The leader of the coalition, François Grosdidier, playing on fears of Muslim fundamentalism, stated
that “the rappers’ violent message when heard by uprooted, culturally disoriented youth can legitimize incivility, and, in the worst cases, terrorism.”
Similar alarm bells were rung by New York Times columnist David Brooks, who characterized
French rappers as angry young Muslims whose “lifestyle alternatives” are “Osama bin Laden and Tupac Shakur.”
In fact, the rappers that Brooks cites are of varied backgrounds and few are Muslim: Monsieur
R is of Zairian origin. The group Bitter Ministry, now disbanded, was made up of Passi, born in the Congo, Stomy Bugsy is of Cape Verdian descent and Doc Gynéco, of Gaudelupian parents.
What these rappers do share is harsh criticism from politicians. They are on a hit list maintained by the parliamentarians (despite the fact that most of these rap groups no longer exist) and have been targeted
by the French right in the past – Monsieur R’s video “FraSSe,” for example, was condemned by Grosdidier, who tried to have it removed from the airwaves this past summer.
Moreover, it is not unusual for rappers to find themselves under threat of legal action. In 1997, Bitter Ministry went on trial for an incident related to two anti-police songs, including one that Brooks cites, “Brigitte, Cop’s Wife.”
Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has tried to soften the accusations of conservative politicians,
pronouncing on French radio that rap is not to blame for the recent riots. He reserved the possibility for legal proceedings against specific songs or groups, however, saying, “When one writes a song, when one writes a book, when one expresses oneself, do we have a responsibility? Yes.”
When discussing the riots, French rappers note that they are of an older generation (most of the rappers on the politicians’ list are in their mid-to late -30s): “I am 10 years older that those who burned
buses and the tax center in my town,” says rapper La Fouine. “The little ones are 14, they could care less what I have to say. But I was like them before. The only outlet for expression they have found is to burn [things].”
Others, such as Ald Al Malik acknowledge their responsibility: “We know the impact we have on
Putting this sense of obligation to work, a number of rappers in the suburbs north of Paris have created a new association called “Beyond Words,” in memory of the two adolescents killed in Clichy- Sous-Bois.