice Mixtape called EASY, he took some beats from American Rappers though.
    Easy and Casper's albums are the only relevant german raptapes.

    To be honest Lance, most of the germans don't give a fuck so stfu shittalker

  • beflygelt

    Cro copies Odd Future's cloth style, but musically they have nothing to do with each other

  • muhammadalias

    Unnecessary hatrid. People have different opinions. That's how life is. But i know that there is an history of violence in Germany. Maybe that's what is coming out.

  • Eman

    CRO is young and talented, you cant deny that. Actually it might be good for CRO to just stay in Europe. No need to borther to think what should i say in English

  • H / // I F

    Good for him.
    But people in Germany should pay more attention to Marteria. German taste of music is really "für'n Arsch".

  • kanye west

    This is what you call a rapper? come on hypetrak at least pick someone who raps or is black, none of this pop c-rap

  • Moist

    I'm from Sweden and I absolutely Love this guys music, even though I have to translate the lyrics so I can understand them. I think all of the songs on the new album are awsome, they have that cleverness, melody and the lyrics are amazing. And I think it is really sad that not so many people outside Germany never even have heard of Cro and that there are many that thinks that the songs are not as good in German as it could have been in English. But if Cro ever start rapping in English I'm sure it will be great, even though I personally think that would be a step in the wrong direction.

  • UnName NoLastname

    Hello! It's a pleasure see that CRO noticed brazilians fans! Me and my brother always listen your songs here in BRAZIL. Even if we don't understand the lyrics, we like to dance and to absorve the music you do! Hypetrak could you all send that comment to him? hehe We are glad for the article!

  • MariMüller

    A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE. Oh my god I know you did not just say that do you know how insensitive that is

  • muhammadalias

    It might be sensitive but still... it happened. But i don't think you got my point.

  • Jesoy

    I'm German. Cro is probably the most hyped artist in German history. His newest single "Traum" had the best first week sales for a non-castingshow song. His newest album had the highest/second highest (there's a dispute about that) first week sales ever. I admit that his biggest group of followers are teenage girls. But he is the only German artist that frequently tops the single charts with his songs. And those songs are usually "radiofriendly" (don't know if I can use this word in English). Yes, Helene Fischer is popular as well. Yes, Germany goes crazy about her at the moment. But sorry she will most likely be kind of a one hit wonder. "Atemlos" is her only mainstream success so far. And she can't really release a follow-up since it's one of the most successful songs ever released in Germany (similar to "Einen Stern" by DJ Ötzi). She will definitely stay relevant for a long time in the "Schlager" genre but I personally just don't see her in mainsteam in the future. I could be wrong though, we'll see when she releases her next album.

    Germanys other mainstream diamond at the moment is the remix producer Robin Schulz. Both of his releases topped the charts in multiple countries all over the world. He is by far not as hyped as Cro, Kollegah or Helene Fischer but he has the biggest potential on the international market if he continues to make songs on the level of "Waves" and "Prayer in C".

    TL DR. Cro has the biggest fanbase of all German mainstream artists. Helene Fischer has a small mainstream fanbase, everyone only cares about that one song.

  • http://www.dev-metal.com/ Chris

    Everybody with open-mindness in music. This might be new for you, but there's other countries on earth than the US, and most of them have massive music scenes.

  • http://www.dev-metal.com/ Chris

    What? Germany has been the center of electronic music since the 80ies. Berlin is currently the center of techno. And Marteria already became a superstar years ago.

  • Stacia

    Actually there is a Newcomer who is called Errdeka in Germany. He will release his debut album in October. It will be called "Paradies". He has already a huge fanbase, so I highly recommend to take a listen to the songs he has already uploaded on soundcloud. It´s truly amazing.

  • dr1vebuy

    "Any collaborations with American artists in the making?
    No, not at this moment."

    Well, to bad. It could sound a lil bit just like this:
    https://soundcloud.com/djfliegenmann/i-know-u-drop-it-like-its-hot-snoop-dogg-feat-cro-mashup

    ;)

  • WuTangIsForever

    Lol "who is black" ????
    stupid humanity

    But your right , he is not a rap Artist in my eyes.... its raop !
    Listen to Afrob, Megaloh or Amewu if u wanna see some german black rap artists ...

  • WuTangIsForever

    The only thing you probably know is the "Mainstream taste", and yea thats "fürn Arsch".
    But Marteria is really big in Ger.....
    Dont jugde without knowledge :)

  • http://www.dev-metal.com/ Chris

    That moment, when 14 year old children on the internet tell you - after 15 years of music journalism - that you know nothing. Oh oh... Never judge without knowledge!

