[Blackstudies-l] How French hip hop found its own voice by going back to Africa

Maria Lima lima at geneseo.edu
Thu Jul 6 08:39:15 EDT 2017

lisaparavisini posted: " This article by Patricia Yumba Muzinga for Music
in Africa discusses several artists from the Francophone Antilles. French
hip hop is one of the most popular music genres in the French mainstream
media. With the advent of satellite TV on the African"
Respond to this post by replying above this line
New post on *Repeating Islands*
<http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/> How French hip hop
found its own voice by going back to Africa
lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>

[image: Kassav-banner.jpg]

This article by Patricia Yumba Muzinga for *Music in Africa*
discusses several artists from the Francophone Antilles.

French hip hop is one of the most popular music genres in the French
mainstream media. With the advent of satellite TV on the African continent
in the early 1990s and the development (decades later) of the internet and
other new technologies, French hip hop has exploded into the large African
francophone market. Originally imported from the USA, this genre became
popular among the youth of African descent in France (and in many other
European countries). At first, French hip hop was largely influenced by
American hip hop, but it has throughout the years started developing its
own personality and sound by drawing influences in the rich African musical
heritage shared by many French rappers.

In looking at the influence of Africa on French hip-hop, this text focusses
largely on the African diaspora - typically rappers of African decent
living in France, recording and releasing hip-hop in France (which is often
later consumed in Africa). In doing so, it does not attempt to cover
francophone hip-hop in general - for example, French-speaking rappers based
in Africa and working only within the African market. The aim of this text
is thus to explore the historical and contemporary influence of Africa on
hip hop in Europe, specifically France.

*Late 1980s-1990s: The birth of French hip hop*

Rap music and hip hop culture takes its origins in the USA, dating back to
the early 1970s. In 1979, ‘Rapper’s Delight’ by Sugarhill Gang became the
first global rap hit. France discovered hip hop in the early 1980s with the
rest of the world.  The movement quickly became popular among the youth,
particularly in ‘*les cites’* (low-cost housing, the French equivalent of
‘the projects’ in the US) where there is a large and diverse community of
immigrants of African descent. Underground hip hop parties were organized
and became a creative outlet where youngsters could enjoy rap music and
experiment with breakdancing, Dj'ing and graffiti art.

In the beginning, hip hop was broadcast only via small independent radio
stations called ‘Les Radios Libres’ (free radios). Through these stations
and hip hop parties, rap enthusiasts were introduced to American rap
pioneers such as Afrika Bambaataa, RUN DMC and Grandmaster Flash.

In 1984, TF1 (one of the most popular national TV channels) launched a show
dedicated to hip-hop and breakdancing called *H.I.P-H.O.P*.  This iconic
show is often hailed as the ‘first ever TV hip-hop show in the world’ and
has largely contributed in bringing this underground movement into millions
of households. At that time, local rap music was still inexistent.
Breakdancing was more popular and local DJs would only play American
artists when hosting hip-hop parties or on radio shows.

The first groups of French rappers emerged in the late 1980s, with the
likes of NTM, Assassin and Ministère A.M.E.R. These groups were inspired by
American rap groups such as Public Enemy and NWA. Their controversial
lyrics (including criticism of institutions such as the media and the
police) echoed with this first generation of local rappers. Indeed, most of
them come from poor neighborhoods and rap music quickly became a platform
to address issues such as racism, police brutality, unemployment,
discrimination among others. These first rap groups were rather unwelcomed
by authorities and the media because of their controversial lyrics and were
therefore forced to remain underground.

In the early 1990s, a new trend in hip hop was introduced to the public. It
was less political, more celebratory and based on poetic rhymes and
well-crafted wordplays. This style was largely embraced by the public and
the media and benefited from the benevolence of the authorities.  The
figurehead of this genre is undoubtedly MC Solaar with highly acclaimed
singles and albums such as ‘Bouge de la’, ‘Caroline’ (from his debut album *Qui
sème le vent récolte le Tempo*, 1991), ‘Obsolète’ (*Prose Combat,* 1995);
‘Les temps changent’ and ‘Paradisiaque’ (*Paradisiaque*, 1997). Other key
figures of this light-hearted rap are Doc Gyneco, Ménélik and Alliance
Ethnik, to name a few.

*The explosion of the local rap scene: French rap finds its personality*

In the late 1990s, thanks to the pioneering work of the likes of MC Solaar,
rap music was widely accepted by the public and the media, and became a
relevant genre in the French cultural landscape. There emerged many
artists, powerful labels and crews such as I Am, La Fonky Family, 3ème
Oeil, La Brigade, Mafia K-1 Fry, Saian Supa Crew, and Ideal J. Pioneer
groups such as NTM and Ministère AMER managed to come back in the spotlight
by adopting a more commercial strategy. For instance, the members of
Ministère AMER created (with the help of their manager Kenzy) a label and
crew called Secteur Ä.  Through this powerful label, the careers of many
affiliated artists and groups were launched (Passi, Stomy Bugsy, Doc
Gynéco, Ärsenik, Neg’Marrons, Bisso Na Bisso, etc.). Secteur Ä is still
considered today as one of the most powerful labels in French rap history
and it includes members from diverse origins such as Senegal, Cape Verde,
Congo and Les Antilles, the French Caribbean.

