French Hip Hop & La Haine. By Danielle Hill


France is the second largest market in the production and distribution of hip hop music, standing closely in the shadow of their American neighbours.  French hip hop has found a home in the last 30 years in the working class banlieues & suburbs of Paris and other large cities, which came to prominence and then exploded in the 90s.  French, black youth primarily aligned itself with the strong, masculine, unforgiving and often angry imagery of hip hop coming from overseas and the struggle of daily life it illustrated.  In turn, cinema and film-making in France is a highly regarded medium.  Although a fraction of the size of the states, the French cinema industry thriving and producing some of the greatest films of all time.  French New Wave cinema in the 60s, gave birth to the fluid, balletic and sometimes disjointed quality in film, and not being too concerned with ‘classic Hollywood’; Bogart and Bacall were the models, not the staple.  New Wave cinema in general was tired of grandiose and lavish musicals and wanted to focus on what mattered; real people with real problems.  After almost 30 years of racial upheaval, unrest, riots and the fight for equality, hip hop has developed in parallel with the change in social tides. 


Much like the complexity of cinema; the classic vs the new, the tried & tested vs. the experiments, hip hop leads a dual life within the French market.  There is almost a direct divide between the mellow musicality of MC Solaar, where musicians take a lead from traditional French folk singers of the immediate cultural past and the more ‘aggressive, hardcore’ mode of ‘gangster’ rap.


What could be a better example of the combination of social injustice, passionate politics, monochromatic fluidity of film and harsh edges of hip hop than La Haine?  Simply translated as ‘hate’ in English, La Haine follows three young men through a day in their life in the impoverished banlieues of Paris.  Based on the true story of the shooting, in police custody, of a young French man who was childhood friends with the director Mattheiu Kassovitz, we follow three young men having mixed feelings about the beating, in police custody, of their friend Abdel.  During a scuffle of gangs and police that are sent in to disperse gangs and to try to quash the rising sentiment of revenge and bubbling rage, a policeman loses his gun.  Vinz (Vincent Cassell) finds the gun and starts to ruffle feathers by expressing his motive for revenge on a policeman if Abdel dies at the hands of the police. 



The use of hip hop music and the embracing of hip hop culture is strong throughout; a memorable scene includes Zapp’s More Bounce to the Ounce, a thudding snake of funk and robotic vocals, that fits in admirably to the greyscale scenario of breakdancing, one breakdancer left in silence still spinning, as the stereo is hastily snatched and the dancers retreat the impending raid.  La Haine includes the darker side of hip hop culture in its gangs; violence.  Hip hop’s branch of ‘gangster’ rap is highly prominent in the film the influence of such is loud in parts and more subtle in others, one of the latter being in its reference to Scarface, in which a man from a background of poverty and a ‘commit crime only to provide money’ mentality, rises to the top and regular faces the phrase “The world is yours”; in La Haine, it couldn’t be further from the truth.  Made in 1995, not long after the excess of the 80s and the mainstream explosion of Hip Hop in America, the film feels grey, sparse and almost haunted with past lives as a sort of crash from the colourful years that have just passed; most of the action taking place in abandoned hallways of tenement buildings, empty childrens’ play areas, one assumes that it isn’t safe or even fun to be a child around there anymore.  Families are portrayed as units indoors, discussing money and prayer; the film pushes the economic and emotional pressure of the two throughout.  Music, in this case hip hop and rap, is a pivotal device to show the cultural identification and alignment with their American counterparts, and like through the birth of American hip hop, includes the flagposts of French history and culture, most notably the scene in which the camera circles a block of buildings whilst DJ Cut Killer plays a mix of well-known American hip hop and Edith Piaf’s classic song Non, je ne regrette rien blasting out of the tower block, in a perfect woven sequence on film where only the viewer has the chance for a fleeting moment to escape the claustrophobia of unnecessary hatred and gang violence, the music literally producing the opportunity to be lifted out.

The political and social importance of rap and hip hop in La Haine is blisteringly resolute, a way of life and a sound of the crowd.

