Milli Vanilli and Lucky Mushroom (A peek inside the music business “BI” before the internet)

The Milli Vanilli “music scandal” has been hashed and rehashed. This is an opinion form inside the scandal from Icy Bro, creator of Lucky Mushroom and special guest on “The RealMilli Vanilli’s The Moment of Truth album. Yes, there was an album after the scandal that featured the real voices but it was never released in North America, google “The Real Milli Vanilli for more info.

Ninety-nine percent of Americans that read this post or hear the name Frank Farian will be asking themselves „who is Frank Farian?“ But only if they are not from nor have they ever lived in Germany. However, ninety-nine percent of all readers my age plus/minus years will know exactly who Milli Vanilli is. For the first ninety-nine percent that don’t know Frank Farian, I’m here to tell you that two are inextricable. Love him or hate him, there is no Milli Vanilli without Frank Farian.

Younger readers might still be asking, “What is a Milli Vanilli? ” The answer to that is quite simple. Milli Vanilli was a very successful music group at the end of the 1980s doing so-called „black music“ successfully on a global scale before the age of the internet. I am not going to argue the validity of the label “black music”. If you need proof or have any questions ask any black American born after 1970 who Milli Vanilli is and they will tell you. One could also ask the producer or the surviving member what kind of art they were attempting to make. There is no disputing the fact that they were played on black radio back when that’s what the genre was being called. Pop hadn’t been established as a genre that included rap yet. But this duo a singer and a rapper from Germany, that’s where they were produced, of all places took the world including the black community and black radio by storm.

To people my age, give or take ten years, to call these facts into question sounds completely absurd. Because everybody either Knows Frank Farian or Milli Vanilli. if they don’t know both. If the sentiments expressed here don’t resinate with you it’s simply because you are not from Germany or any place that would be considered the western hemisphere in the late 80s. I’m not sure about the eastern hemisphere but it was quite possibly the same there. We didn’t often get a peak behind the iron curtain.

Let me give you a little information on the man called Frank Farian through the lens of a black American that grew up making hip hop not simply listening to it and yes there is a difference.

In the 80s Frank Farian is a producer living on the outskirts of Frankfurt. He has made a mark on the music industry by producing Disco music. He is fascinated by “black music” the official nomenclature for soul, R&B, gospel etc in Germany and Europe. He even sings lead in a “black music” group called Boney M that had been producing hits since the 70s.

As a lover of what is considered black music Farian discovers a new trend. He hears it in local clubs frequented by black American GIs. Some call it rap others call it hip hop. He decides that he has to include the style in his music. Even before he incorporated it into his latest project called Milli Vanilli he has reached out to the fledgling hip hop community in Frankfurt Germany and he is producing hip hop in his studio. He comes from the world of “pop” to the rest of the world so he doesn’t know how to market it but he likes it. Eventually Milli Vanilli becomes his method of delivery. He takes the world by storm with his own take on so-called “black music” and rap is a part of it!

Imagine a young rapper from Baltimore of the early to mid 80s arriving in Germany in 1986. I was that young rapper in love with hip hop and I was known in my own city and even got airplay on a local radio station (WEBB) back home in my beloved Baltimore. This is well before hip hop became the “genre that it is today. Rap was even frowned upon by “urban” music radio stations in favor of the more “traditional” R&B of the time. Hip hop, outside of New York City, was the music of house parties. This was my personal experience so I rapped in clubs for soldiers stationed overseas and hooks up with the DJs working the GI club scene.

I became fast friends with a fellow soldier a Puerto Rican from New York City who was a DJ at a local German club in Frankfurt called Upstaris Downstairs. I would often go to the club and rock the spot with him. He introduced me to a friend a fellow Puerto Rican from New York that went by the name Eddie Action. His favorite spot was a club in Frankfurt Germany called Funkadelic a meeting point for all hip hoppers in the area. I was asked if I wanted to collaborate with/ join a local crew called The Bionic Force. There was only one other crew in Frankfurt called that I had ever heard of was Eddie’s We wear the crown. That group gave birth to some of Germany’s biggest rap acts most notably Mo P of Rödelheim Hartreim Projekt.

Fast forward to 1988, now I know who Farian is as even Americans have come to know of his latest production called Milli Vanilli. However, Frank is still fascinated by rap and still has a host of rappers and producers at his studio doing hip hop. But hip hop is still being shunned by mainstream media. Meanwhile Milli Vanilli is becoming more and more successful. They are not only doing well in Europe, they are doing well in the USA and South America.

One day Icy Bro is personally summoned to the studio by Farian. Icy and Farian had frequently discussed rap/hip hop. Frank like most listeners that are not from “the hood” was convinced that it was a passing phase, just another trend that would fade or give way to something commercial. He appreciated the depth of my lyrics ( listen to the words of Crazy Cane) but was convinced that audiences don’t really listen to words. He was about the catchy hooks and grooves, something that was missing in Hip Hop. However he really liked the genre. He asked if I had heard any of the rumors circulating about the talent or lack there of in his two front men. He confessed to me that they were not singing on the tracks but that he wanted to introduce “the real singers” on an upcoming album. He said that he wanted the album to be special and asked if I would like to be a special guest on the album; not doing a duet but as a special guest with my own tracks. I agreed to keep silent until it was a done deal and the rest is history.

So, if you bought a copy of “The Moment of Truth” by The Real Milli Vanilli, you will find two tracks on the album that has nothing to do with the group. The tracks are there because Frank wanted something authentic on the album. The tracks are a little polished but the lyrics have not been watered down. Don’t just take my word for it. Check it out on YouTube or the web. Not much is said about the special guest rapper and he is never dissed by any rapper anywhere because the same flow put on any hip hop track of 1988/1989 is not easily outmatched. Icy Bro went on to record with Grönemeyer, Ramazotti, M-People just to name a few. But left the recording industry in 1999 to become an English as a second language teacher. More behind the scenes stuff in my next post (with video). But for now here are some of the lyrics to last verse of”Crazy Cane” .

Radical is what they claim that I am being

Some brothers are blind because they can not see into the meaning

Of the stories I tell

They fight each other like dogs pretending things are swell

The Crack spot is Real hot

But don’t you call that hip hop

No pain no gain another hit no brain but you’re addicted and afflicted by the crazy cane

We need peace but on higher level

Huffing and puffing God’s gift gone bad

If it’s a sign of the times then the times are mad

The neighborhood-park that’s just a haven for thugs

I have to laugh when I hear it, war on drugs

Sometimes I even think about the virgin birth

First strike capability

And who’ll strike first

The kiss of the reaper seems sweet to the blind

No states involved

Just stat of mind and in your state you’re…

Icy Bro 1988

I still believe that words matter! Don’t ever stop communicating!

Lucky Mushroom

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