Who is Blokkmonsta? Blokkmonsta is a rapper who can release a 15-CD limited edition “Anthologie” and sell it out easily. Blokkmonsta has been involved in ditties such as “Schreie aus dem Keller” (‘Screams From the Basement’), “Tränen aus Säure” (‘Acid Tears’), “Bringt den Hurensohn Um” (‘Kill the Son of a B–h’), “Flüsse aus Blut” (‘Streams of Blood’), “Wo Waren Sie Letzte Nacht” (‘Where Were You Last Night’) and, particularly pertinent, “Scheiss auf Hip oder Hop (Ich Bring Hass auf die Szene)” (‘Screw Hip or Hop (I’m Bringing Hate Upon the Scene)’). His records have regularly been indexed by Germany’s Federal Review Board for Media Harmful to Minors (and are therefore not allowed to be made available to under-age persons). His premises were raided by special police forces who confiscated a number of CDs. He’s been convicted of threatening to kill policemen and a member of parliament in specific songs. Oh and he can whip up a “Best of American Features” just like that.
Blokkmonsta is an underground rap artist from Berlin with a sizeable following and a commendable work ethic. He’s one of many Europeans attracted to special interest rap music, ultimately not that much different from a Yung Lean, just with an earlier point of departure – his career officially kicked off in 2005, the style points as far back as 1995. These ‘American features’ are the gangster/splatter rap equivalent of overseas MC’s and producers who enlist the usual suspects from the East Coast. It’s a tribute, a validation and a marketing move all in one. What separates “Best of American Features” from the many, many releases in the Hirntot (‘Braindead’) Records catalog is that it explicitly turns to an international audience. There’s a blurb available in English that describes Blokkmonsta as an ‘international player with a warrant’, an artist that ‘is much more than a skimask and hard rhymes’ and a rapper that ‘has touched down with the best of them’ – from ‘legends like Ice-T, Tim Dog or King T to underground heavyweights like SpaceGhostPurrp or T-Rock’.
It’s to the point where originally German song titles are anglicized just for this release, so that “Das Gift” becomes “Poison”, “Frag Nach Uns” “Ask About Me”, “Wir Sind die 3” “We Dem Killaz”, and so forth. Keeping in mind that the underlying idea of Blokk and Hirntot was and is to interpret the rap prototypes originating in the old country, what sets Blokkmonsta apart from his American idols (save for the big names) is that he’s better connected with his fanbase, has a more consistent career and better working conditions. His output is as extensive as it is detailed. Even so, he’s a technically limited rapper who compensates for his shortcomings with a put-on psycho/slasher delivery that never quite creates a real illusion. It’s easy to conclude that the permanently worn balaclava isn’t just an accessory worn for dramatic effect, it also helps mask certain deficits.
Still it’s Blokkmonsta who brings us “Best of American Features”, not a hip-hop hall of famer or a chart-topping rap celebrity. This compilation can be seen as part of an ongoing labor of love, and there’s something refreshingly straightforward in considering rappers that do not regularly tour the world as peers and offer them opportunities outside of their habitat. More than one-time collaborators include Memphis artists Mr. Sche (who also worked with Kool Keith) and C-9 (who passed away in 2014). Blokkmonsta’s undertakings generally bank on synergy. Several songs here are off albums by his labelmates Schwartz and Rako (co-defendants in the aforementioned criminal investigations). “Mortal Velocity” (2011) for instance sees Schwartz racing C-9 just barely below breakneck speed.
Spanning six years, the features touch down in all areas that matter to the South Berlin representative. They also cover different eras, ranging from Bay Area veteran Celly Cel to one of the biggest stars of the crunk era, Pastor Troy. The largest contingent comes from Memphis, with Kingpin Skinny Pimp being the most famous name, while Hirntot’s self-description as hailing ‘from the farthest reaches of the underground’ even more so applies to Memphian Z-Dogg. As a member of groups Bloods & Crips and Damu Ridas, redruM 781 was among the ‘authentic’ Los Angeles gang members who found their way into the rap game through the “Bangin’ on Wax” project. Houston is represented by 5th Ward Boyz member E-Rock. The notorious Tim Dog was once crazy enough to pick a fight with the aforementioned LA gangs. King T long ago established himself as Compton rap royalty. And Ice-T is as big a name as any in rap history.
