Germany's music scene is hard to ignore right now. Deutscherap is on the comeup—with crews like Berlin's Live From Earth or the Ruhr's Serious Klein—while the country remains a foundational pillar in the electronic music scene: from Berlin to Dusseldorf, house and techno reign. German artists are popping on your discover playlist without you even knowing it.
Being in the middle of Europe, the country's diverse scene is characterized universally by its experimentalism. Electronic, trap, hip-hop, and grime fuse to create new sounds that push boundaries. One of the artists at the forefront of this for several years is Dusseldorf-based Loco Dice, the legendary DJ and house producer whose resume boasts Jamiroquai and Snoop Dogg collaborations as well as famed sets at Ibiza's DC-10 and, most recently, his double booking for Coachella (which is basically unheard of). While Dice is a pioneer in Germany's electronic music, his twin passion—born from his childhood as the son of Tunisian immigrants—lies in the world of hip-hop and the culture of the streets.
His latest project, FKD, has him teaming up with BURN Energy on a 5-track EP recorded in London that continues in the spirit of breaking new ground. On FKD, Dice joins forces with heavy-hitting music producers Frizzo and Kobe Hodgson, a project that includes some of the biggest voices in emerging UK hip-hop and grime: YGG, Kasien, Killa P, and Jacques Fugee.
The F.K.D. EP drops today, so we caught up with Loco Dice and Frizzo earlier this week to get the 411.
Highsnobiety (HS): How did you become interested in the styles of music you produce and play?
Loco Dice: I'm born and raised in Dusseldorf, and my parents emigrated to Germany sometime in the ’70s, so I grew up completely different from any other German. I found my love in hip-hop music. Hip-hop was delivering everything that I needed: the message, the lifestyle—everything. I fell in love with it and I'm still hip-hop. Later on, I discovered electronic music and I fell in love with that as well. So, I was focusing more on electronic music, and then you know how it is. The hour hand always goes back to 12. I came back to where I started, and that’s hip-hop.
Frizzo: I was born in Dusseldorf, too. I lived in a place that wasn't really famous or well known: Kiefernstrasse. It was a poor place, but we had a lot of people from Ghana, from Tunisia, from everywhere. We had everything from techno to rock, especially rock people, hip-hop, African music. So that was the reason I was always open to all kinds of styles.
HS: German hip-hop is having a bit of a moment. Take Serious Klein, for example. Berlin is popping off from the Live From Earth crew. Would you say that Deutscherap and hip-hop are having a moment right now, or have they always been there?
Frizzo: Actually, it was bubbling, but now it’s become popular because of the club attitude. Yeah, German rap was always there, but it wasn't that respected and the beats weren't there. But now, for six to seven years, you can say that it changed a bit because of the beat. A lot of producers were, like, “Hey, we can't always play American music or all the other music. We have to play our own music.” I think that has a great impact on the whole career of German rap. In many musical ways, the Germans are more orienting themselves on what is happening in their country.
HS: With the FKD project, too, there's a relationship that seems to be built upon both the Dusseldorf sound and that of London with grim, and that's also 'coming back' in a way despite being around for years. The artists you're collaborating with on the 5-track EP—YGG, Kasien, Killa P, and Jacques Fugee—are big, upcoming names. What’s it been like working with them?
Frizzo: It was supernatural. We knew the beat that we would like to hear them on. We had two or three beats for everybody, and were, like, "Hey, which one do you feel more?" But it always started with a conversation. We introduced ourselves and our ideas to them. They really adapted. They were, like, "OK, we feel this, you know what you're doing," and so we recorded everything. I think every recording session was, like, [completed] in an hour or two, because they were talented as artists. I was, like, "Wow. Crazy, but good."
Loco Dice: For us, it was very important to do it with the London scene because we have very, very [close] ties with London. I used to work with Giggs there. Frizzo did a couple of things with British artists. Like, everybody else would go to the United States because this is the big thing, you know? I think our heritage and where we come from,Düsseldorf, we see ourselves as an open-minded international group.
We tapped into the Düsseldorf music scene with punk, with rock, with electronic, and with hip-hop, and this is FKD. It's an open-minded project. It about trying things out and experimenting.
HS: How did BURN help with this?
Loco Dice: I was working with BURN during the summer and their DJs. They had this project, BURN Residency, where they had many DJs. The best DJ would get, like, a residency and BURN would help them all over the world. I think BURN knew that I'm always looking for new talent in electronic music to develop. It was a great help and a great time working with BURN.
