“Faites du Bruit!!!”
… is French for “Make some noise!!” and an expression that I’ve definitely gotten used to with all of the concerts and events here. On Saturday night I went to the Urban Peace 2 concert at Stade de France, which was sponsored by the radio station Skyrock and featured some of the top rap and R’n’B acts from France such as Kerry James, Rim’K, Psy 4 de la Rime, Sinik and Sheryfa Luna.
While the concert was really fun (and long— we stood for nearly 5 hours!), what struck me the most wasn’t just the diversity of the crowd, but that many audience members were actually carrying and waving full-sized flags that represented their various nationalities or the nationalities of their families. Additionally, many of the artists, who were largely of North or West African descent, would share some of their culture by interrupting their raps and ballads with songs or melodies from their home countries, and would ask members of the crowd to cheer if their families were from Algeria, Tunisia, Mali, Senegal etc. Some artists would also have everyone join in by ultimately asking the crowd to cheer if they were French— simultaneously recognizing their cultural diversity and national unity.
Coming from the New York area, it’s common for me to hear rappers ask if people are from Brooklyn, New Jersey, the Bronx, Queens etc. and sometimes ask about different nationalities, particularly if they are from the West Indies or Latin America, but it is rare to attend a large-scale mainstream hip-hop concert in the States where international diversity is so celebrated, without diversity itself being a major focus of the event. While this aspect, as well as some great performances (particularly by Kerry James, Psy 4 de la Rime and Zaho) made the night enjoyable, there were definitely some drawbacks as well. While I have occasionally seen things thrown at artists during other concerts, here there was a pretty steady stream of plastic bottles and random objects chucked at artists, regardless of how much the audience seemed to respect them. Although I didn’t see this at the NTM concert (probably because the tickets were more expensive and the concert was highly anticipated), I’ve heard through French friends that this is, unfortunately pretty common, especially with local artists. Most of the performers ignored it, but one actually tried to retaliate by throwing a glass bottle back at them and, consequently, wasn’t allowed to continue his performance.
Regardless of this disrespectful display from the audience (a stark comparison to the supportive nature of the Who is Who battle), Urban Peace 2 was a great opportunity for me to see a range of popular hip-hop performers and to get even more flyers for upcoming events. Additionally, the free program they handed out was a pretty impressive magazine with multiple page articles on the history of hip-hop going back to DJ Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaataa in New York during the 70s, the influence of hip-hop on sports, The origins of Krumping in Los Angeles, some of the different “schools” of hip-hop (East Coast, West Coast, Dirty South), and ultimately the globalization of hip-hop and how it has evolved around the world. While I have read about American and “Global” hip-hop culture from different perspectives, it’s interesting to see more contemporary French dancers Krumping and French rappers declaring their music as “Dirty South” which are both considered to be very regional styles in the States. I’ll definitely keep my eyes open for other trends that are adopted and even developed here and also want to keep a running list of artists who I want to interview. If you have any suggestions— please send them my way!