The Ice-T feature is also the biggest dissappointment of Blokk’s party guests. “Double OG (Remix)” suffers from a completely forgettable performance by the O.G. that sounds like it was recorded during an absent-minded lift between hotel and airport. The remix is an acceptable approach of Ice’s “VI: Return of the Real” album but the guest star’s vocals remain pitiful. Celly Cel was his usual confident self on 2009’s “1-Mann-Armee”, yet the 2013 version “1-Man-Army (Untouchable)” marks an interesting aspect of Blokkmonsta’s career since he went back and overhauled his own verses. Both his delivery and rhymes have improved significantly since the late 00s.
From his initial guttural death (metal) growl to a more refined performance, in general he sticks to his guns. He maintains his bark as he steers through the shiny synths of “We the Crunkest” with Pastor Troy riding shotgun. “We Dem Killaz” (with Rako and II Tone) and “No Compromise” (with Smoky and redruM 781) both fit the historical Gulf Coast and West Coast templates. While some lyrics read like a script to a crude shooter game, there’s variation. While Las Vegas group Doomsday Productions is mainly responsible for the storytelling in “Conspiracy 4 Murda” (“Verschwörung zum Mord”, 2010), Blokk and Rako take a cinematic approach in “Heavy Rain” as if they wanted to recreate a John Woo film scene. On “Guerilla Commando (Untouchable)” he marches lock-step with Three 6 Mafia affiliate Kingpin Skinny Pimp as they both take on respective imitators. On a song that successfully brings gothic and western together, Raider Klan members SpaceghostPurrp and Yung Simmie look decidely harmless next to the disguised Monsta in the video to “Blokk Raiders”. Evidence of the artist’s ultimate efficiency in terms of the menacing aura he cultivates.
Again the earlier songs tend to be more artless. “Stupid Bitch” tries to make certain women look stupid for the decisions they make but only shows the Hirntot Posse’s fateful bondage to American formats. This is knuckle-dragging, crotch-grabbing macho rap unsuccessfully trying to look intelligent. “187 Zone” (featuring the collection’s only female rapper) describes an anarchic society across a b-movie scenery, led by an American guest, redruM 781, who probably wasn’t informed about the concept in detail. No song shows the extent to which Blokkmonsta is stuck in a perpetual male coming-of-age cycle like “Murder 4 Hire”, where Blokk and Sacramento’s C-Bo play hitmen who take on job offers in the other’s country. This is gangsta rap in its most contrived form (down to the later ’90s West Coast track), you won’t even blink when the German refers to the American as “Crip-Nigga”. Forward a few years and things sounds instantly tighter. If transatlantic collaborations are like Rako and T-Rock’s furious “Rap Taliban” (2014), I want definitely more of it. When it veers off into ‘Eurorap’ territory (a ’90s pop rap variation of Eurodance) such as in the case of the 2013 “Heavy Rain (Remix)”, I have to say Blokkmonsta is old enough to know better.
Insisting on a niche of his own he calls ‘psychokore’, Blokkmonsta lies squarely in the tradition of art that entertains through shock. When courts claim that his music could serve as an inspiration to spree killers, particularly adolescents who may be incited by depictions of excessive violence, his fans would likely laugh at such misjudgement. While many find humor in art that is seemingly humorless and can discern between fantasy and reality, authorities tend to overreact with scare tactics of their own. Blokkmonsta certainly teaches rather dubious values. He’s someone who more or less carelessly tests society’s limits of free speech. He’s also an easy punching bag for hip-hop elitists. He won’t make Anglophones and Francophones forget their prejudices about the German language either. But he’s a fictional character. Blokkmonsta does hardcore rap, the extra hard version, but also in varied ways “Best of American Features” can only partially convey. He’s vaguely guided by 1990s ‘true to the game’ ethics and commands considerable underground respect. Being a Berliner, Blokk still uses true school terms like “toy” (in the chorus of “We the Crunkest”) and he stepped up his game in nearly all regards.
If this review has bothered you in any way, I frankly met my objective. Perhaps like Blokkmonsta himself, who addresses both a segment of the audience he knows he can intimidate or annoy, and one segment he knows will be entertained, I was hoping to reach both sides, those who will be pleased to learn of Blokk’s existence or coverage on RapReviews.com, and those who will not be so pleased.