And then when we had the FKD project, I was in the studio looking at Frizzo and Kobe [Hodgson] and I'm, like, "You know what guys? We've got to document it somehow when we go to London and record all the artists. We need a camera guy. We need to do something." I was talking with my team, and everybody was, like, "Why don't you go and ask BURN?" I asked BURN, and they say right away, "Yo, we like the concept, we love you guys, we like the idea, let's do this."
But nothing was really scripted, nothing was really planned. Everything happened very naturally and in the moment. And with one, two, three phone calls, everything was set.
HS: Sick. Tell us about the BURN Residency.
Loco Dice: It’s a platform for young artists, upcoming DJ artists that can introduce themselves to BURN. BURN chooses from every country one or two artists, and then finalists are selected. The finale is held in Ibiza. The contestants have mentors, including Carl Cox, me, Luciano, and Pete Tong. And then at the end there's a winner who receives a 100k EUR management contract.
HS: Very cool. What was your best and worst set ever?
Frizzo: There was a girl standing next to me. She was enjoying my set so much. I mean, actually, it wasn't the best or the worst example, because she was enjoying it so much. But then it got really hot and she poured a whole bottle of water and, like, ice and everything over her head just right beside me and everything shut down because my turntable got wet. So we had to stop the whole set. Actually, it's an accomplishment to see somebody so enjoying it, but it was hard. So it's kind of both.
Loco Dice: For me, the worst set is always when something happens to your equipment. Or back in the days your records wouldn’t arrive and you couldn’t perform in front of people. The best for me was performing for the Love Parade. That was kind of a blessing, you know? I was never respected as an electronic artist. I was very big as a hip-hop DJ in my home town and in Germany. And then becoming an electronic artist, it was very hard for me to fight my way up. It still is, to be honest. I can still watch [the Love Parade] on YouTube, and I still put my hand over my head.
HS: Amazing, and congrats. What are some of the highlights from the FKD project?
Loco Dice: Let me start with being in the studio with these two guys. And that this project actually happened. I was dreaming about it. It was crazy because I was working with Frizzo on a side project and I had Kobe in the studio doing his own thing. Somehow, we looked at each other and it just merged perfectly together. We never thought that we were going to create a group or do something like this. It was always in the back of my head, because I'm doing my electronic music and this and that. It was really kind of a hobby doing this, and then all of a sudden FKD happened and it's, like, “Wow, crazy shit.”
Frizzo: I couldn't have said it better. We traded beats, worked on some funk and everything, but then everything fell into place. So it came naturally. That's why I don't feel any pressure or anything because it's all natural. When we went to London it was all natural; we had the three sessions without pressure or anything. The vibe was always cool.
I always tell everybody Loco’s my mentor, because I see how he moves. And with this project, especially, everybody knew him and everybody knows him. They respected him for the move, the brave move to go from hip-hop to techno, because we know techno people. Sometimes they are very strict with what they do. They don't respect you. They don't want people, other people, to join them. That's what people around here say. They just want to come and be culture vultures or something like that. We like electronic music and hip-hop. And for some people they can't imagine something like that, but it's possible.
Loco Dice: You don't know how much you teach me, bro.
HS: Oh, the love in the room. What are your thoughts on the disconnect between techno music and hip-hop?
Frizzo: But it isn't because if you listen to the music it's connected. The tempo of a tech beat has around 126. It's the same. I don't want to get too technical, but it's so connected. But people don't get it because they don't get the four-to-the-floor beat.
Loco Dice: No, I think more it's the cultures, Frizzo. I think people are sometimes scared of the hip-hop culture, you know? But like Frizzo said music-wise, it's 100 million percent connected. And any producer who is a little bit open-minded and looks behind the curtain will see it. "Wait a minute, that's my beat." HS: The FKD project is coming at an interesting point. There’s a truth behind it. Congrats. We also want to know what you guys are wearing these days.
Loco Dice: Right now, I love my own shit that I produce [for Desolat]. If you go on my site, you see a lot of ideas. I like to wear my own stuff, or collaborations we’ve done with Daily Paper or with New Era. We did this beautiful cap.
Frizzo: I like to wear LFDY. It's a local company that became huge, and I was always want to support the people that I grew up with and show their things to other people, so why shouldn't I have their things? I like Off-White, too. On top of that, I like to stay local with the things that I wear. HS: You're absolutely right. Streetwear came from basically friends making clothes for their friends. It has to be authentic.
Loco Dice: It belongs together. I see it now with my merch line. People are going crazy about it because you represent something. You wear it, you love it, and the people feel it. Plus, it's the style. You put something on, it's the same as the music you're listening to or the culture that you're living in, you know?
So, as you see, we come from hip-hop. We combine everything: what we learned in our culture and what we do. The FKD EP drops today, December 15. For more details, visit Burn.com. Check out Loco Dice merch line here.