Rap au féminin: What can France’s female hip hop scene teach us about identity politics?

Ellen Davis-Walker | 25 April 2017

Mathieu Kassovitz’s 1995 box office sensation La Haine has long been credited with propelling French hip hop on to the global stage. Drawing on original material by Ministère AMER, NTM and MC Solaar, the film’s soundtrack managed to capture the sonic traces of social unrest on the fringes of French society. Whilst France’s victory in the 1997 FIFA World Cup seemed to mark a momentary coming- together around the inclusive slogan ‘Black-Blanc-Beur’ (Black, White, Arab), the contentious and fractured question of national identity has continued to dominate the country’s musical and political landscape ever since.

The emergence of rap au féminin (female rap) over the past decade marked a significant step in the development of multi-faceted ‘French’ identity. While anglophone female artists of the early 2000s were predominantly focused on debunking “the sexual and material objectification faced by women in the industry,” this article will ask how rap au féminin has offered artists the possibility to explore both what it meant to be a woman in this period, and what it meant (and still means) to be French.

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