German rapper Cro certainly isn’t the first musician to have a gimmick. His just happens to be a panda mask that covers the top half of his face, obscuring his identity. It features an upside-down cross drawn on the mask between the eyes.
Who is Cro, really? While you may ask that about any celebrity or public figure, it is especially relevant when learning about this music star. With no official private identity, we have only the information he provides in song as insight.
But while Cro might be considered a rapper, his music is positively poppy. Since the release of Raop, his debut full-length, in 2012, the young musician has been a star of the German music scene scooping up awards and topping the music charts.
Let’s get to know Cro for this month’s German Music feature!
Admittedly, we do know a little bit about the man behind the mask. He is, in fact, not a panda. Without the mask, he is merely 26-year old Carlo Waibel from Stuttgart, Germany. The infamous panda mask transforms him simply by placing it on his head. With it, he is a popular musician on the German music scene.
Since the very beginning, Waibel has made no secret of his aspirations to marry the rap and pop music genres together. He has spawned a number of popular singles, all of which feature Wailbel’s trademark of strong, catchy melodies.
Take, for example, his debut, Raop. The title is a mash-up of the two popular music genres. The 2011 album is relatively light and platable. The single “Easy” samples the classic “Sunny” from Bobby Hebb while another popular single, “Einmal um die Welt,” uses a bouncy indie guitar track from Kilians.
2014 saw the release of his second full-length album, entitled Melodie. Like its predecessor, it went to the top of the German and Austrian music charts. While some of the most memorable tracks from Raop used samples from popular music, Melodie features samples created by Cro and other producers. The album’s biggest track, “Traum,” draws listeners in with a sunny melody punctuated with horns. Elsewhere, the beat for “Bad Chick” has the attitude of an Amy Winehouse tune.
The ubiquitous MTV’s Unplugged session followed in 2015. The Unplugged session included guests such as Die Prinzen as well as rappers Max Herre and Teesy. The special performance also sees Cro’s music get the full live band treatment that brings new energy and life to the tracks.
If Cro’s first two albums were unadulterated, guilt-free pop, then 2017’s tru. is his attempt to experiment. Do not misunderstand, Cro seems incapable of completely abandoning his pop approach to rap. It is easy to hear on tracks like “todas,” featuring Wyclef Jean. But elsewhere, the beats and instrumentation are more downbeat and, relatively speaking, more minimalist.
In April 2021, Cro released this fourth full-length release, the double-album Trip. With the new album, his sound continues to progress but picks up where Melodie left off. While still easily accessible, it comes across as less over-the-top poppy. Tracks like “Blessed,” featuring Capital Bra, sound especially modern and up to speed with current music trends. Also notable is the repeated “explicit” warning flags on some of the tracks. It’s a “feature” of tru., too, that is noticeably absent on earlier albums.
Looking for another Ohrwurm to help you learn German? Check out previously featured musicians and bands!
Photo from Universal Music Germany. This post contains affiliate links.