Rap Workshop at Espace Riquet


“They are crazy characters. They have grills… But don’t let that fool you.”

When my friend Magee McIlvaine first told me about the group Blackara, this is how he presented them… and I think it’s pretty much a perfect description. Yes, on the outside they have grills, chains, and all sorts of “typical” rapper paraphernalia, but anyone can tell you that these fun, intelligent, and community-oriented artists are anything but typical. Following the election in November, I wrote about X.V. and M.P. Blackara’s radio show and their involvement in France’s 2007 presidential election, and since then, these renaissance men have been constantly on the move. (Even our interview was filmed from the backseat of their car in between appointments!) From transitioning their weekly radio show into a live talk show on cable TV, to having a role in Luc Besson’s French action film B13 Ultimatum, and performing on a regular basis, it is no doubt that they are busy— but that never stops them from giving back.

A few months ago, X.V. and M.P. Blackara worked with Christophe Hovikian, a musician and youth counselor at the Espace Riquet in the 19th arrondisement, to give a 3-day rap workshop for neighborhood teens during their February school vacation. Throughout this week, the guys from Blackara helped the teens to develop their freestyle skills by performing live on their radio show, write their own songs, and even record their finished products in a local professional studio. While the kids undoubtedly had a lot of fun at the workshops, you can see from the interviews here that this was more than just a fun activity— it was a successful project in terms of both encouraging self-expression and practicing prevention.

Here is one of the songs from the workshop by the Abidhari Boys with music by Christophe Hovikian.

  • Listen to Abidhari Boys:
  • While my non-rhyming translation does not do the song justice at all, I had to translate a great verse that starts at about 1:20 :

    Today I’m at Riquet
    I came to rap.
    When I take the micro[phone]
    I know how to find the good flow.
    When I use my pen
    It’s for the future.
    I find the perfect words
    To best describe myself.
    I will not back down.
    I will be like Barack Obama.
    I might not be president of the U.S.A,
    But in any case
    At my level,
    I’ll do whatever it takes
    To remain as I am:
    To lead the fight
    To lead the fight
    To lead the fight


    At the top of this article you can check out a segment from an interview that I did with Blackara, which focuses on the rap workshop and the biggest problems facing French youth today. (I’ve also included footage with the kids from the final day of the rap workshop in the studio!) Below the song, you can see short clips from interviews with their counselor, Christophe Hovikian (who has also organized other rap and music workshops at Espace Riquet) and Catherine Charles, a slam artist, prison reform activist, radio host and good friend of Blackara who stopped by the workshop to give her support. Let me know what you think…

    (Click here to see more video and photos of the rap workshop with Blackara on the Espace 19 blog)

    Abidhari Boys in the Studio
    Abidhari Boys in the Studio

    16 thoughts on “Rap Workshop at Espace Riquet

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