et hop! ze early adopters

time to leave american hip hop for a while.

it was interesting to follow in the 1990’s not only the mainstreaming of hip hop, but also the adoption of hip hop in the different european countries. some were slower, some were faster – one place where hip hop got not only accepted, but has been made their own pretty fast is to my recollection france.

my guess is that some factors made it easy for hip hop to become “french”. first hip hop is ideal for asserting and constructing identity. and at the time the youth of immigrants in france did not really have their own music. of course france always had a lot of music, brought from the (ex-)colonies and with different immigrants: but music that developed specifically within the youth of immigrants – not really. of course you heard at the time a lot of african music, as well as for example raï. but there was no tradition of french music that took these influences and made them its own (with the notable exception of the rock band carte de séjour – and maybe dazibao). so hip hop quite literally gave a voice to a generation that could not find themselves neither in the music of the country of their parents, nor in the music of their homecountry, france.

another reason for the french take-over seems to me also the acceptance of hip hop in the alternative / underground scene: france had by the late eighties a fantastic alternative scene – fantastic this time not referring to the music, but to the infrastructure. there was a tight net, reaching even to the small villages, of labels, distributors (new rose!), and record shops, due to the huge success of punk in france and its accompanying do it yourself, anti-industry spirit. i do remember standing in paris in the late eighties in the record shop that was somehow affilitated to the scene of les béruriers noirs (don’t remember the name – but strange enough i do remember the address more or less: rue du roi de naple?) and being amazed at the selection of hip hop records available. so hip hop seems to have been understood in france very fast as a voice of the youth, as an independent youth-culture and could therefore rely on the sympathies and infrastructure of the already existing underground music culture. and hip hop was very early on also quite sucessfull: there have been the rude boys from ntm (now: supreme ntm), rude, hard, but also political. yeah, controversial and successfull – maybe they could have been seen as the french n.w.a.’s at the time.

then in the south, in marseille, from the planète mars came i am – definitly raising their voices clear and loud. not only did they develop their unique brand of hip hop that is musically not afraid of being very rich. and they are one of the best hip hop live acts (and to my recollection they did the ninja-thing before wu-tang – although mixed with, err..agyptian mysticism). and they also always showed a healthy dose of humour. so here from their first record the song tam tam de l’afrique – exactly dealing with france’s history of immigration.

and then of course there has been this huge hit in 1992, caroline, by our favourite intellectual mc: mc solaar.

i remember seeing very early on an interview with him on tv and was just floored: even when he answered questions in an interview he had a flow – he talked music! and then he was not afraid to namedrop every important thinker of the 20th century. that certainly made for a change… a lot more pop and more playful then the other two examples – quite unique in his way he made a lot of good records – and you just have to love him for his cover of cinquième as.


especially to i am and mc solaar i listened to a lot at the time (and recently again – since i am finally published a new record last year). for more information about these artists you can visit i am‘s website here, and mc solaar‘s website here.

if you are interested in more french hip hop, i recommend to look around at leave your nine at home – and yes, he has a soft spot for i am, too.

and if you would like to learn more about the youth in the banlieues at these times in france i highly recommend a film by mathieu kassovitz from 1995, la haine (engl.: hate). great movie (yes, vincent cassel is also in that one) – a gritty fictional documentary in black and white. highly recommended.

“C’est l’histoire d’un homme qui tombe d’un immeuble de cinquante étages. Le mec, au fur et à mesure de sa chute se répète sans cesse pour se rassurer : jusqu’ici tout va bien, jusqu’ici tout va bien, jusqu’ici tout va bien. Mais l’important c’est pas la chute, c’est l’atterrissage. (La Haine, Mathieu Kassovitz, 1995, Hubert Koundé)”


so – time for some music! allright, i decided on somthing not that known, something i really like, and something that shows also musically the possibilities of fusing hip hop with other music – in this case with arab music.

first we have clotaire k with his record lebanese. fat hip hop with a lot of arab influences, lyrics are in french, arab, and english. if you like your hip hop beats with quite a lot of wumms, then this is the record for you! not exactly hard, but with a lot of energy.


get it here. and visit his website here.

if you like the arab influence (in this case more precisely: berber), but like your beats more abstract, partly leaving the hip hop turf, then i recommend a little underground gem. especially the opening track is quite a journey – wow. i don’t want to say too much about this record – it is something you better just listen to. it is naab with his record salam haleikoum. he used to have a nice website – but not anymore. so not much more information – get it here, sit down, turn up the volume and tune in!


8 Responses to “et hop! ze early adopters”

  1. Keath007 Says:

    Wow – I’ve never heard of any of these artists but I’m glad I have now. Sadly I have no clue what they’re saying but so far that hasn’t diminished my enjoyment any 🙂 Good recommendations!

  2. 9@home Says:

    Thanks for pointing people my way. (It worked. 😉
    Funny, I have a post about Clotaire K as well. Seems like you have great taste… Merci bien et salutations.

  3. sunbathinglizard Says:

    my pleasure! great you like it. i’m always pleased when i manage to introduce “new” music.


    oops – i did not even check if you already did clotaire k – but then this record deserves at least a double posting…

    mes salutations

  4. Dj Lethal Skillz Says:

    Salut du liban,
    Thanks for the post, very well put together. Just to add for more insight on Arabic hiphop scene check the following: (Lebanese Hiphop Documentary Film) (Lebanese & Arabic Hiphop compilation)


    Dj Lethal Skillz

  5. Keath Says:

    A bit late on this but since you asked I think the Naab album is my favorite of the batch. I imagine Oumkeltum will make some frequent appearances in my iTunes shuffle 🙂

    Great blog you’ve got here – I added it to my reader so you’ll probably see me around …

  6. sunbathinglizard Says:

    @ keith:
    not late at all – i am very familiar with music that wants to be listened piling up…
    and yes, i also think naab is quite special, too
    and well – you are being watched, too ; ))

    @ dj lethal skillz
    wow – i am impressed you found my blog! i am actually really flattered! i actually read about you – via the travel diary of hans nieswandt (it came out as a book under the title “disko ramallah”) – and i actually thought while reading the part he wrote about you that i would love to see your apartment, well, rather YOUR VINYL (seemingly a common obsession)!
    thank you for the information! i do not know that much about lebanese/arabic hip hop – but i’ll have that for the future in mind – or you will have to write a post about it for me (with added mixtape, of course)! i’m actually serious about that.
    and a great website you have! very nice! (
    big respect to beirut!

    to all:
    since not everybody realized it: leave your nine at home (if you still have this blog not in your bookmarks you’ll find the link in my links-list) has A LOT of i am – to my amusement we used in our respective posts some quite similar phrases (he is just much better informed).
    and while we are at leave your nine at home: there you will also find some more arab hip hop.

  7. 9@home Says:

    Again, thank your for the flowers… 😉
    Also, if anybody else who’s reading this could point me to more Arab/North African/Near Eastern/any hip-hop worth peeping, I’m all ears. I’m a huge fan of Intik (Algérie), D.A.M. (Israel), Ramallah Underground (Occupied Palestinian Territory) and Euphrates (Iraq/Canada) – among others.

    I think I’ll have to do another post on Lebanese hip-hop on my blog, now that Lethal Skillz mentioned that documentary… let me see…

  8. sunbathinglizard Says:

    my pleasure. : )

    i will see if my near eastern contact might find me some stuff…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: