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What do hip-hop culture, ethnic/racial tension and France have in common?

November 13, 2008 at 1:06 am
By Brandon Walker

Can you answer the question presented in the subject line? If so...'ve successfully written my History 395 research essay.

French breakers

I'm working on a historiographical research essay that examines how Afrika Bambaataa's Zulu Movement inspired the growth of hip-hop culture throughout Parisian suburbs, or banlieues, in early 1980s France. Afrika Bambaataa is hailed as the patriarch of a sound many of us have embraced as our own. Indeed, hip-hop's ascent as one of the highest grossing genres within the music industry has spawned countless conversations about its origins-- its intended audience-- and whether or not it still possesses its legitimacy. It has evolved into a sound, and, perhaps, a style quite foreign to its early days in the trenches of South Bronx, New York.

Afrika Bambaataa

Images of beatboxers parading the streets of New York's long-storied boroughs are rooted in grass roots efforts by the likes of Bambaataa to curb inter-neighborhood violence and promote communal unity. Breaking competitions and MC duals provided an alternative conduit through which blacks and Latinos could express themselves.


Although hip-hop traces its birth to South Bronx, its practice as a means of self expression for inner-city African Americans, Afro-Caribbeans, and Latinos isn't exclusive to the United States. My project examines hip-hop culture's role in the Parisian suburb. Afrika Bambaataa's Zulu Movement introduced both rap music and hip-hop culture to youth in the poor suburban neighborhoods of France. Like performers in the United States, Parisian artists, many of whom were from French colonies in West Africa and the Caribbean, used hip-hop to express their discontent with racism, poverty, class inequality in France.

One of those groups, Supreme NTM, presented a sound similar to many hip-hip artists of the late 1980s. Click the image to listen to a song of theirs.

Supreme NTM

The transnational linkages represented through hip-hip culture offer a fascinating window through which such racial and sociopolitical disparities are expressed.

I'm putting the finishing touches on my research presentation. Let's hope I can pull this one off... wish me luck.

Until next time, you be good!


  • November 21 2008 at 4:17 pm
    Jessamyn Lockard

    Hi, I was just looking at the Carleton website because I'm going to apply next year.  I noticed an article on al jazeera english that might help with the paper.

    Happy Thanksgiving! 

  • November 21 2008 at 4:21 pm

    Thanks, Jessamyn.  I'll give it a look.

    Good luck with everything.


  • December 27 2008 at 1:00 am

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