Saturday, November 19, 2005

More on Rap & Riots

Finally I've found a couple articles that examine the--to me--rather obvious point that French rappers have for years been exposing the troubling realities of the banlieues of France, which recently exploded in riots & car-torching throughout the country. Hugh Schofield, in an article for BBC News entitled "French rappers' prophecies come true," cites a number of prescient rap lyrics. Here's a sample:

"What is it, what is it you're waiting for to start the fire? / The years go by, but everything is still the same / Which makes me ask, how much longer can it last?" (Joey Starr of Supreme NTM, "They Don't Understand," Qu'est-ce qu'on attend?, 1995)

"There had better not be a police blunder, or the town will go up / The city's a time-bomb / From the police chief to the guy on the street - they're all hated." (113, "In Front Of The Police," Les princes de la ville, 2000)

"The state is screwing us / Well you know, we are going to defend ourselves / Don't try to understand." (Fonky Family, "Don't Try To Understand," Si Dieu veut, 1999)

"Clichy-sous-Bois, it's gangsta gangsta / And Aulnay-sous-Bois, it's gangsta gangsta." (Ghetto Fabulous Gang, "Gangsta Gangsta", Gangsters avec des grands boubous, 2005)

(Clichy-sous-Bois is the Paris banlieue where the teenagers Bouna Traore and Zyed Benna were electrocuted at an electricity substation on October 27; Aulnay-sous-Bois is another Paris "suburb" and one of the centers of the rioting.)

A couple days before Schofield's piece, Stéphanie Binet wrote a similar piece in Libération entitled, "Les rappeurs l'avaient bien dit," which features prophetic lyrics, and commentary, by a number of French rappers.

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