Monday, October 5, 2009

Week 19: Kraftwerk

It's come to my attention that a lot of people still aren't up on Kraftwerk. This group of steely Germans was the most important and influential mainland European music act of the 20th century, period. (I am prepared to go to the mat over this statement.) Without them, there would be no techno, no synth pop, no new wave, and most importantly NO HIP-HOP. Just take a moment to imagine how different the world would be with no hip hop.


Ok so now that you're done with that little mental exercise, I know a fair chunk of you (those who aren't already familiar with the story) are like "WAIT A SECOND CHRISSY, what the hell do a bunch of square-ass Teutonic stiffs have to do with hip hop?" Well here's the short version:
Square-ass Teutonic stiffs start out as proggy art-rock band, get into electronics, start making their own instruments and by 1974 are making super-rigid 100% electronic pop tunes. By 1977, said pop tunes have been picked up by New York disco DJs, who were always hunting for something new and different and odd and pulsating and yadda yadda yadda. Among these were the first wave of hip hop DJs (Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, etc.), who absolutely ate the stuff up. As Detroit techno legend Carl Craig said, "Kraftwerk were so stiff, they were funky."

So thanks to Kraftwerk (and others, don't get me wrong), you suddenly had a sea-change in the then-fledgling hip hop scene: things moved away from party raps over disco records, and toward sparse futuristic compositions made from scratch with drum machines, synths, and samplers. 30 years later, and mainstream hip hop still sounds like it has more in common with Kraftwerk than anything black or American (besides techno, of course).

It's a similar story with techno, in fact—as well as with synth pop, new wave, and a long list of other genres: disco + Kraftwerk = bizarre new hybrid genre with lots of crazy electronic gadgets and a bunch of futuristic posturing. Like many artists lucky enough to have a nearly 40-year career, Kraftwerk have had an interesting career arc: they've gone from being groundbreaking visionaries who changed modern music to largely mimicking the new styles they helped inspire. While their new records can't be called innovative, they're often still quite good.

Anyway, I've whipped up a mix which I hope will appeal to both hardcore Kraftwerk fans, people who hate Kraftwerk, and people who know nothing about Kraftwerk. Part one contains most of the really essential Kraftwerk tunes: the stuff you NEED to hear to be a culturally literate citizen of the 21st century. The second part is all the stuff that has borrowed from Kraftwerk. Some of it is good, some of it is terrible, all of it is beyond what these four Germans could've imagined in 1977.

Chrissy's Year of Mixtapes Week 19, Part 1: What you absolutely must know of Kraftwerk.

  1. Kraftwerk; Trans-Europe Express (1977)
  2. Kraftwerk; The Model (1978)
  3. Kraftwerk; The Robots (1978)
  4. Kraftwerk; The Man Machine (1978)
  5. Kraftwerk; It's More Fun To Compute / Home Computer (1981)
  6. Kraftwerk; Numbers / Computer World 2 (1981)
  7. Kraftwerk; Tour De France (François K. Remix) (1983)
  8. Kraftwerk; Computer Love (Remix) (1991)
Chrissy's Year of Mixtapes Week 19, Part 2: Kraftwerk's influence on the rest of us.
  1. Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force; Planet Rock (Tommy Boy, 1982)
  2. The Egyptian Lover; Egypt Egypt (Freak Beat Records, 1984)
  3. B.O.S.E.; Rock The World (Rock Well, 1987)
  4. Techmaster P.E.B.; Bass Computer (Newtown Music, 1991)
  5. Fergie; Fergalicious (A&M, 2006)
  6. 2 Live Crew; D.K. Almighty (Luke Skyywalker, 1989)
  7. The Fearless Four; Rockin' It (Enjoy Records, 1982)
  8. MC A.D.E.; Bass Rock Express (4 Sight Records, 1985)
  9. Coldplay; Talk (EMI, 2005)
  10. Big Black; The Model (Touch & Go, 1987)
  11. Miss Kittin & The Hacker; Uno (International Deejay Gigolo Records, 1999)
  12. Frank De Wulf presents B-Sides Vol. 1; Reforced (Music Man, 1990)
  13. Señor Coconut y Su Conjunto; Home Computer (Emperor Norton; 1999)
  14. 6Blocc; Digits (LoDubs, 2007)
  15. Turf Talk f. Kaveo & Young Mugzi; Do The Robot (Sick Wid'It Records, 2004)
  16. DJ Rashad; Compute (Juke Trax, 2007)
  17. Godz of the Quad; We Comin' (Cut It Up Def, 1998)


  1. "If this mashup gets one person to buy Kraftwerk's Computer World, it's worth it"

  2. I had no idea that they influenced so many. Good stuff.


  3. I really dig your descriptions (and tapes of course).

  4. You might like trans slovenia express…

  5. You used Trans-Europe Express in this mixtape and in the Toponym mixtape. This violates rule 3 that there will be no repeats!

    Anyways, your blog is awesome and I love that you provide so much knowledge about each genre. I know you stopped making these mixtapes but it would be awesome if you could continue to make new ones covering genres that you haven't done yet. I think it's important to educate the world of the rich history electronic dance music.

    Thanks for the mixtapes!

  6. wow dude, good eyes! can't believe I didn't spot that (and nobody else did)...

  7. I'm studying to become a lawyer so I'm a stickler for rules! While studying I've been going through your mixes one-by-one so it was easy for me to notice. I found your blog after scouring the Internet for good ghetto tech / ghetto house mixes (which are hard to come by).

    Anyways, can I request a UK garage mixtape? =D

  8. Fantastic mixes. I love em all and I completely agree with your statement regarding Kraftwerk.
    I came across an old article on Huffpost basically stating the same thing and they go as far as to link songs through the past few decades that are a direct result of their influence.
    Not sure if it'll let me post a link but here goes:

  9. Love the Kraftwerk stuff. Thanks for recognizing.

    I also came across an old article on HuffPost which basically stated the same thing in regards their influence on all the music we hear today.