I presented two primary sources that I hope to use not just for their separate content but also for the comparisons that are found between the two: the music video for Justice’s “Stress” and a recording of a Supreme NTM concert in which the band is performing “La Police”. Both digital videos were found online on YouTube. They are both directed at young audiences in different musical “subcultures”1, electronica and rap/hip-hop. Both examples (the “Stress” video and the “La Police” song) were highly controversial in France when they were released. Many French networks banned the Justice video and several radio stations refused to air “La Police”, especially after the French police brought charges against Supreme NTM for inciting violence against police2.
The Justice video was criticized as racist for showing a group of young men, presumably banlieusards, going around in cross-emblazoned leather jackets and wreaking complete havoc for no other purpose than to amuse themselves. Since the band and the filmmaker, Romain Gavras, both insisted that no insult was intended towards anyone, it has been popularly conceived as commentary on the French media’s portrayal of banlieue life. The title is reflected in the structuring of the video: shots switch quickly and violently, entirely in subdued lighting, and set to a grinding, wordless track. Was their mindless violence the reflection of the magnitude of the stress the youths are under? That may be the intent of Gavras, who is part of Kourtrajmé, a group of filmmakers who dedicate their work to banlieue life3. This is important to my research because it is an example of how “the Lost Generation” is still a controversial player in French popular culture-where they stand, whether this video’s premise is more offensive to the banlieusards themselves or to the white French population. Unfortunately, this video was only released on the internet, not on television or other “official settings”, so the reactions to it are great in number, varied in opinion, and mostly foreign. This makes it a bit difficult to view it from the French perspective.
The video of “Police” par Supreme NTM is almost more important to my research for the media attention it received than the song itself. The two band members, one of Martiniquais origin and the other having Portuguese parents, were brought to court by the French police for the release of this song, and were later imprisoned for anti-police remarks they made before performing this song at a concert2. “Police” exemplifies the anti-establishment and rebellion themes common in French rap and hip-hop4. The band members grew up in Seine-Saint-Denis in the “notorious” département 93, and the anger against police-often perceived as corrupt and racist-in “Police” is punctuated by offensive language and an English refrain: the rallying cry of “That’s the sound of da police!” accompanied by sirens2. Of course, the African roots of rap, especially in France, are extremely important to the context of my project. Working with this source, you can easily see the attitudes and ideas evident in the artistic expression of banlieusards in popular culture. However, there could be a certain amount of bias and “glamorizing” the banlieue-it is intended to sell, after all. This could be an interesting aspect in my research, but could also distort its intended direction.
1. “Rap music genres and deviant behaviors in French-Canadian youth.” Journal of Youth and Adolescence 1 April 2004.
2. “RFI Musique – NTM” RFI Musique English September 2008
3. Jeffrey T. Iverson “Uproar over French music video” Time.com May 19 2008
4. André J.M. Prévos “The Evolution of French Rap Music and Hip Hop Culture in the 1980s and 1990s” The French Review No. 5 1996: 713-725.
Helenon, Veronique. “Africa on Their Mind: Rap, Blackness, and Citizenship in France.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. by Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 151-66. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Pres
Gross Jean, McMurray David, SwedenbergTed, “Arab noise and Ramadan nights: Rai, Rap, and Franco-Maghreb identity.”, Diaspora 1994 v.3