So here it is, a post about french hip hop. I don't know why I took on the challenge, because it's not a subject I know that much about. Still, I thought I could put together a mixture of important tracks, as well as some favourites of mine. So, this is not a definitive account of French hip-hop until the mid-90s (Part II will come later), but I hope some of you will find something you like.
We start with the Suprême NTM (later just NTM, which stands for Nique Ta Mere, a grafitti tag they used to paint), and IAM. The former is from Paris, and the latter from Marseilles. These two were quite Public Enemy-like in my opinion, with energetic beats and lyrics reporting on what went on in the more disaffected areas of France's cities, as well as bringing to the listener's attention a bit of history, notably Ancient Egyptian civilisation and the writings of Cheikh Anta Diop in the case of IAM.
Can you get over that moustache though?
Then we have the darling of French rap, MC Solaar, whose jazzy beats and unprovocative lyrics reconciled those put off by NTM's angry lyrics. Solaar put himself in the tradition of the A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, but also French singer-songwriters such as Georges Brassens and Leo Ferré.
His crew, whose name I forgot, included Les Sages Poetes de La Rue, Democrates D and La Funk Mob (who later became house outfit Cassius), went on to be quite successful within French Hip-Hop, recording with American rappers, the ultimate cachet then.
Sages Poetes de la Rue
Then you have Ministere A.M.E.R., France's N.W.A, the most controversial group, their favourite target being the police (a very sensitive body in France), with sometimes sexist or violent lyrics, reflecting some of the harsher realities of the French suburbs
I'll finish with this, a party record which I think is the first of its kind, at least it was the most successful. It reminisces about the popular funk scene in Marseilles, with pinpoint observations on the era. Then Parisians observed: "Look what those funny southerners are up to" and somoebody else than MC Solaar blew up.
You'll have noticed I made parallels with US hip hop acts, that's not to belittle my compatriots, but in the beginning, they were all mostly influenced by what was going on across the Atlantic, Later, the imitation peaked to the point of innutrition, and then French Hip Hop found its voice. More on that later, hopefully.
I realised the post is already too long, so here's a Spotify playlist.