Rapper Eko Fresh in interview: "I want to be a role model"
Rapper Eko Fresh is now also a spokesman. His current project is the audio book "Hochgekampft" about the Chaer brothers, who built up the wrestling league GWF.
Photo: Dirk Mathesius / Rosenheim Rocks/Sandra Eichner
Essen. He motivates migrants, dubs video games, reads wrestling audio books. And soon Eko Fresh will return to the stage in Dusseldorf as well.
At the age of 20, Ekrem Bora, better known as Eko Fresh, climbed the charts for the first time. "I’m young and I need the money" was the name of the top five song that launched his rap career in 2003. Today, the Cologne native has much more on his mind than music. He regularly appears as a speaker for various integration projects, dubs video games and most recently started a Turkish food delivery service in his hometown. Now there is a new task: Eko Fresh reads the audio book "Hochgekampft", telling the story of the two brothers Ahmed and Hussen Chaer, who built up the wrestling league GWF (German Wrestling Federation) in Berlin. About his versatile activities, the 38-year-old spoke with Patrick Friedland.
Eko, you are known to be a big wrestling fan. What fascinates you about?
It is a very special form of entertainment. I don’t get the thrill that comes with almost anything else. I’ve been following this since I was a kid, with a little break when the rap career really took off. After a few years, I then lived alone again and I went back to wrestling through DVDs, for a while it was no longer on free TV in Germany. Today it does again, but it’s a niche. Now I’m trying to introduce my son to them.
Even once stood in the ring?
I can talk quite well, so I already fit the manager position (companion of a wrestler, who also takes over dialogue passages for him between the fights, note. d. Red.) It was a very informative and exciting time to look behind the scenes. I fought myself only once in 2008 in Cologne against Erik Schwarz. I got the short end of the stick, but I earned his respect for sticking it out for so long. But I’m just too unsporty for that (laughs).
"The two of them have had a lot of fights – even in daily life."
Why are you of all people reading the audio book about the story of the Chaer brothers??
I’ve known them for tens of years, in the early/mid 2000s. At that time I simply got into conversation with them because they were the only ones in wrestling who looked like me. There are a lot of people in the demographic who like soccer, a lot of people who listen to hip-hop, but not a lot of people who like wrestling. They are super cool guys who have dedicated their lives to wrestling and have shed a lot of blood, sweat and tears for it. It wasn’t an easy road, they’ve had a lot of fights, not only in the ring, but also in daily life. What they have built up now, with their own league and the coaching job, is impressive. I was honored to be asked to narrate the audio book.
How did the two get into wrestling?
They first liked Bud Spencer and Terrence Hill movies and also the wrestling that was on German TV in the 90s. That, this cohesion among the wrestlers, has also always kept them from going off the rails, although the temptations were great. They are decent boys, their father always paid attention to them.
What role did the migration background play?
Already a big. They are yes half/half. The mother is German from the GDR and had met an Arab man. A romantic bilingual love story. Family situations occur again and again in the audio book, some of them very curious.
In recent years, you have been seen in public again and again in the context of integration projects. Why again and again Eko Fresh?
I don’t know either (laughs). People probably see a learning curve with me and could follow my work and development because of the rap career at a young age. They see how I pick up influences and process them in the music, but then also pass them on in other performances in public. I guess I’ve become a confidant when it comes to empowering young migrants in their development.
Thematically, you have also been increasingly dealing with the topic of integration in your music in recent years.
Yes. That changed over the years, it was more and more about more important topics. I have realized that I have become a kind of mouthpiece for many people. I hope I do that well, no one is perfect. I just try to be the best possible version of myself every day, especially for my son.
In the song "Quotenturke" you rapped in 2016: "I’m mainly booked, if you are looking for a’ foreigner."Has that changed in the meantime??
