Welcome to my Fulbright mtvU-blog! For the next nine months, I will live in Paris and use this site to post photos, video, interviews, and various updates on French hip-hop culture and its relationship to politics, social activism, and a growing multicultural French identity.
To give you some background on my project, I first became interested in French hip-hop after meeting a Parisian college student and rapper named Allan (he will pop up on my blog from time to time) while on vacation in France in 2005. It was through Allan’s explanation of his music that I started to learn about some of the problems that multicultural French young people (particularly from the French suburbs, or the banlieue) faced, including: discrimination, unemployment and balancing the cultural expectations of French society and those of their countries of origin. Although there are many affluent banlieues in France, these city outskirts often have the same connotation of what someone in the U.S. might describe as the “inner city,” yet they are extremely diverse as many banlieusards (suburbanites) have origins in North and West Africa, Asia, or other parts of Europe.
Despite what Allan and his friend tried to explain, however, I still didn’t completely understand the depths of the social issues in France. I, like most American students, still fantasized about Paris as the romantic “city of lights” and a creative Mecca for 20th century Black American performers and writers like Josephine Baker and Richard Wright.
It wasn’t until seeing images of the 2005 Parisian riots that I truly started to understand Allan’s music and the message that young people like him were trying to send. As a French major in college, I continued to study French youth culture, how socially conscious rap music has been used by French rap artists and young people as a socio-political tool, and how general hip-hop culture (dance, art, fashion) has provided an outlet for a diverse French community to come together and find a common ground. While this was a great topic for a French major, it was even more interesting for me because, although I love hip-hop (I dance and am a music fan), I haven’t been thrilled with the way it has been developing recently in the States, so it was exciting to learn about hip-hop’s history and socio-political orientation in another part of the world. In my senior thesis, “From Baudelaire to Bling: Hip-Hop’s Role in French Politics and Culture” I examined how hip-hop played an important factor in the 2005 riots, the 2007 presidential election, and the growing interest of banlieue and hip-hop culture in mainstream French society.
While writing my thesis, I realized that there was still a lot to learn and absorb, so I am incredibly grateful to the Fulbright Commission and mtvU for this amazing opportunity. In addition to keeping this blog, my ultimate goal is to compile my research (videos, interviews, etc.) and produce a documentary film on the subject to share with the international community, especially since everyone knows about hip-hop, but very few know much about the French scene. In the mean time, however, stay tuned to my blog to find out more information about what’s going on in the French hip-hop world and about my adventures in Paris. Also, feel free to leave comments!
Here is the music video for one of the songs that Allan’s group, Oz & Vz, made before the riots in 2004 called Dans une prison de verre (“In a Glass Prison”):