Playlist: A Brief Overview of French Hip-Hop

January 25, 2013 | By French Culture
Nasme et Haroun - Live Batofar (c) Photoctet

Hip-hop came to France early. By the late-70’s New York’s best crews were touring the country, soon after hip-hop radio stations began cropping up in Paris. In 1984 Parisian DJ and producer Dee Nasty released “Paname City Rappin’,” arguably the first French-language hip-hop record. By the early 90’s, there were clubs, crews and radio shows from Marseille to Lille, and MC Solaar was bringing French hip-hop to the international stage. Since then, France has continued to foster one of the most vibrant hip-hop scenes in the world.

Politics, and particularly issues of immigration, poverty, and racism, have been central to the music almost since its inception. Perhaps even more than their counterparts in the US, French MCs, many of whom grew up in the banlieues (largely impoverished suburbs on the outskirts of cities), have used hip-hop to give voice to socio-economic injustice. Argot (French slang), lends a particular sound to Francophone flows and opens up unique opportunities for metaphor and double entendre. Verlan, the practice of reversing the order of a word to create a new word, is a singularly French technique that gives many rhymes a dizzying, inside-out movement. Musically, hip-hop in the hexagon is too varied to sum up in a few sentences, but a continued interest in sample-based beats and the dusty sounds of American producers like DJ Premier, J Dilla and the RZA can be heard in many tracks.

In the playlist below we’ve compiled tracks that run the gamut from 90's classics by Suprême NTM and CMP Familia to younger stars like La Rat Luciano and Kalash L'Afro. It will give you a sense of the breadth and continued creativity of hip-hop in French.

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Judith Walker
French scholar Alain-Philippe Durand has just started a hip-hop studies minor for undergraduates at the University of Arizona. Durand is taking a global approach to the culture, in particular, making sure his students are fluent in French hip-hop.
Checkout this article about the program in Les Inrocks (in French), which includes a brief history of the genre, as well as a nice discussion of hip-hop in France.

Here's a link to the article:
January 31, 2013 New york
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