Meet the Duo Shaking Up Hamburg’s Hip Hop Scene

With their new project Chains, DJ CRI$PY C and illustrator Xuli aim to bring international oomph to the city's tight-knit trap scene.

Jana, left, and Carina, right. Photos by Bartosz Ludwinski for Blonde Magazine.

Ever since your days of youth (remember those?), when you’d essentially dip your face into a pool of bronzer to look adult enough to sneak into some club with the sole purpose of belting the chorus of Gucci Mane’s ‘Lemonade’ as assertively as you could, trap has been booming. In recent years, the hard-to-pin-down-yet-even-harder-to-resist hip hop genre has branched out from its strictly Southern US roots to settle quite comfily in Europe. Germany is no exception, especially when it comes to Hamburg. The city that birthed promising trap darlings like artschool-meme-that’s-come-to-life Haiyti and DJ/Producer AsadJohn now boasts a reputation as the built version of that leftie, laid-back cousin who just randomly shows up at your dinner table to show you their Spotify playlist and make everyone feel really old. But according to Carina Lue aka DJ CRI$PY C and Jana Federov aka Xuli, there’s definitely still room for thinking outside the box in the city’s hip hop scene—and yes, they mean when it comes to trap.

The DJ and illustrator duo say that Hamburg trap is nurtured by a devoted local community, sure—but the international and ambitious oomph is missing. That’s why adidas Originals x Girls Are Awesome are now working with the duo to elevate them and their new concept, Chains: a club night in the heart of Reeperbahn a.k.a. the city’s red light district that aims to showcase live international and local talent while giving Hamburg residents a mix of everything from French rap to reggaeton to afrotrap. The club launches this Friday so before that, we had a quick chat with the duo to talk Chains, Hamburg hip hop and fried chicken.

GIRLS ARE AWESOME: Hey, Carina and Jana. How did you two become friends?

Carina and Jana: I think we just ran into each other a couple of years ago and we liked each other. Like a romance!

So what’s the concept behind Chains?

Chains is an independent platform that links artists from all over the world. It brings DJs, producers and artists together to perform for a public audience whenever they want. The surroundings we work in come with different sets of rules, so we try to collaborate with a variety of people to create something like a new culture.

What’s your ultimate goal with it?

World peace! Nah, it’s to give our friends a stage and turn negative energy into a good vibe. To make new art and music, travel around the world and get a house somewhere warm that’s big enough for friends and family to escape in winter. Good food (we can’t cook) and pina coladas!

We’ve heard you’re the only female promoters to run a club night in Reeperbahn. Is that true, and if so, why do you think that is?

I don’t know for sure! But it’s true that there aren’t that many females in the rap scene and Reeperbahn in the position of DJing or managing events. I think the role of women didn’t really change around here for a long time because this district is known for its long tradition within sex tourism. And as we all know, money rules the world.

I didn’t feel like I encountered any barriers when I was DJing or organizing something because my friends were very helpful and we’ve always supported each other. I know there are problems with sexism (and racism and so much more), but when we do art or music, we are inspired by positive things and people from everywhere. We try to act different and just do what we want.

Trap is booming in Germany—almost more so than in other European countries. Where do you think that national fascination with trap comes from?

Yes, after some years it’s finally booming! The South was always here, but there were no parties for it; I had to go the UK or US to listen to Diplo or Gucci Mane in a public context. I think the boom came from the media—when rappers started to link fashion, visuals and music in a new way. Twitter, Memes and the Internet in general are pushing it into the collective mind and started to form a trap “party culture” that also works as a style in a commercial way. As for us, we try to do something more complex and creative/non+commercial that also works somewhere like Reeperbahn and in commercial contexts. A big challenge, but very exciting!

Jana, you’re an illustrator/calligrapher, and Carina, you’re a DJ—two different skills! That said, where and how do you two creatively overlap?

We can work together easily because there are so many fields where it’s important to organise events or exhibitions and visuals, artists and music are all necessary for that!

How would you describe Hamburg’s hip hop scene?

The south scene is still small but it’s growing every day. It’s playful and we have a lot of different characters who act on their own. It’s a bit like the beginning of Spring Breakers!

To what extent do you feel like Hamburg is an inclusive space for young entrepreneurs or creatives to get shit done?

It’s rough and dirty but kind of honest and grounded. Things don’t pop off—they’re built and then grow and grow. There are a lot of new things emerging because people have the courage to go through with something here. It’s very packed and there is a huge economic commercial sector, so it’s harder for organic culture to push through those boundaries. But, that also gives us a great opportunity to evolve in the future.

Xuli’s workspace.

Carina, you’re CRI$PY C. Tell us about your thing for crispy chicken, and where do I get some badass chicken in Hamburg?!?

I think crispy chicken is a mystical trigger of sorts for humans 🙂 And you can get the best crispy chicken in Hamburg every Friday at Chains!

Thanks, Carina.

Join us at Chains’ opening party this Friday. Details here!