Alligatoah: ‘Triebwerke (Engines)’ Album Review

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If you’re not spinning German rap every now and then, you should be. Your gateway drug: Alligatoah. Luke Strobel is the hip-hop artist behind Germany’s beloved Alligatoah, a project in which he plays two fictional battle-rap characters that have now morphed into one persona. Rest assured, he executes his chart-topping music with the same theatrical complexity, paving the way for a whole new kind of hip-hop as a self-described “Schauspielrapper” (drama rapper or acting rapper). As his nude, palette-clutching album art for Triebwerke would suggest, he is, in the truest sense of the word, an artist.

Alligatoah is a perfect foil of American hip-hop, and the album cover for Triebwerke makes that very clear. While American rappers pile on the gold and sneer at the camera, Alligatoah strips down and turns away from it, immersed in his paintings – a real-life passion in his real-life art studio. It is a refreshingly sensitive, genuine depiction of him, and one that seldom surfaces in the hardened decadence of American rap culture.

To quote the album itself, “Ich bin verliebt. Sieht man doch! (I’m in love. You can see it!)” There is so much to love on Triebwerke, and it’s easy to see how it shot to number one on the German charts. The melodies throughout are not only catchy, but thoughtful and elegant. At times, it hardly even sounds like a rap album. His stunning vocals further blur the genres.

Lest we forget the many surprises on 2012’s In Gottes Namen (“Mein Gott macht die Menschen selig / Mein Gott hat den längsten Penis (My God makes the people happy, my God has the longest penis)”), Alligatoah is known for his controversial lyrics and frenzied interjections. But as much as he loves the shock value, he’s all about the wit.

Wer Weiß (Who Knows),” a definite standout, includes some boasting you would hear from any rapper. But he does it in a way that is brilliantly subtle. With feeling, he raps “Suizid scheidet aus, denn Marktforscher wissen / Ihr würdet Alligatoah vermissen,” which roughly translates to “Suicide is ruled out, because market researchers know you would miss Alligatoah.” I mean, damn. I can’t kill myself because you would miss me too much. Does bragging get any better than that?