German hip hop groups and rappers like K.I.Z. and Cro are currently gracing the top of the German language music charts. However, it was bands like Die Fantastischen Vier that paved the way. But one should not talk about the group in the past tense. These guys haven’t hung up their microphones just yet. The four-member group has had big hits that are sure to catch your ear.
Fanta Vier, as they are affectionately called, is a winning combination for German learners. Their delivery is clearly articulated while the lyrics and music videos are often entertaining and very humorous. Let’s get to know Die Fantastischen Vier better with this month’s German music feature.
Get to Know Die Fantastischen Vier
Fantastischen Vier was formed, officially, in 1989 in Stuttgart, Germany. But the group’s roots go back a few more years when Smudo (born Michael Schmidt) and And.Ypsilon (born Andreas Rieke) were making music together as Terminal Team. The group performed in both English and German.
With the addition of Michi Beck and Thomas D (Thomas Dürr), they adopted the name Fantastischen Vier. Around this time, Smudo and Thomas D made a visit to the United States. It was during the trip that they realized that their new group needed to rap in German. They saw differences between the West Coast rap scene and their own German rap scene. In order to best communicate messages and reflect their experiences, they felt they needed to do that in German.
Their first performance was in July 1989 on a stage they built themselves out of shipping pallets. To this day, the band’s original line-up remains intact.
The Music of Die Fantastischen Vier
The quartet released their debut Jetzt geht’s ab in 1991. The record offered a solid start as it peaked at 22 in the German charts. In addition to the songs you expect, short skits and humorous sketches offer interludes between tracks. The formula is one the group has continued to follow.
But the following year, the band exploded with 4 gewinnt. The album’s first single was “Die da!?!” The track is shamelessly catchy and cheeky as Smudo and Thomas D each share about a woman they’re interested in but seems to be playing rather hard to get. Turns out it’s the same woman. (Oops!) Unsurprising given the strength of the tracks, the album flew to the top of the German, Austrian, and Swiss charts.
In total, Die Fantastischen Vier has released ten full-length studio albums and eight live albums. Their most recent studio album is 2018’s Captain Fantastic. Each album is eagerly awaited and almost always heads into the top slots on the charts. For a career that has lasted more than two decades, that is quite an accomplishment.
Their music as well as their videos often have a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor while still making a larger point. Take, for example, the track “Mfg” (short for Mit freundlichen Grüßen or “with friendly greetings”) from 1999’s 4:99. The lyrics of the track are almost completely made up of abbreviations. From the German soccer federation (DFB) to German TV channel AFD to clothing brand H&M, they are all in there.
Fans of The Voice of Germany may already be familiar with the group. Michi and Smudo served coaches on the show for five seasons. And they have been rather successful, too, having championed the winning singer two seasons in a row.
With so many albums, the best way to get to know the band quickly is probably with their greatest hits album, 2015’s Vier und Jetzt: Best Of 1990-2015.
Looking for another Ohrwurm to help you learn German? Check out previously featured musicians and bands!
Photo by Vlado Golub, courtesy of the band’s official Facebook page. This post contains affiliate links.