France: Rappers blamed for stoking violence

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France:
French rappers blamed for stoking violence

A conservative lawmaker in France has asked the French government to take legal action against music groups he blames for stoking the riots that engulfed depressed suburbs

After the weeks of riots that engulfed depressed suburbs around Paris, starting on 27 October 2005 after an accident where two teenagers died in Clichy-sous-Bois, lawmaker and member of parliament Francois Grosdidier plans to file a request that local chart-toppers 113, Ministere AMER and five other rappers face legal sanctions. Grosdidier claims to have the support of 200 colleagues in parliament.

Francois Grosdidier belongs to president Jacques Chirac’s ruling UMP party, and started a drive against hate lyrics already earlier this year. In August 2005, a Paris prosecutor, acting on a complaint from Francois Grosdidier, ordered a probe into the song “FranSSe,” in which rapper Monsieur R expresses contempt for France and historic figures like Napoleon and General Charles de Gaulle.

The response from French prime minister Dominique de Villepin has been that rap songs were not to blame for the rioting in poor suburbs. In a radio interview, he said:
“Is rap responsible for the crisis in the suburbs? My answer is: No.”
The prime minister added, however, that any hate lyrics were banned and it was up to the courts to decide if an artist overstepped the line.
“It is up to those who follow the different groups in question to judge, and to the justice system to do its job,” Villepin said.


Click to go to 113's home page
The rap trio 113 – which Francois Grosdidier and 200 members of French parliament wish to take to court

The sudden outpouring of violence came as a shock to the French, but many rappers in the country say that if only their lyrics had been listened to, the suburban violence might never have occurred.
This is described well in an article by Hugh Schofield from BBC News who quotes the rapper Rim-K of 113 saying:
“Instead of sleeping in the national assembly, government ministers should have listened to our albums”.
Most French rap songs show a deep urge to articulate what would otherwise go unexpressed in words, and song after song dwells on the same themes of hopelessness, rejection by France, police harassment and the rage that follows.
Rap and hip-hop have been part of France’s immigrant youth scene for so long that many of the original artists – like Joey Starr, MC Solaar and the group IAM – are now regarded as respected old-timers. The new stars are men and women in their 20s – almost all of black African or Arab origin – such as Disiz La Peste, Diam’s, Monsieur R, and the groups La Rumeur and Sniper. Both groups have been taken to court – unsuccessfully – for provocative lyrics.

The debate continues in French newspapers such as Liberation and Le Monde.

 

Sources

AP / News24.com – 25 November 2005: 
‘PM: Don’t blame rap for riots’

BBC News – 16 November 2005: 
‘French rappers’ prophecies come true’

Rap music resources

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
‘French hip hop’

Los Angeles Times – 27 November 2005: 
‘Can’t fight this power’

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