The Free State
"Man, in a word, has no nature. What he has is - history."

Monday, August 13, 2007

'cause social mobility is the shit

Coming back to France this summer, I was struck by how much mainstream French rap is politically conscious. During France's last presidential election there was some US-style talk of how some French rap is violent, abusive, misogynist etc. In particular, Sarko condemned as "racist, violent and abusive" a song by Sniper whose lyrics include the chorus:
France is a bitch and we've been betrayed
The system is what makes us hate them
Hatred is what makes our words vulgar
We fuck France over with the people's music
We agree and we don't care about repression
We don't give a damn about the Republic or freedom of expression
The laws should be changed and we should
Soon see at l'Elysée Arabs and Blacks in power
Not an ironic set of lyrics given Sarko's ostentatious affirmative action. That isn't the only kind of "conscious" music. There's RNB singer Amel Bent with a more assimilationist song "New French":
Hindered by our genes
Undermined by our appearance...
I do indeed come from somewhere, but I am here
I am here...
New French
Under the same flag
Without the same need for recognition
But not more, no less, a child of France
My favorites though, are two songs who are both vocally irreverent and extol social mobility. Both have Frenglish titles. There's La fouine's "Qui peut me stopper" (Who can stop me) which I like despite the singer's nasty Mullah beard:
I come from far away
And given my skin tone
I'll have to do things well
But who can stop me?
To renounce my identity
I can't even try
But who can stop me?
And again:
'Another one of those little Arabs'
No one can stop them, no one but the good Lord
'Another one of those little Arabs'
No one can stop them, no one but the good Lord

My ultimate favorite is IAM's "Offishall" ([We're] Official). I don't think I've heard a song making education, pharshly rofessional achievement and social mobility seem manlier. It harshly criticizes the racism of French society while, Booker T. Washington-style, praising education, work and

One member's part, Shurik'N who is incidentally a Daoist and martial artist, goes:
They like having us around, it's exotic
Back and forth between Paris and the Islands
And they're scared of us, that's not logical
They do their shopping, we're their guards, they say there's
Too many blacks in their bleux, Arabs in clubs, Too much rap
in discos, and yet what we want is more lawyers
Coming from below, Senate seats et and a TV screen much more colorful than that
I want brothers in white coats, leading surgeons
Scientists or doctors, brothers invited to cocktail parties, not waiting for them

Yeah... bad and virile but not criminal. That's the way.


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