José Alvarez and Verda Kaya in front of the hip hop station in the “pleasure” room
© Kulturprojekte Berlin und Stadtmuseum Berlin | Photo: Oana Popa-Costea

New York – Berlin – Istanbul: Hip hop in the changing cities

How Hip hop found its way from the USA to Turkey and the role Berlin played in this process is shown in the room “Entertainment” at BERLIN GLOBAL with exhibits, colourful graffiti and a hip hop media station.

by Maria Shrainer

Hip hop culture originated in the Bronx district of New York among black and Latin American youth. In the early 1980s, it became known in Berlin mainly through the media. However, an important role in the “journey” from America to Germany was also played by the American soldiers stationed in West Berlin, who spread the New York culture through their radio stations and clubs. Elements of hip-hop culture, such as breakdancing, rapping and DJing, became increasingly popular among young people. Not for nothing did the remains of the Berlin Wall in West Berlin become the longest graffiti wall in the world.

The new direction of hip hop

Hip hop, which brought together young people from different backgrounds in New York, became a way for them to resist racism and express themselves. Diversity was an essential part of hip hop during this time. In Berlin, in turn, these features of hip hop culture were only reinforced.

The room ” Entertainment ” in BERLIN GLOBAL, exhibition view.
© Stadtmuseum Berlin | Photo: Anna Preussel
Berlin in the 1990s: Hip hop beats can be heard on the streets of the city and open-mic sessions are held at the Royal Bunker pub on Mittenwalder Straße in Kreuzberg. Songs like My Melody and Cartel are recorded, which have become anthems of the subculture.

To Turkey and back

A completely new form of American Hip hop has taken on its own identity and meaning in German culture. Rap music, graffiti and breakdancing about political and ethnic issues had an incredible success among young people. Quite quickly, the new hip hop trend was carried by young people from Germany to Turkey. Because of the energy, creativity and the conveyance of a special attitude towards life, the style became equally popular in the Berlin Hip hop scene at that time. Young people in Turkey found an echo in the new subculture and soon started recording their own rap tracks. A special bond developed between German and Turkish Hip hop artists, characterised by constant exchange and cooperation.


One of them is the rapper AZIZA A. For BERLIN GLOBAL, the Turkish-German musician sang at the Fête de la Musique 2021 in the exhibition that had not yet opened at the time. The concert can still be found on YouTube.

Stadtmuseum Berlin | Collage Stadtmuseum Berlin, Photo Aziza A

Together with curator Verda Kaya, rappers, DJs, break dancers and graffiti artists have tried to convey the atmosphere of the time in the BERLIN GLOBAL exhibition through personal stories and experiences. There are also public tandem tours with Hip hop artists.

Find out more about Hip hop

Together through the exhibition