While at a taping for Glory Time TV, the hip-hop talk show hosted by our friends in the group Blackara, I met French rap artist AP who kindly agreed to do an interview for my project. Currently promoting his first solo Album, Discret, AP originally started his career in the nineties as a member of the successful French rap group 113, and he is also a part of the rap collective Mafia K’1 Fry (K’1fry or “Cainfri” is verlan slang for “African”). Above, you can watch an excerpt from our interview.
Although 113’s talent has been celebrated with two Victoire de la Musique awards (similar to the American Grammys) and a gold album, the group also gained notoriety in 2005 when they, along with several other groups, were accused by over 200 members of the French government for fueling young rioters with incendiary lyrics. (To date, however, French government officials haven’t won any of the numerous lawsuits filed against rap artists.) While I won’t go into depth about why these accusations were misdirected, there are two really interesting points about this case, which have been reinforced by my conversations with AP and with others throughout my research.
The first point is that one of the main charges against these groups was the alleged promotion of “anti-white” racism in their music, yet, if you talk to many of these artists, this is far from the truth. In fact, in a part of the interview not shown here, AP cites racism (and not just against Blacks and Arabs) as the #1 problem in France. He even explained how the diversity in his group, in his neighborhood and throughout France adds to the country’s richness, and that people of all backgrounds need to join forces to help eliminate this problem instead of remaining divided.
The second point is that artists in France have a long history of being the “voice” of the people and protesting wrongs committed by the government, the police and authority in general. The riots in 2005 were certainly not the first in France’s history, and within the last thirty years nearly all “banlieue” (suburban) riots, like the ones in 2005, have been a response to the death of a young person following an altercation with the police. As AP says in the interview, the foundation of rap is about spreading a message and these rappers devote many of their songs to broadcasting the daily happenings in their communities— good and bad. AP also explains that sometimes “hard-hitting” or vulgar words are used to get people to listen and that rappers are not the only artists to use them. In the interview, he talks about listening to popular French singers incorporate themes and imagery in their music that he describes as “ten times more hardcore than in rap.” (If you listen to artists like Renaud or George Brassens, you can see what he means.)
If you want to hear more about AP’s response to the riots, what first drew him to rap, and some of his favorite “hip-hop” moments, check out the video above!