In part. Somewhere it is also an honor that the people do to you. When they say: "We’d like to talk to you about this topic, because you are a figurehead in this respect"."I had to get used to it for a while. I came from battle rap, I often alluded to my immigrant background, but I never drew a message from it. At some point I realized that I have a certain notoriety, that I’m doing well and I should make something out of it after all. If I already got these opportunities from my parents and grandparents, I should also carry others along, show them how it’s done. I want to be a good influence, a role model. The motto: He looks like me, he has an unpronounceable last name like me, but he made it, so I can make it too.
How important is the tough rapper image from the past??
I try to strike the right tone, a cool tone, which will take as many people with me as possible. Also together with my wife. The other day we released a video with Raul Krauthausen for the Day of People with Disabilities. He wanted it to be not only about disabilities, but also about migration and women’s rights. That’s why it worked out so well with us, my wife is always very committed to it.
What do you say to the fact that your song lyrics to "Der Gastarbeiter" are now already in German school textbooks??
This is an extremely big honor, I couldn’t believe it at first. A young girl from Baden-Wuerttemberg sent me this picture from the side. After checking out the source, I also couldn’t wait to share this on social media with my fans and followers.
What project would you like to do again?
Outside of acting, dubbing, once in an animated film. I can do a lot with my voice, because I have lived in the singing booth for years through rapping. But I’m currently in the process of dubbing another video game, I’ve already done it once with "Outriders.
"I have the ‘Quotenturke’ label, why shouldn’t I use it??"
You also got into the food delivery business. A response to rap stars like Capital Bra, Shirin David and Haftbefehl, who all have their own iced tea, burger store or frozen pizza these days, after all?
I have not been inspired by them, but I am happy when they succeed in the entrepreneurial field. In my career, I’ve always tried to think outside the box, to take the next step, to collaborate even with the mainstream, to break boundaries. For example a Telekom collabo in 2004, the other day I had moderated a project event against mobbing for them. And: I have the "Quotenturke" label, why should I not use it? People trust me about turkish food then too.
There have been accusations that "delivery Turk" wants to displace the small stores.
Our concept integrates the Turkish family stores and markets into the internet. we don’t want to take anything away from them, we want to help them expand their yield. Who buys from you? In fact there are a lot of Germans. But the Germans like Turkish cuisine anyway.
Let’s get back to the music: Did you actually make it into the Guinness Book of Records with the 87-minute rap song "2020 Bars"??
We tried hard, but gave up. What there bureaucratic was too complicated. We talked to the German Record Institute, they were also immediately interested. But I wanted to bring it into the international, which unfortunately did not work out. But I think it should be a record.
Most recently, you were under discussion for "Miss Kollefornia," a remake of the Dante Thomas hit "Miss California". How did this collaboration come about?
He is an old colleague of mine, that came about through my label. I am glad that I have this possibility. As a teenager, when this came out, I never thought that I would be able to perform this song myself. Whenever he comes to Germany, we see each other, and I always try to make sure that we can do as many promos together as possible. And we were able to play a few gigs despite the pandemic and raise money, among other things for the flood victims.
In April there is another gig coming up. What do visitors of an Eko concert get?
Of course, the classics are always there, I have to bring them with me. Otherwise, I’m versatile (laughs). I have material for mainstream audiences as well as the most underground jam, I adapt the program on the spot. But I always want to sprinkle in one or two new songs.
In the supporting program, one of many interesting newcomers, Die P from Bonn, will play in Dusseldorf. How do you evaluate the development of women’s rap in Germany??
I find super, also my wife is there a total advocate of. There are many interesting female rappers today, especially in NRW. The P is a really cool artist. It’s nice that there are also female rappers who rather bring the 90s sound, that happens rather rarely today. To her I would also always give a verse of mine.
Last question: How is your relationship with Kool Savas, with whom you had "Germany’s biggest rapper fight ever" in 2004, today??
We are not in close contact, but the problems of that time have long since been sponged over. Recently I gave him an interview for his book, I was very happy to do that and I wish him much success for the book. If I ever stray into a bookstore again, I’ll take a peek and maybe even buy it.
>>> INFO: Eko Fresh live and the audiobook "Hochgekampft"
The audio book "Fought up." is from 22.2. available exclusively from the provider Audible at a price of € 19.99.