The French hip-hop scene is an intriguing one in terms of music and where it currently is in its history. Unlike other hip-hop traditions it is not dependent on the American manifestation, the original home of hip-hop. The French brand has its own traditions and has evolved independently of mainstream American rap. French hip-hop has a very different message, there is more to it than love and material gain, bling; there is the addressing of issues, such as immigration, politics, religion, abuse, violence, and race. But music is more than a message because even mainstream American hip-hop addresses some of these issues.
What interests me about French hip-hop is the pedigree. It has its own lineage, it is not just descendent of American hip-hop. In the US, modern rappers trace their musical tutelage to at least one member of American rap royalty in order to remain legitimate. Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Kanye West, Schoolboy Q, or J. Cole all trace their lines of musical ascension to either Tupac, Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G., or Nas, the royalty of American rap. In France, they don’t like royalty, they prefer revolution. French hip-hop is constantly in a state of revolt against one aspect, or one sect, of society. Like for example the music is currently revolting against the reactionaries and far-right who utilize the politics of fear and hatred. But French hip-hop is also a revolt against time, the sound is new yet enveloped in a retro feel. French hip-hop sounds like Tupac was never shot and instead kept setting the trends musically. French hip-hop is incredibly diverse ethnically, culturally, and sonically.
French hip-hop is a Revolution in the Age of Kings. It is not a rejection of Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, or Drake, but a movement with its own heroes like MC Solaar, Hocus Pocus, Wax Tailor, Chinese Man, Onra, Féfé, Oxmo Puccino, Pit Baccardi, Black M, Maître Gims, Jazz Liberatorz, Soprano, Maska, and young artists bursting onto the scene everyday. French hip-hop is a renaissance when compared to the zenith that is American hip-hop. I am daring enough to say that this is then end of American hegemony over hip-hop. This is now a music defined by regional hotbeds with their own styles and traditions: places like France, Sweden, UK, DR Congo, Puerto Rico, South Africa, Cuba, Brazil, Chile, Philippines, Algeria, Norway, and Mexico. We are in a new era of hip-hop, one where large swathes of unchartered musical territory are taken in bounds and leaps daily. In the French hip-hop scene there are no ordained hits, only an eclectic musical chaos. The King is dead! Long live the revolution.