Recommended listening & watching

Oxmo Puccino, L’arme de paix, 2009

Mc Solaar, Qui sème le vent récolte le tempo, 1991

Mc Solaar, Cinquieme As, 2011

Various Artists, Le hip hop francais repose en paix, featuring the cut killer track from La Haine, 2011

 La Haine, Dir. Matthieu Kassowitz, 1995

by Danielle

Danielle is a resolute Francophile, travelling to Paris whenever she can and has 2:1 in Film & Literature from Sheffield Hallam University.


Mr. Green – “Rhythm Roulette”

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After brining Mr. Green out to Green Village Junk shop in Bushwick, we headed back with the New Jersey native to his home studio in Brooklyn. He put the Barbara Streisand, Dr. Shivago, and Henry Mancini wax to the needle, ran some samples through his Mashine, and created a slapper.

————–Mass Appeal————–

UK’s Scariest Debt Collector (Full Length)

Ten years ago Shaun Smith was an enforcer for one of the biggest crime families in Liverpool and embroiled in a war against a rival drug gang.

Shaun introduced urban terrorism to the British underworld. He sprayed up houses with machine guns, tortured people and used homemade napalm to firebomb his enemies.

Today, after a spell of five years in prison for firearms offences, he is trying to transfer those skills to the legal economy by working as a debt collector in the northern English satellite town of Warrington.

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Apocalypse, Man: World’s End According to Michael C. Ruppert (Part 1 & 2)

Most people were first exposed to Michael C. Ruppert through the 2009 documentary, Collapse, directed by Chris Smith. Collapse was one of the scariest documentaries about our world and the fragile the state of our planet. It was also one of VICE’s favorite films from the past ten years.

Michael was forced to leave the LAPD after claiming that the CIA was complicit in selling drugs across America, and he quickly became one of the most original and strident voices to talk about climate change, government corruption, and peak oil through his website, “From the Wilderness.”

Following the release of Collapse, Michael’s personal life underwent something of a collapse itself and he paid off all his debts, left behind all his friends, and moved with his dog Rags to Colorado, planning to commit suicide.

VICE caught up with Michael in the middle of the epic beauty of the Rocky Mountains at the end of last year. We found a man undergoing a spiritual rebirth—still passionate about the world and with a whole new set of apocalyptic issues to talk about.

Apocalypse, Man is an intimate portrait of a man convinced of the imminent collapse of the world, but with answers to how the human spirit can survive the impending apocalypse.

In Episode two, Michael C. Ruppert talks fracking, police militarization, and Occupy. Then he has a jam session with his bandmate, Doug Lewis, and his singing dog, Squishy.

“Apocalypse, Man” is an intimate portrait of a man convinced of the imminent collapse of the world, but with answers to how the human spirit can survive the impending apocalypse.

Soundtrack by Sunn O))), Flaming Lips, Interpol, Michael C. Ruppert, and more.

Directed by Andy Capper.

Ground Zero Syria: The Illegal Oil Wells of Deir ez-Zor

Deir ez-Zor, Syria’s sixth-largest city, is also the country’s oil capital. For four decades, the al-Assad regime (first run by Hafez, and now by his son Bashar) struck deals with Western oil companies like Shell and Total that resulted in the extraction of as much as 27,000 barrels of black gold from the sand every day. A pittance compared with other Middle Eastern countries’ production, but it made Syria a bona fide oil-exporting nation. At least this was the case until international sanctions were imposed in 2011 in response to the regime’s crackdown on the antigovernment protests, which quickly morphed into a civil war.

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Ground Zero Syria is a series where we’ve compiled photojournalist and videographer Robert King’s footage into a series of raw, largely unedited vignettes that present a snapshot of the ancient city as it crumbles and burns while its citizens are killed indiscriminately.

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SECC$ TAP.E VOL 2 available 2.14.14

Directed by CJ Fly & Dee Frosted
DP/Edited by Anthony Prince

Visually Orchestrated by @DeeKnows

Prod. By ESTA

Second visual single off of CJ Fly’s debut mixtape “The Way EYE See It” available here:

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