Rap has always been a tricky fit with Eurovision. The two rap songs in 2014 both had their fans (including many on Team Wiwi), but neither scored especially well. “Rise Up” gave Greece its worst placing since the 1990s, and the deux points of “Moustache” was France’s worst score ever.

So is rapping cursed? Is the sound of a few rapped lines enough to have viewers hurling their phones across the room in disgust? Or is there more to it than that? Let’s take a look at 11 iconic rap performances in the 20 years since an MC first hit the ESC stage.

The Originator

1995 United Kingdom
Love City Groove “Love City Groove” 10th (76 points)

Rap entered the Eurovision Song Competition in 1995, thanks to the UK. The romantic pop-rap song with an early ’90s flavour was the people’s choice, having won the UK national selection with a strong margin. Male and female MCs (Jay Williams and Yinka “Reason” Charles) rapped the verses, joined by Stephen “Beanz” Rudden for a sung chorus. Jay is the stand-out performer – when he’s rapping he has serious flow, y’all. And I’m going to call it now – he’s the best rapper who has performed at Eurovision.

Sample lyrics: What the hell, I’ll admit it: love was the target and you hit it

http://youtu.be/nDODRlSJyoE

The Winner

2003 Turkey
Sertab Erener “Everyway That I Can” 1st (167 points)

There’s the idea that rap never does well in the Eurovision, but in 2003 a song with rap just happened to win. “Everyway That I Can”. Is an upbeat dance-pop song with elaborate staging and dramatic diva vocals from Sertab Erener. But about two minutes into the song she busts out a rap. It’s pretty basic and very repetitive, but it fits in well with the structure of the song.

Sample lyrics: You make me wanna huh-huh, make me wanna huh-huh-huh

The Loser

2009 Finland
Waldo’s People “Lose Control” 25th – last (22 points)

Finland only placed 12th in their semi-final but won a place in the final by being the jury selection. Sadly the voting public didn’t agree and Waldo and his people found themselves placing last in the final. “Lose Control” is like a decent Eurodance tune ruined by Waldo shouting over the top of it. He’s not a great rapper and it doesn’t work having him as the focal point of the performance.

Sample lyrics: Like Peter Piper I take control, put a spell on the mass

The Dubstep

2013 Montenegro
Who See feat. Nina Zizic “Igranka” SF 12th – semi-final 1 (41 points)

Damn, this is a killer song and it’s a crime that it didn’t qualify. Who See rap the verses of the song, but it’s the fierce production and power vocals from Nina Zizic that takes the performance to the next level. While the rapped parts are fairly unremarkable, they help ramp up the tension so when Nina kicks in with the chorus, the song explodes.

Sample lyrics: Gradele, cesan, petrusin, riba, danu svega da se pokidam [Grill, garlic, parsley and fish, give me all so I can overeat]

The Ego

2004 United Kingdom
Daz Sampson “Teenage Life” 19th (25 points)

The UK’s second attempt at rap came from the Mancunian MC Daz Sampson and his bittersweet reflection on school days. The weirdest thing is the adult backing singers dressed as sexy schoolgirls. Ew. And then there’s the giant blackboard with DAZ SAMPSON written on it, just in case anyone thought he was called Dan Simpson or something. With the emphasis being on the performer at the expense of the song, it just doesn’t come together.

Sample lyrics: Thinking of those sixth form chicks that misbehave

The Grandmaster

2008 Croatia
Kraljevi Ulice and 75 Cents “Romanca” 21st (44 points)

75 Cents was the stage name of 75-year-old Ladislav Demeterffy, whose role in the song is doing a few shouty raps in Grandpa Simpson style, reminding listeners that nothing changes in the world of music. It’s played for laughs (he ends the song by scratching on an old gramophone), but 75 Cents certainly adds a lot of spirit to what would otherwise be a very average song.

Sample lyrics: A ja sam bio prvi internet na svijetu [And I was the first Internet in the world]

The Orchestral

1997 Denmark
Kølig Kaj “Stemmen i mit liv” 16th (25 points)

By 1997, using the live orchestra was optional, but Denmark nonetheless made use of the brass section for rapper Kølig Kaj’s performance. The result was a toning down of the cool groove of the studio version, with the bold brass section dominating. Maybe this is one of the reasons why rap was largely avoided in the ’80s and ’90s – it was too difficult to arrange rap songs to work with the orchestra. Sadly EBU regulations still permit the wearing of leopard-skin-print trousers.

Sample lyric: Skylder folk penge, og mit liv er lidt kokset [I owe people money, and my life’s a bit of a mess]

http://youtu.be/rpmYMhzn2iU

The Crazy

2000 Germany
Stefan Raab “Wadde hadde dudde da?” 5th (96 points)

Ah, the enigma of “Wadde hadde dudde da?” There’s Stefan Raab with an over-the-top cheesefest, complete with a rap that makes about as much sense to German speakers as it does to non-German speakers. And yet because Stefan puts so much energy and spirit into the performance, it transcends the multiple crimes against music and just ends up being really fun. Its fifth place remains Germany’s second highest score of the century so far.

Sample lyric: Hadder da watt glatt, oder hadder da wat Haar da? [Does he have something bald there, or rather some hair?]

