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A Swiss rapper with attitude

Stress has topped the Swiss album charts for a second week (RDB)

The first Swiss rapper to top the country's album charts has been making headlines – not least for his lyrical attacks on the country's leading rightwing politician.

In an interview with swissinfo, Stress warns that the failure to get to grips with integration and young people will leave Switzerland with a major headache in years to come.

Stress – real name Andres Andrekson – was born in Estonia and arrived in Switzerland at the age of 12.

His third album, Renaissance, a contagious combination of hip-hop, rock, soul and pop, sparked a furore when it was released last month.

The 29-year-old had already enraged supporters of the hardline justice minister Christoph Blocher and his rightwing Swiss People's Party with his 2003 track "F*ck Blocher".

And there is no let-up this time around: Stress "deflowers" Blocher on the video to "Mais Où?". He also speaks out passionately in defence of Switzerland's youth whom he says are much maligned and misunderstood.

swissinfo: What's your argument with Blocher and the Swiss People's Party?

Stress: The problem I have with them is their methods. For example, in their last billboard campaign you see a black guy dressed like a rapper and it says there's been a 185 per cent increase in violence by foreign youths. But if you check all the figures, the increase for Swiss youths is 265 per cent. What they are doing is trying to scare people. They are not giving people the full picture and I don't think this is good for Switzerland.

People like Blocher are tearing this country apart. They are not promoting integration; they are too conservative and they want everything to stay the same. This is just the death of a country. You need new blood and new ideas to keep moving forward. I'm a bit astonished that they haven't seen that.

Swiss People's Party

The rightwing Swiss People's Party was formed in 1971 from a fusion of farmers' and artisans' parties. Since the beginning of the 1990s it has ...

swissinfo: You talk about Switzerland being "dead". Others see the country as dynamic and globally successful. What's your point?

Stress: What I'm saying is that the good old Switzerland is dead. A good dynamic is exactly what I'm talking about on Renaissance. In a certain age category there are a lot of independent people creating companies, exploring new forms of technology, fashion, whatever – and that brings dynamism. But when older people look at this younger generation they don't understand.

swissinfo: On your albums you rap a lot about the lives of young Swiss growing up in a multicultural environment. Do you feel their voice is being ignored?

Stress: Sometimes they are ignored; but sometimes they don't make themselves heard in the right way either. Still, there aren't a lot of possibilities for young voices to be heard, mainly because they are not taken seriously – and that's a big issue.

They are the future and they have to realise that they can make the decisions of tomorrow. They shouldn't just leave it to older people who don't have a clear view of their situation.

swissinfo: There've been calls recently – not only from the People's Party – for young foreigners convicted of serious crimes to be deported with their families. What's your view on this?

Stress: It's a really difficult subject. The point is you can send these foreigners back, but you will still have Swiss kids facing the same problems. Until the day you sit down and try to understand where these situations come from and what provokes them, you're basically fucked. So I think it's a really short-term way of thinking.

swissinfo: You say you're not a politician but you've sparked political debate in Switzerland. Do you have a political agenda or is it just a way of selling records, as some in the hip-hop scene claim?

Stress: I don't think someone is going to spend 30 bucks on my album just because he agrees with me on Blocher. I think an album is really all about music.

I say what I think and that's the way I've done my music on all my albums. I'm not going to change because I now have more media exposure.

swissinfo: You've taken a stand against racism, nationalism and discrimination yet you've also been accused of being homophobic. Can you explain this?

Stress: On the last album we made it quite clear that there are sometimes two different worlds in terms of language – and for me "gay" or "faggot" became just a swear word and nothing more. It has no hate content – it's just a word that everybody uses, that I use. I'm not a homophobe and I'll repeat it a thousand times.

swissinfo: A lot is made in Switzerland of the imaginary border between the German- and French-speaking parts, known as the Röstigraben. You rap in French but your music sells on both sides...

Stress: For me, I don't really see a Röstigraben between young people any more; rather I see a gulf between generations – and that's where the problem lies.

swissinfo-interview: Adam Beaumont

In brief

Stress, who is a naturalised Swiss, holds a business diploma, spent a year at Procter & Gamble, and speaks almost fluent English.

However, he says he has no plans to rap in English because he believes "rap music is really something where you have to use the language you speak and use everyday".

France and Belgium remain the most obvious markets for his work outside Switzerland.

He is currently dating former Miss Switzerland Melanie Winiger and divides his time between Lausanne and Zurich.

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