In mid-October 2021, two weeks before the release of his third album, Kleinstadt, German rapper RIN posted some photos on Instagram. In them, he posed inscrutably by a Porsche and a Mercedes G-Class. So far, so industry-standard braggadocio. However, the caption he wrote offered a better insight into what has earned him the Apple Music Award for Artist of the Year — Germany. The cars were parked, he explained, in a village in Bietigheim-Bissingen, a town north of Stuttgart. It was where the artist born Renato Simunovic grew up after his parents moved there in 2012—amid the bankruptcy of their restaurant and financial pressures that forced them to pawn their wedding rings. One of German hip-hop’s biggest stars, RIN has his own place now but still lives in Bietigheim-Bissingen, resolutely avoiding the traditional yellow brick road that many follow by decamping to Berlin. Kleinstadt, which translates as “small town,” was largely recorded in RIN’s hometown and he colors its vulnerable and reflective bars with the message that you don’t need to come from a big town to make a big impact—words that resonate strongly in an age of lockdowns.
“There were a few trips, of course,” he tells Apple Music about the recording. “But it’s a full-on child of the pandemic, from front to back. The first session happened when corona already existed. And I think you can hear that. It definitely has a darker touch. There’s more melancholy and not as much happiness on this album. What’s always important to me though, is to work according to the reality of my life and not try to be fake or pretend anything. My last albums were all made in a very energetic phase and that’s how they sound. This album is much more calm, even if there are some energetic moments.”