It was also during these years that local hip hop started developing a
clearly distinct sound. French artists stopped mimicking American rappers
and started writing lyrics that were more relevant to the youth growing up
in their projects and the numerous issues they face daily. In 1997, a
culturally diverse French soccer team (composed mainly of players of
immigrant origins) won the FIFA World Cup. France went through a phase
where diversity was celebrated and embraced, with slogans like
‘Black-Blanc-Beur’ (meaning ‘black, white and Arab’). This event brought
artists - including rappers - from diverse origins and backgrounds further
into the spotlight.

Thanks to satellite TV, French rappers were also becoming popular on the
African continent. In 1992, the French music channel MCM was broadcast in
most French-speaking African countries. In 1998, MCM Africa, a sister
channel dedicated to urban genres including RnB, Zouk and hip-hop - was
launched. The popularity of these channels on the continent was a major
step in building a bridge between artists from the diaspora and the African
audience. In 2003, a new tv channel dedicated to urban music was born and
replaced the defunct MCM, its  Trace TV.
<https://www.musicinafrica.net/directory/trace-urban> Trace TV is a group
of channels which focuses on urban, African and tropical genres.

*Bisso Na Bisso, the precursors of an African-flavored sound*

In 1999, some of the members of the label Secteur Ä who shared Congolese
heritage (Congo-Brazza) formed a collective called Bisso Na Bisso (which
means ‘between us’ in Lingala). The members were Passi,
<https://www.musicinafrica.net/node/7012> Ben-J, Lino, Calbo, Mystik, Doc
and G Kill, along with the only female of the group, the singer M’Passi.
<https://www.musicinafrica.net/node/8449>  Their album called *Racines* (roots)
is a fusion of hip hop with African and Caribbean rhythms, including rumba,
soukous and zouk. The album contains collaborations with legendary African
artists such as Koffi Olomide
<http://musicinafrica.net/directory/koffi-olomide>, Papa Wemba
<http://musicinafrica.net/directory/papa-wemba>, Ismael Lo
<http://musicinafrica.net/directory/isma%C3%ABl-l%C3%B4>, Lokua Kanza
<http://musicinafrica.net/directory/lokua-kanza>, Manu Dibango
<http://musicinafrica.net/directory/manu-dibango> and the iconic
French/Caribbean Zouk group, Kassav. Bisso Na Bisso released many
successful hits from the album and addressed through their songs various
African issues such as: war, unity and solidarity (in the single
‘L’union’); immigration and bicultural identity (in ‘Le cul entre deux
chaises’); bad governance and corruption (in the satirical ‘Dans la peau
d’un chef’). The album was a huge success in France and throughout the
large Francophone African market. That year the group earned three Kora
<https://www.musicinafrica.net/directory/kora-all-africa-music-awards> Awards
in the categories Best Arrangement, Best Group and Best Video.

Another group that has extensively explored their African heritage is 113,
which is part of a collective called Mafia K-1 Fry and is composed of Karim
(of Algerian origin), AP (from the French Antilles) and Mokobé
<http://musicinafrica.net/directory/mokob%C3%A9> (of Malian origin). Their
hit song ‘Tonton du Bled’ (2000) discusses clichés and stereotypes with
humour. Karim narrates/raps about how it feels to return home (to Algeria
in this case). The song blends rap music with Algerian Rai sounds. Another
of their successful singles is ‘Un Gaou à Oran’ featuring Magic
System. Mokobé later released solo albums *Mon Afrique *(2007) and *Africa
Forever* (2011) and remains one of the leading figures in
‘African-flavored’ rap today. He has collaborated with many artists
such as Fally
Ipupa <http://musicinafrica.net/directory/fally-ipupa> in the
soukous-inspired ‘Malemb*e’* (2008), Malian diva Oumou Sangaré
<http://musicinafrica.net/directory/oumou-sangar%C3%A9> (‘Voix du Mali’,
2009) and more recently with Nigerian duo P-Square
<https://www.musicinafrica.net/directory/p-square> (‘Getting Down’, 2015).

*French rap in the new millennium*

The development of the internet and other new technologies over the last
decade has dramatically affected the music industry and the way the public
consume music. The music industry all over the world faces challenges such
as a decline in physical album and magazine sales. Piracy and copyrights
are other issues brought about by these new platforms. However, these
challenges also come with new opportunities for artists, such as the
exposure to a worldwide market and the possibility to release mixtapes or
singles online instead of full albums.

The French rap industry has also been affected by many changes. Many of the
most powerful labels from the 1990s no longer exist. Artists of the
previous decade such as IAm NTM, Stomy Bugsy, Doc Gyneco, Passi, 113,
Jacky went on sabbatical break, focusing on other interests, such as
production, business and even acting.

