Berlin rapper Massiv, formerly known as Pit Bull, was born Wasiem Taha to Palestinian immigrant parents in the German town of Pirmasens in the Rhineland region near the French border. Fifteen years ago, the now 28-year-old moved with his family to Berlin to launch his career. Massiv's "Blut gegen Blut" (Blood for Blood) album, released in 2006, firmly established him as a powerful force on the German rap scene.
After being shot in January 2008 under mysterious circumstances on the street in Berlin's Neukölln neighborhood, home to a large number of immigrants, Massiv landed in the headlines again. Whatever the motive for the crime, Massiv's star continues to rise as one of the few gangster rappers Germany has to offer.
Today, Massiv appears to be evolving in a new direction. Instead of rapping about cocaine, prostitutes and knives, he rhymes about the difficulties faced by immigrants in Berlin.
On his latest album, he also takes on Thilo Sarrazin, the author of the controversial German bestseller, "Germany Does Itself In." Sarrazin claims, among other things, that immigrant communities have had a negative effect on the German economy and that their presence threatens the future fabric of German society as a whole. The book has inflamed debate about immigration, and been condemned as counterproductive to building any kind of harmony and integration.
A study conducted by Berlin's Humboldt University and released in mid-January, refutes a number of the damning statistics deployed by Sarrazin. And now Massiv is lining up to challenge the politician's controversial views, rapping about the realities of immigrant life and how the ongoing negative criticism makes immigrants feel alienated and dispirited. With lyrics like, "Listen up, Thilo, we're not so different," Sarrazin wants to knock down the walls of prejudice.
In a brief interview with SPIEGEL, Massiv discusses his new album and his criticism of the integration debate currently raging in Germany.
SPIEGEL: Massiv, you're a Palestinian Muslim and you live in Wedding, one of Berlin's problem areas. In your song "Ghettolied 2011" (Ghetto song 2011) you attack Thilo Sarrazin and suggest that the integration debate is hypocrisy -- why is that?
Massiv: Sarrazin based his theory about foreigners being reluctant to integrate on distorted statistics. It is logical that 90 out of 100 crimes in Neukölln are committed by foreigners because 90 per cent of people living in this area are foreigners. If you looked at Marzahn (of Berlin), which is also a tough area, you would conclude that it is the Germans who are screwing things up there.
SPIEGEL: You rap "listen up Thilo, we're not completely different, not everyone who wears a headscarf has allowed herself to be muzzled." What are you saying to Sarrazin here?
Massiv: That a woman who walks through Wedding (a Berlin neighborhood that is home to a large Turkish population) wearing her headscarf is not making a statement about whether or not she is willing to integrate. Sarrazin only knows about this world on paper, he has likely never been to Wedding and doesn't know these people. This level of ignorance is deplorable because Germany is really one of the freest countries in the world.
SPIEGEL: You burn a photo of Sarrazin in the video for the song -- are you not taking things too far with such a personal attack?
Massiv: It's a music video that plays with effects to shake people up. And it is Sarrazin who is pointing his finger at people who live in the most difficult circumstances in the toughest areas of Germany. That's the lowest kind of behavior and I think it is racist. His image of the enemy is that of a foreign fruit and vegetable seller -- he forgets that it is not just Ali who buys this man's goods, it is Sven and Petra too.
SPIEGEL: Is Sarrazin actually talked about on the street corners of Wedding or Neukölln?
Massiv: There is no one in Neukölln who doesn't know this guy. But he has managed to build a wall. He wants us to start again from scratch with integration, because supposedly we are failures. That is disheartening.
SPIEGEL: But are you not a failure then? It seems you were in prison already for drug dealing?
Massiv: That's true. But let me tell you something: My parents came to Germany from a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon over 30 years ago. My father had a job from the day he arrived and wasn't sick one day in 27 years. Eventually, the mayor formally granted us German citizenship. So it is insulting that Sarrazin labels us all lazy Muslims.
Interview conducted by Philipp Oehmke
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