‘Sie Wollten Wasser doch kriegen benzin’ – which roughly translates to ‘They wanted water but they got gas’ – is the eighth studio album by one of Germany’s biggest names in hip-hop. Max Diehn, AKA Kontra K, has had no shortness of success in his home scene but has yet to make a name for himself on the wider global stage. With this release, he had a shot at breaking out.
Kontra K delivers a project that, at it’s heart, is about struggles, loss and the sadness that accompanies it all. Poverty, pressure and self-doubt are obstacles many can relate to, but more than just commentating on how bad it all is, this album is about staying motivated when everything around you is falling down.
At 20 tracks and a little over an hour of playtime, this album needed enough substance to warrant its lengthy size, and for the most part, it does. Some excellent production, unique and varied beats and regular switch-ups between Kontra’s more sombre tracks and his hype-building others mean the album doesn’t overstay its welcome.
The album opens on Weine Nicht, a very clear and obvious German take on Lil Wayne and XXXTentacion’s tear-jerker Don’t Cry. Kontra K borrows the song’s name, hook and practically every aspect of its production yet never acknowledges it nor tributes X in any of the bars. It’s a little bizarre, especially for an opening track.
Though the rest of the album offers much more in the way of original material, nothing in the album screams out as being particularly special and a lot of it stems from Kontra’s own voice. His mellowed, Rich Brian-esque delivery does get a little tired when track-after-track is approached in much the same way, made worse by the sheer length of the release.
Throughout the album, some flashes of genius appear like in the track Nur ein Grund which pulls chilled dance elements into the mix and brings Kazak MC Jah Khalib onto the project. Whilst Kontra certainly doesn’t necessarily lack the ability to deliver bars or write meaningful lyrics, the album definitely peaks when the feature jumps in, overshadowing Diehn and injecting tracks with some much-needed energy that he alone fails to deliver.
It would be a challenge for any artist to deliver a project this big without the help of features (I can hear J. Cole laughing to himself from here) but the featureless tracks – the majority of the album – struggle to reach anywhere near the impact nor quality of other country’s biggest hip-hop artists on the scene today.
With this release, despite its German language bars, it had the chance to elevate Kontra from a German star to a global hip-hop name. Clearly hours upon hours have been spent in the studio tightening up every track to the highest levels and it shows – what the album offers is a genuinely strong set of tracks. Ultimately though, the release fails to bring anything especially interesting or unique to the table and Kontra himself is repeatedly outshined in his performance.
The production alone makes the album a worthwhile listen but, as far as becoming a global hit, I very much doubt it.