Witnessing Black Outside the USA
Most Black people know Black people — Afro-Americans that is. I’m a bit different.
I remember my first time meeting a member of African Diaspora outside of the United States. I was in Heidelberg Germany when I met this one black, non-American fellow. He was a light skinned, Afro-German man, light enough to have brownish hair. I was an American Soldier stationed overseas, and he, like me, was also a Soldier; a German one. I was wearing 90’s era U.S. Army greens. He? German flecktarn. It wasn’t exactly a staring contest, but it seemed like we looked at each other forever. Maybe it was like looking into a mirror for us. Looking into a mirror, seeing your reflection, but your reflection comes from another dimension, another world. It’s you and not you at the same time. Despite the fact that we look nothing alike, we looked at each other with the familiarity of a person staring at their own reflection.
What do you see when you see me, brother? What do I see when I see you, brother?
The essence of our shared African Diaspora experience was, to say the least, fascinating. The soul behind his eyes seemed far more youthful than mine, despite the fact that we were the same age. Interpreting it all know, I’d say that his eyes seemed youthful because his Afro-Diasporic culture in Germany was just as youthful in comparison to ours (USA). No matter how many Afro-German, Afro-French or any other Afro-European people I met, their eyes always had the same look in them. Like, we were the defiant ones. We are the originals. We are the ones who originated this form of expression everyone is seeking to emulate.
You see, most Americans have little knowledge of Germany. Most Americans can only think of Nazism when it comes to this large European nation. A person like myself know and understand what type of hip-hop hub Germany is to Europe. Germany, after all, has a robust history of African Diaspora.
When I was first in Germany I was 19 years old, and one of the things that always got me was how influential hip-hop was around the world. How people around the world hear us, see us, and then interpret their world through our language is a thing to marvel at. One of the things that I always found a bit baffling was the notion that these people — thousands, millions — find the means to literally groove to music that is not of their language.
A Good Day for Hip-Hop
I remember (still at 19 years of age) this one ethnically (read: white) German girl asked me, “what is a scrub?” after listening to and chanting TLC’s song No Scrubs. I, perhaps as the arrogant American at the time, thought it was cheesy how such a corny young German woman was grooving to music that she did not understand. She after all, did fit the description of a scrub, thus adding a biting irony to an already strange observation.
After listening to (and equally important, seeing) Ace Tee’s Bist du Down’s video, I figure that today I am made the foreign-observing scrub. And it feels good.
When I first heard this German Hip-Hop/R&B group, a sensation of warmth passed through my spirit. This sensation is magnified by the fact that these people are our brothers and sisters from afar, trying to figure out the world, find their way.
The fact that they NAILED the chill-mode, 1990’s vibe of let’s say… TLC… was a crowning moment of heartwarming.
It’s amazing listening to this group groove it out. Out of all the foreign Hip-Hop I’ve listened to, it was Ace Tee who finally shown me what it feels like to be on the outside looking in. I thought I would have never known what it’s like to be a foreigner genuinely feeling music I do not understand. While as a lyricist I will not ever say the words don’t matter, I will say that I feel these performers, transcending language barriers. I can only wish them total success worldwide.