During the first decade of the 2000s, the hip hop industry is mainly
driven by individualism and egos. A new generation of rappers emerged.
Contrary to their elders who had forged their own sound, rappers of this
generation went back to copying American rappers. Among the most popular
rappers of this period one can mention La Fouine and Rohff and Booba
<https://booba/> who is still very popular today. This generation of
rappers emulated the ‘bling’ lifestyle of American artists. However, like
their elders, their African origins and social issues faced by African
immigrants are still addressed through their music.

Furthermore, they have continued to strengthen their relationship with
their African fans. From the early 2000s, more African promoters have
started bringing French rappers on the continent. Many big names of the
hip-hop industry perform regularly in countries like Côte d’Ivoire,
Senegal, Gabon and both Congos. For instance, La Fouine and Soprano
participated in the Francofolies Festival, held in Kinshasa, DRC in early

*French rap today*

Over the past couple of years (since approximately 2010), French hip hop
seems to be going through another phase.  Social media platforms like
Facebook and Youtube have allowed a new generation of rappers to become
popular. These rappers are taking their share of the stage dominated by the
likes of Booba <https://booba/>, La Fouine and Rohff for almost a decade.
One can also mention Orelsan, L’Entourage, Sexion d’Assaut and
Youssoupha <http://musicinafrica.net/directory/youssoupha>, among others.
Interestingly, some pioneer artists or groups are also making a comeback.
Earlier this year (1917), the rappers of the iconic label Secteur Ä
 reunited and performed a series of concerts to commemorate the 20 years'
anniversary of their labels and their solo projects much to the delight of
their fans.

One of the most popular and bestselling group of this new generation,
Sexion d’Assaut (via their label Wati B) is a goldmine of individual
talents of diverse origins (Mali, Senegal, DRC, Cote d’Ivoire, France and
Guinea). They have released many successful singles such as ‘Désolé’,
‘Avant qu’elle parte’ and ‘L’apogée’, among others. They have also received
many accolades along the way. They have released the hit ‘Africain’
(African)*, *which i*s* a hymn to their diverse African heritage. Sexion
d’Assaut has launched the solo careers of some of the most successful rap
artists today, like Maître Gims, Lefa and Black M.

Maître Gims <http://musicinafrica.net/directory/ma%C3%AEtre-gims> (whose
father is well-known veteran Congolese musician Djuna Djanana) is a
singer/rapper known for his powerful vocals in most of Sexion d’Assaut
songs. He has been enjoying a lot of success recently with his solo
projects. His first solo album, *Subliminal* , sold over 1 000 000 units
(diamond status in France). His latest hit single, ‘Sapés comme jamais’,
plays around the theme of ‘Sapologie’ (a fashion movement from Congo DRC
and Congo-Brazza) and a recurrent theme in the music of both countries. The
video features Niska, a rapper originally from Congo-Brazza, and was
released in October 2015. The video of the song is  a tribute to the
Sapologie movement and his Congolese heritage.

Youssoupha <https://www.musicinafrica.net/node/11501> (whose father is
Congolese music legend Tabu Ley) is another successful rapper of
this generation. Youssoupha (whose albums include *A chaque frère* in
2007; *Sur
le chemin du retour* in 2009; *Noir D**** in 2012 and *NGRTD *in 2015) is
known for his conscious and poetic lyrics. He cites the legendary MC Solaar
as one of his biggest inspirations. He too explores his identity by
incorporating African sounds and samples into his music. Worth mentioning
is his single ‘Les disques de mon père’ (meaning ‘My father’s albums’),
where Youssoupha samples Tabu Ley’s single ‘Pitié’. It is a tribute to his
father’s musical legacy. In the video, the late Congolese musician is
showed in a studio recording with his son.

Representing the latest generation, MHD
<https://www.musicinafrica.net/node/10195>   a young rapper of Senegalese
and Guinean descent, is the precursor of the afro-trap, a genre mixing
afro-carribean genres with trap music, a hip-hop sub-genre from the south
of the US. MHD's Afro-Trap videos  series on Youtube gained more than 80
million views. His debut album *MHD *topped the French charts and features
heavyweight Africans artists such as Angelique Kidjo
<https://www.musicinafrica.net/node/9961> and Fally Ipupa. Niska, Kaaris
and Gradur are some of the prominent rappers of this latest generations

Although French rap started out by copying American hip-hop, this text
shows how it has developed its own sound and personality over the course of
decades. This has been done mainly by artists who have started (and
continue) to look for inspirations in their diverse African heritage to
develop original sounds and rhythms. Furthermore, by getting back to their
roots (with the help of new technology and through collaborations with
African musicians), French rappers have managed to build a huge fanbase
among the youth of the African continent and this has opened an even wider
market for them.
*lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>* |
July 5, 2017 at 6:10 pm | Categories: News
<http://repeatingislands.com/category/news/> | URL: http://wp.me/psnTa-w5t

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