Did Rap Cause the Rebellion?

November 29, 2005

Following the events of the past few weeks [translator: meaning the riots that swept France earlier in November], over 200 members of parliament have called upon the Minister of Justice to prosecute rap musicians who they accuse of inciting hatred and violence amongst young people.

SUD Culture is outraged at such an approach, which is just a populist escalation meant to cover up the social issues that have been raised over the past weeks, replacing them with the far-right’s favourite issues in view of the next elections.

After the immigrants, now it’s the artists – who at no point over the past few weeks did anything to encourage acts of violence -  who are accused of “burning down our suburbs.”

Like other cultural producers, French songwriters did not wait for hip-hop culture and rap to come along in order to produce many works which have incited violence, sedition, and contempt for the police and the army… and many of these songs are now a part of our cultural heritage.

Do these members of parliament intend to ban certain songs by Ferré, Brassens, or Renaud…? Will “Le deserteur”* once again be banned, as it was when it first appeared during a sad period of our history, when censorship reigned… as did the State of Emergency?

For the time being, we doubt it!

Right now isn’t the main problem with these rappers the fact that they have faces which aren’t white enough, just like the young people whose frustrations and hopes they carry with them?

It is certainly about time that our country’s political authorities put an end to the nauseating escalation taking place, and that they finally get to work creating a national policy that can resolve the crisis of the popular neighbourhoods. A policy that should involve neither repression nor provocation nor demagogical and electoral exploitation of these social problems.

Paris, November 25th 2005
SUD Culture (Solidaires Trade Union)
12 rue de Louvois - 75 002 Paris
Tel : 01 40 15 82 68
sud@culture.fr http://www.sud-culture.org

*translators note: “Le deserteur” was a song written by Boris Vian in 1954, just after the French were kicked out of Indochina and just as the Algerian War was beginning. It takes the form of an open letter to the president explaining why the singer is dodging the draft; the song was banned and Vian’s concerts that summer were plagued by violent attacks. Today it is considered a classic, and Vian is considered an important mid-twentieth century French artist.


Please note that the above text comes from the SUD – a trade union of workers in France’s cultural industries  – and was translated by yours truly. I translated it because i think that the issue of censorship, and the scapegoating of rap, are important questions – best viewed as assaults on immigrant and working class culture. I certainly disagree with the SUD’s appeal that the government “get to work creating a national policy that can resolve the crisis of the popular neighbourhoods” – indeed, all of the evidence seems to point to the fact that the government has such a “national policy”, and this is not a good thing! Neverthess, i felt it useful to make this text available, especially as there seems to be less and less written about the rebellion or its after-effects…

I have a “fast and loose” translation philosophy, meaning that when there is a choice between readability and the original phraseology i tend to favour the former, provided that the meaning stays the same. Please note that the title of this translation – “Did Rap Cause the Rebellion?” – is mine and not the SUD’s. The original document can be seen in French here.


This originally came from my blog - Sketchy Thoughts - and is one of a number of pieces i wrote or translated regarding the riots that rocked France in October and November 2005. To see the a complete list of such posts, i suggest you check out the 2005 Riots In France page on the Kersplebedeb site.

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