After the atrocities that shook the world on Friday night (November 13) in Paris, the repercussions produced have had an immense effect on the western world. The safety and security of what we call home has all of a sudden come under intense scrutiny once again, as attacks from ISIS against innocent people are becoming all too common.
The reaction from the overall majority of people of France and Europe has been to stand in solitude and defiance alongside France. However, rather appallingly, the media’s victimization and blame of the refugees and immigrants who’ve come to Europe in search of a better life, is terrifyingly shocking. It’s scare-mongering in the most obvious form, against people who’ve experienced the terror of religious extremism and war first hand.
Racism in France has been always been rife, with hatred towards African and Asian immigrants consistently frequent. This is especially in the suburbs, otherwise known as the banlieue, of major cities such as Marseille, Lyon and especially Paris. These poverty stricken housing projects are home to a melting pot of cultures and nationalities, where many of France’s best known and respected emcees and beat makers have perfected their craft.
The mesmeric 1995 cult film La Haine (Hate) first portrayed the strong Hip-Hop flavor of the banlieue to the western world, as well as the struggles of ethnic minorities against a political regime that continually banished them as outcasts. Anyone who hasn’t seen this film, I wholly advise viewing this stone cold classic.
France has the second largest Hip-Hop market in the world and boasts a large collection of established wordsmiths who speak the truth of social injustice and upheaval.
MC Solaar, who made the successful crossover to the US with the help of De La Soul and Guru, is originally from Senegal and raps in great detail of his struggles against the inherently racist French society. He’s possibly the greatest known French rapper and remains a legend in his homeland.
Furthermore, talented and experimental artists such as Onra, Myth Syzer and Oxmo Puccino have continued to carry the torch within the 2010’s, making socially conscious music influenced and sampled from their respected backgrounds of ancestry (Onra’s Chinoseries is a masterpiece of an homage to Vietnamese and Chinese music of the 60s and 70s, a must listen).
The role of Hip-Hop in France is as significant as ever, coupled with the media’s attempts to blame rap music for the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January earlier this year. Hip-Hop could prove pivotal in the need to unite people together in harmony after these massacres as a channel and community for the disenfranchised to voice their anger and frustration.
The role of the banlieue will always be looked down on disparagingly by society, even though the most skillful wordsmiths and musicians are raised within their confinements, similar to the projects of New York boroughs and LA’s Southside neighbourhoods. While it will take a lot more than music to bring peace, Le Hip-Hop will continue to strive regardless of the abuse and slander thrown its way. Whether mainstream media ultimately embraces it, remains to be seen.