UPDATE: Controversial German rappers Kollegah and Farid Bang, alongside BMG label head Hartwig Masuch, face accusations of illegal hate speech in the wake of the controversy, which has led the German music association to scrape its Echo music awards.
The German music association is scrapping its top music honor, the Echo Awards, following a scandal involving one of this year’s Echo winners.
At the 2018 Echos two weeks ago, gangsta rappers Kollegah and Farid Bang won best rap album. But the duo came under fire for lyrics in which they compared themselves to Holocaust survivors, saying their muscles are “more defined than Auschwitz prisoners” and lines such as “I’m doing another Holocaust, coming with a Molotov.” They have since apologized, but have been dropped by their label, BMG.
In a further twist, German police on Wednesday said a formal report has been filed against both rappers, and BMG label head Hartwig Mausch, accusing them of violating Germany’s anti-hate speech laws.
The scandal rocked the Echos, with many previous winners, including classical musicians the Notos Quartet and acclaimed conductor Daniel Barenboim, returning their Echo awards in protest. The incident also sparked a public debate over rising anti-Semitism in modern Germany.
On Wednesday, the German music association, which awards the Echos, said it was canceling the prize, saying the honor has become perceived “as being a platform for anti-Semitism, misogyny, homophobia and the glorification of violence.” The image of Echo has been “so damaged that a complete new start” was necessary, the association said. Related honors, including the Echo Classic and Echo Jazz awards, will also be rebranded the group said.
The association will meet this summer to discuss how to re-brand and re-structure the German music award. The group said it would completely overhaul the procedure by which nominees and winners are selected. Up till now, record sales were the prime criteria for nominations. In any future incarnation of the award, the decisions of a professional jury will be given greater weight.