  • swagonmyass
  • ks

    Pretty spot on regarding Cro but Helene Fischer is far from being a one hit wonder. She's been around since 2006 with all her albums always going multiple gold/platinum.

    Check her regular album sales on http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helene_Fischer#Diskografie and her 2010 'Best Of' with more than 1,4 million sales: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liste_der_meistverkauften_Musikalben_in_Deutschland - so no, she's not new to mainstream and her fan base is much larger than Cro's.

    No doubt "Atemlos" is her biggest single ever though.

  • zwerg1511

    I'm german and what you said is just so disrespectful! It's the PAST !!!! get the over it, okay? People like you make me 'ella mad ...

  • insanityshit

    even my mom likes to listen to his songs

  • maike

    Marteria is going to play a tour in the biggest music halls of Germany this year. That's why I believe he gets a lot of attention, there are more underrated hiphop artists in Germany...

  • muhammadalias

    My intention is not to disrespect nobody. History is there to remember and learn. What happened happened. Im not saying Its your fault. Its like talking body fat to my wife here. Damn.

  • tingeoftheginge

    Welcome to the internet. I don't think anyone would hardly mention "the past", if there weren't Germans like you out there that get so easily offended... kinda funny how people just sap over nothing. You should never go on 4chan or reddit... like ever, though.

  • M

    The most insensitive comment ever. STFU. Seriously. The two phenomena got nothing to do with each other.

  • felix bonhoff

    Whats wrong with you guys?Germany is not going crazy about helene fischer, its kinda like music to make fun of or enjoying wasted at the end of parties, but cro is doing sick music not my favorite german rapper but definetly not a OFWGKTA copy or anything, if you havent heard about them its your fault, at least 80% of europe as far as i know doesnt know Odd Future and yeah i was in international groups over years, so why should someone hate without knowing anything???

  • H / // I F

    I meant "international" attention. Right now Marteria is the only German hip hop artist who knows how to structure an album that's on an high international level, to perform an incredible tour around germany and to film one of the best and most creative music videos in the last 3-4 years. He also really does a good job on targeting 2 different audiences as 2 different identities as well as mixing up those 2 different audiences. Marteria "reißt sich seinen Arsch auf" cause he just travels around the world just for promoting his current album.

    Cro's "Easy" is really awesome! But after that his music just went downhill. Only "Yolo" children listen to Cro. His success even reaches Hypetrak.

  • H / // I F

    Go listen to Alle Farben, Klangkarussel, Klingande, Milky Chance, Paul Kalkbrenner (don't forget about his brother Fritz) and all those boring ass guitar/saxophone beats.

  • Ruben

    Heil Carlo Waibel

  • http://www.dev-metal.com/ Chris

    :) You have no idea. I'll never understand people like you who obviously don't even know what vinyl and their weird, off-this-world judgements. Dude, read yourself into the "Dunning-Kruger-Effect" and change your stupid life.

  • mk

    Hey, everyone! 95% of those who post their comments here seem to be Germanpeople. :)
    BTW did you forget NENA??? She is not only a legend but also now still rocking (popping?) with her good music & Germantexts. This year NENA&Co. are touring in whole Germany, as you know.
    I like some German Pops&Rockmusics, especially written in simple good German. Long ago I had found a CD that has highly sophisticated German lyrics with English translations and I had bought it, that rocked me very. It was a good idea.
    In RAPmusic the melody comes first, the text comes later, I think. It is maybe possible, that German sings RAP in Germanlanguage in the world and people from the world listen to and like it. CRO, go on!!!!!!! :)

  • kanye west

    its called a cliche mate do you not get it? it was a slight jpoke i suppose you're not intelligent enough to get it. There was one black dutch rapper called blaxtar or something i can't remember his name but he's awesome and if anyone knows please comment here i've been trying to find him for ages

  • Melle

    ... and if i look in the comments it is how cro said in his interview...

    "...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....“..."

    it is sad that the germans can't grant anything to anyone ....

  • HSSL

    Germany has the corniest music culture on the planet.

  • Heitor da Silva

    Yeah! I got amazed after reading that. I discovered Cro and its music almost two years ago when I went to Germany after having been invited by my German friends. The first song they showed to me was Einmal um die Welt ; it was crazy to see them singing that song. Actually it didn't cause a great impact on me but then I decided to listen the whole album and I saw it was just great. I think that Cro couldn't have given a better album for his fans than Melodie. That would be great seeing him perfoming in Brazil someday. It doesn't hurt to keep hope alive :D Cheers guys!

  • K E R M I T

    It's hard not to notice Brazil fans when all of you put "BRAZIL <3" into every post from an artist you enjoy.

  • Vu Trang

    So you forget Zedd if say about international market.

  • Thompson

    i passed A-level german thanks to this bloke. quality music!