The Political

2005 Ukraine
GreenJolly “Razom nas bahato” 19th (30 points)

So, what song did Ukraine enter the year it hosted the competition? Why, only the unofficial anthem of the Orange Revolution. GreenJolly switched the verses to English and toned down the more political lyrics, but it’s still very much a political anthem. The song might not have resonated with international audiences (the rapped English verses aren’t easy to understand), but for Ukraine, it was their moment.
Sample lyrics: Lies be the weapon of mass destruction

The Superstar DJ

2006 Poland
Ich Troje feat. Real McCoy “Follow My Heart” 11th, semi-final (70 points)

After coming seventh in 2003, Polish trio Ich Troje returned for another shot, this time with German Eurodance producer Real McCoy (aka Olaf Jeglitza) on guest rap vocals. He does all his multilingual rapping down in the audience, leaving Ich Troje on stage with their super camp extravaganza. It’s all a bit of a mess, but Real McCoy’s sleazy rap style surprisingly complements the golden drama on stage.

Sample lyrics: Ven, toma mi gasolina [Come, take my gasoline]

http://youtu.be/PGfFZiIz1GE

The Booty-shaker

2012 Austria
Trackshittaz “Woki mit deim Popo” 18th – last, semi-final 1 (8 points)

Not only did Trackshittaz have the first song to be fully rapped (no singing) but it was a booty song and performed in the Mühlviertlerisch dialect. Actually, that’s probably also why it came last in its semi. Manuel and Lukas are skilled MCs and performers and they brought a high energy, super fun performance with great audience connection. And hey – glow-in-the-dark pole dancers aren’t something you see every day.

Sample lyrics: Und jetz außa mit de Depf jetz kummt de Nudlsuppngang [Unpack your pots, here comes the Noodle Soup Gang]

http://youtu.be/aVyG4f7KTds

Honorable Mentions

In 2009 Gipsy.cz scored a semi-final nul points with the Broadway style “Aven Romale”, and in 2012 Rambo Amadeus from Montenego had the political jazz excursion of “Euro Neuro”. And while not quite strictly rap, a popular Eurovision style is ska-punk bands with chanted vocals – Israeli band Teapacks performed “Push the Button” in 2007 and mad Moldovans Zdob si Zdub  had “So Lucky” in 2011.

What do you think of rap in Eurovision songs? Do you have a favourite performance? Or should ESC artists stick to singing?

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LEAPerce
Guest
LEAPerce

Deven, Iggy Azalea is Australian..? Tinie Tempah isn’t a bad shout though, but why would he do eurovision?

Iwantsalmon
Guest
Iwantsalmon

All I’m wondering is… Does Turkey’s “We Can Be the Same” have a place?

Deven O'Kearney
Guest
Deven O'Kearney

If you want rap, just have the UK select Tinie Tempah or Iggy Azalea (Oh wait, we already saw her at Eurovision, remember Poland this year.That song really was TITS UP!!!!!!!).

Kristin Kristjans
Editor

Aaaaah, Green Jolly…I liked them, and I loved Teapack 🙂

davve
Guest
davve

I really enjoyed the Danish song in 1997.. it was cool

Zack
Guest
Zack

Hey David, love you, but you said that about country too. so what exactly do you listen to aside from Eurovision? (This should be good)

Francheska
Guest

@David, I’d like to respectfully disagree, since rap started out as a social justice art form meant to convey issues with poverty and racism. Granted, now it has diverged from its roots (for better or for worse), but I think that it can be used in a smart way.

Alex
Guest
Alex

Shout out for Croatia 2008 – amazing song, beautiful lyrics and melody. The contribution of 75 Cents (R.I.P.) is not to everyone’s taste (and the live performance certainly threw the studio version’s subtle delivery out the window) but I appreciated it for sure. I’d love to see Kraljevi Ulice back. The selection of Daz Sampson in 2006, followed by Scooch in 2007, was really strange… both artists had songs which were well known to fans of Dance Dance Revolution like myself due to their features in that video game series, but they weren’t altogether too well known outside that semi-obscure… Read more »

Alex
Guest
Alex

@David: No.

OneEurovision
Guest

I liked Finland’s entry that year.
OMG ESC2014 IN 30s?? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5tQVE9gIkw

David Thielen
Guest

Rap is God’s way of proving some people have no musical taste.

Julian
Guest
Julian

Poland 2014 was very good and did well with the public it is probable there will be more rap acts in the future and I hope for more rock acts too.

Ranting Ruby
Guest
Ranting Ruby

Full marks for doing your homework, Robyn! I hadn’t seen Love City Groove before (and hesitate to admit my lingering affection for the shameless “Woki Mit Diem Popo”). Maybe the snobbism surrounding rap has been ESC’s downfall, or maybe the purists are right in insisting that “song” should include melody … either way, rap is here to stay, and you have to admire artists who will TURN UP THE MIC in the face of ideologically fashionable soft pop/rock. Great post – I’ll be checking it again soon!

Leon
Guest
Leon

What about Greece 2011?

Comi
Guest
Comi

I would also mention Poland 2014 🙂

aCE
Guest
aCE

Should have mentioned Macedonian entry in 2008 instead of Croatian and Turkish entries where isn’t really some raping :’D If I need to say which is my favorite rap entry then it would definitely be Macedonia 2008. From this ones above, Poland 2006 and Finland 2009. both made it to my TOP3 but I was quite disappointed after the performances.