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French Rap

Maboula Soumahoro

The paper I wish to present at the conference the Johann Gutemberg is organizing next November will be dealing with a survey of French rap of the late 1990s focussing on the productions of artists of this period who attempted to formulate and assert a strong black identity. My main argument is that Hip Hop in France, at a particular time, was used by a section of African immigrants’ children of as a vehicle to publicly debate racial issues in an uprecedented fashion. It thus momentarily presented a challenge to the national statu quo on the debate over issues of racism and race relations. Such an analysis shall offer a means to trace definitions and conceptions of black, African, Antillean, and African-American identities in the context of the self-proclaimed color-blind France, holding high the banner of the ‘republican model’.

This paper will also address American cultural imperialism and the Afropean resistance to it in its appropriation of its lowest manifestations. The following artistic collectives will be investigated: Minister Amer, IdealJ/Mafia K’1fri, and Lunatic.

Born and raised in Paris, France, my parents came in the late 1960s from CŰte d’Ivoire. I grew up as a French black and muslim girl in France, negotiating all these distinct identities, believed to be irreconciable. However, with the passing of time, I have grown more and more attracted to black history. The French school system being what it is, I had to turn to the English departments of the universities to get a chance to approach the field of Black Studies through African-Americans. This led me to write my M.A. thesis on the creation of the State of Liberia and then to chose, for my Ph.D., to delve into the issues of black nationalisms and religion in the America through the Nation of Islam and Rastafari. The existing relationships between blacks of the world and the African continent is what constitutes the core of my research. Therefore, today, it cannot be merely coincidental that I am choosing to redirect my work toward the situation of Blacks in France at a time when children of African immigrants in France are issuing the ‘Natives of the the Republic’ manifesto.

I think this kind of conference in Eurpope is long overdue. Though relevant and at times useful, the concept of the African Diaspora as it has been the subject of much scholarship in the Americas, has been, in my view, dominated by African-American scholars who have given it a particular approach. It is time for Afropeans (and blacks anywhere) to give an alternative vision of this diaspora so as to better understand the complexity of the meaning of blackness in this day and age.

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