October 30 2007
Nas says hip hop is dead, and while it may be so, and in some facet of his of microcosm, even indicative of an actual trend. But when I look at the music being produced, that no one has told the rest of the world that things are so dire. In fact, hip hop is rather ubiquitous these days, at once local and international.
Case in point being France, the world's second largest market for and producer of hip hop. It goes almost without saying that the cultural milieu of France's socio-economic make-up is similar enough to ours that the conditions for hip hop are perfect. With a large immigrant population from North and West Africa concentrated in the slums of the large cities (Paris and Bordeaux in particular), France is different but not all that dissimilar to America.
My point here is less to talk about the global state of a genre and more to the point that France can rap, mad skills in fact. They rap about the same stuff for the most part although the tendency towards the political is evident. So if your exposure to French hip hop is through some old MC Solaar meets Guru at the Jazzmatazz then these videos are your update.
The first two videos are from the Kourtrajme crew.
Rolling with a crew of over 100 members, they are an odd gathering of directors, actors, graffiti writers and rappersrewriting the book on making films by releasing a near constant stream of offensive yet awe-inspiring cinema. Paris' underworld though its own lens, as well as a rough social document. In the second video, we find the Crew capturing some of the essence of urban riots that took place in the summer of 2006.
The most popular rapper in France at the moment is Diam:
While the most fun for me are Svinkels, they're sort of the French Beastie Boys:
And if you want something real hard, with street cred and gangster lyrics, Seth Gueko's your man, he's poetic, um...in a way I guess.