23.11.2021 – Culture & Nightlife | Züri song

'They wanted to wipe out the Langstrasse'

To address the impending end of an urban circle, rapper Thomas Bollinger alias E.K.R. slipped into the role of "Chreis 5" at the end of the nineties and created an immortal classic.

There are people out there who still don't think much of rap in dialect. Kids' stuff, they think. Teenybopper stuff. But with a song like "Chreis 5" by Thomas Bollinger alias E.K.R., even they have to stick up their guns.

The piece is an absolute classic. Created sometime between 1995 and 1999 - and still one of the best rap songs ever written in this country. Raw and direct, brash and elegant, ominous and cool at the same time, the narrator slips into the role of a quarter doomed to death and immediately lets it tell of its suffering itself:

Chreis 5 isch miin Namä und miis Änd isch nah, fühl mi immer schwächer, bald chani nümmä stah. Wänni zrugg blick uf diä vergangenä Jahr, wird mehr alles klar.

Ich kommunizier in 48 Sprachä, meischtens fluechend, bi s’ verdorbne Stück i däm schönä Chueche.

Mini Brüedere tüend mi verfluechä und verachtä, über miin Ruef lachä. Sie händ mi verstossä und uusgschlossä, jetzt nutzed’s mi us mit ihrnä Bankbossä det ussä.

Cholä, Cholä isch ja s’Wichtigschtä, bald werdet Lüüt cho und mini Gschichtä da berichtigä.

In Zwüschäziit wirdi einfach wiitermachä, zueluege, was passiert in Hinderhööf und Siitegassä.

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A very banal question to start with: Why was "Chreis 5" worth a track to you back then?

During my time in London, I stayed with my old friends Sterneis and DJ Kayzee on Heinrichstrasse, in the middle of Kreis 5. I remember a conversation with Sterneis in which we celebrated "South Bronx" by KRS-One and mused that we should also write such anthems here. Then we both put that into practice.

What does "back then" mean anyway? Do you still know when the track was created exactly?

I can't remember the year exactly, but the track was created around the same time as the legendary "Züri Slang" sampler (1997. I wrote and produced my track in London, and when it was finished and I came to Zurich with the 300 vinyl singles, I heard Stern's version.

'The things that happen in Kreis 4 and 5 happen. Whether on the surface or underground.'

At the time, it was about preventing a gigaversion of Europaallee, right?

Correct. At the time, a giant superstructure was planned that would "demolish" everything from the main railway station to Langstrasse. In order not to scare off potential international investors, the open drug scene was moved from Platzspitz to Letten at the time. It's a song about not sweeping anything under the carpet. The things that happen in Kreis 4 and 5 happen. Whether on the surface or underground. They are part of the human condition. You can't eradicate them.

Mini Schattä büüted Lüüt Anonymität aa. Wänn d’en Zuefluchtsort suechsch, bisch gnau richtig da.

Teil tüend wichtig da, Mercedes, Goldchettä. Stüürefrey chasch du diin Arsch druff verwettä.

Ich beherrberg diä schönschtä Frauä vo dä Wält, bi ois chasch alles chaufä mit Sch…gäld.

Nöchschtä Summer chasch Schnee ha, chasch E ha, Sugi, Pilz und no meh ha. Chasch di gseh lah mit em fettä Phillies Blunt.

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Chreis 5 was and is released and performed in different versions. The original single (based on a Stevie Wonder sample), the album version, the Kokopelli vinyl version on the "Kiosk" maxi. We know: You don't like to repeat yourself. But is there a form in which you like the track best?

In the original. When the "Grigor Fakalaja" album was finished, I thought that everyone had already heard the song too many times, so I decided to put the "Dub Mix" on the album. But I like the original - the single version - the most.

Kreis 5 has changed enormously, that has probably not gone unnoticed by anyone. Somehow Kreis 4 was more steadfast - or was it? On the surface, a lot has changed there, but on the surface, not so much. Or how do you see it?

True. The two Kreise used to be very similar in terms of milieu. The play could also have been called "Kreis 4", but as I said: it was primarily about gentrification. And the choice fell on Kreis 5 because I lived there briefly.

'Sure. I live and love the city of Zurich.'

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'Grigor Fakalaja', the album on which the song was finally found, largely depicts the dark, ignorant side of your personality. A facet that you also love in other rappers. The track stands for the opposite: you slip into the role of the neighbourhood to report on its suffering. A contradiction?

No, I don't think so. One of the songs on the album is "Mami", a very personal song about the prostitution of a very close acquaintance. There are contradictions on all my albums. They are part of human existence and that in turn is reflected in my art.

You've done a lot of songs about Zurich, including "Willkomme in Züri" with Skor and Tinguely, which we've already addressed in this series, as well as some with Temple of Speed. I have a sneaking feeling that there are more to come - do you?

Sure. I live and love the city of Zurich and it loves the Eki animal. The next song will be ready soon and after that, I'm sure there will be a few more. At the same time, I never want these songs to be exclusive. Of course, I love Zurich and hang around here most of the time, but I wasn't born here and if I lived in London or New York I would probably have written hymns about those places. I think you're also allowed to celebrate your time and place in this world without being "bullish" about it. I celebrate "California Love" as well as "Yay Area" by E-40, even though I have no direct or personal connection to it. Or songs about Bern, Basel or other unmentionable places.

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'There's a new E.K.R. album coming out next year.'

Sure, there's 'Empire State of Mind', 'New York State of Mind' or 'South Bronx' - but there are thousands of others: Do you have a favourite among the hip-hop hometown representatives?

As a DJ, it's very difficult for me to pick a song as a favourite. There are just too many good tracks and enough time to celebrate them. But if you're going to twist my arm, I'd pick "The Return of the Crooklyn Dodgers", closely followed by Tim Dogg's 'Bronx Nigga' and 'Bucktown' by Smif-N-Wessun, but we could keep this game going for hours.

What's next for E.K.R.?

A new E.K.R. album will be released next year. Straight hip-hop, lyrics & beats, as it should be. Not to support the dumbing down of the people, not motivated by greed for money or fame! No reasonable person will be able to resist this. The time of Aquarius has dawned. I am here to fulfil my calling and raise the collective consciousness to the next level. The name E.K.R., Don Eknaton, the 2nd and my talents were not given to me by the universe by chance. I finally understand my purpose in this little playground. Game on!

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