My last few weeks have been filled with discussions about the past, present, and future of French hip-hop. From a two-day conference on financing hip-hop culture to the recent week-long black film festival, which featured several movies about and by hip-hop artists, I have attended round table after round table and still have more to come!
The first event, Colloque Hip-Hop: Des Financements Pour la Culture Hip-Hop?, was a conference organized by INJEP (National Institute of Youth and Popular Education, in English), that brought together a diverse group of people in the hip-hop community from all over France including: rappers, dancers, scholars, politicians, graffiti artists, festival directors, and community youth leaders among others, to discuss how various groups can find funding for hip-hop related events and how hip-hop culture has evolved since its early days. In addition to presentations on the history and values of hip-hop and four round table discussions with titles such as “Does private funding allow for self-funding and freedom of creation?”, the conference also offered family-style meals so that the different participants could get to know each other, two hip-hop dance/theater performances and plenty of opportunities for everyone to speak up and make their voices heard.
Audience participation during the round tables was especially interesting considering how passionate the French are when it comes to debating. I even chimed in once to give my opinion on how conservative or “old-school” hip-hoppers might have to discuss new methods for transmitting the original values of hip-hop to younger generations after several panelists expressed concerns over how some of these tenets, like Afrika Bambataa’s hip-hop motto of “peace, unity, love and having fun,” were appearing less relevant with time. In all, the conference was really informative about some of the local concerns that young artists and youth coordinators have about funding hip-hop projects and using hip-hop to help their communities. I also met cool and interesting people like L.O.S.— the once named #1 human beatboxer in France, Roberta Shapiro—a sociologist and break dance scholar, and Théo Delahaye—a student who recently wrote his thesis on break dance, and hope to further feature them and some of the other participants, such as author Loïc Lafargue de Grangeneuve and rapper/musician Ahmed Mazouz aka Nikkfurie from group La Caution, on the blog and in my project.
The Black Revolution film festival in Saint-Denis was another great event that screened over 50 African-American feature films and documentaries around the theme of black “(r)evolution” and included discussions, lectures and concerts to supplement the movies. From the wide variety of films, two sessions during this festival were devoted to hip-hop culture. The first was a screening of the 1984 film Beat Street (a MUST see for hip-hop fans or those curious about what we call “hip-hop values”), which was followed by a round-table discussion on the evolution of hip-hop in France and a concert by local artists. Lead by hip-hop journalist Grégory Protche, the discussion included Vicelow— a former member of Saïan Supa Crew, Batsh— an illustrator and graffiti artist, D’De Kabal— a rapper and slammer, Mike Ladd — an American ex-pat poet and rapper, and Bams and Warra Ba— the artists who performed in the concert.
The second session I attended was a “carte blanche” with the rapper Hamé from the group La Rumeur. While Hamé is currently famous for being involved in a nearly seven-year lawsuit with French president Nicolas Sarkozy following an article the rapper wrote about police brutality and discrimination by the government (you can read more about this here: Rapper in France is Acquitted of Libeling the Police), it is less-known that Hamé also received his diploma from the Sorbonne (one of the most prestigious French public universities) and also spent last year at NYU’s Tisch School studying film. During his session, Hamé screened a range of short films from the 1967 film “Black Liberation/ Silent Revolution” narrated by Ossie Davis, to music videos by Public Enemy, DMX and La Rumeur, to his own short film covering a New York City protest against the police killing of Sean Bell. The collection of films were powerful and showed an interesting visual connection between themes found in the Civil Rights and Black Power movements of the 60s and 70s and both American and French hip-hop scenes within the last two decades. Hamé is also a really interesting guy, and since his situation with President Sarkozy is both unprecedented and complicated (and long!), I’ll be sure to share more of my conversations with him in an upcoming entry! If you have more questions about the round tables and film screenings, however, feel free to shoot me an email.