Joshua Clark Davis

Joshua Clark Davis is a Fellow at the German Historical Institute researching how hip hop came to Europe in the 1980s. His recent article, "For the Records: How African American Consumers and Music Retailers Created Commercial Public Space in the 1960s and 1970s South," appears in the winter 2011 issue of Southern Cultures.



"G.I. Rap and Euro-Dance: How American Soldiers and Germans Created a Hybrid Hip Hop Culture in Cold-War Frankfurt "

This paper will examine the little-known history of how African American military personnel stationed in Frankfurt not only brought hip hop to West Germany, but also helped to export Euro-Dance around the world.

In the 1980s, the city of Frankfurt in West Germany (then the world’s fourth largest national music market) was one of the most important European cities for popular music, especially dance music and hip hop. Like the larger metropolises of London, Paris and Amsterdam, the city could claim a significant immigrant population, but it was one group of foreigners in Frankfurt that shaped musical life in the city more than any other: the nearly 60,000 U.S. troops stationed in the region, of which close to a third was African American.

Indeed, African Americans and Latino Americans serving abroad in the U.S. Army imported hip hop to Frankfurt, often through military-sponsored nightclubs, radio, and commissaries. Some of these soldiers even built links with German businesses off-base, teaming up with locals to found music labels, record stores, and clubs.

And in an effort to repackage hip hop for mainstream European audiences who more amenable to Italo disco and house, labels like Black Out Records in Frankfurt brought together and recorded African American rappers and vocalists (most of them former military personnel) with electronic dance producers. The results included Snap! and LaBouche, groups that became known internationally as purveyors of “Euro-Dance.” While these acts often earned the ire of critics, they nonetheless sold millions of records in the U.S. and around the world.

My Speakers Sessions

Friday, March 23

4:00pm EDT