Saturday, February 28, 2015

rap and radicalism: does hip hop create extremists?


aljazeera |  On January 1, the French rapper Medine uploaded his latest track "Don't Laik". 

Surrounded by youth from the banlieues, he sounds off against secularism, taking swipes at Nietszche and the neo-conservative journalist Caroline Fouret, a former staffer at Charlie Hebdo. His harshest words are directed at the French system of laicite, which bans headscarves in public institutions and burqas in all public spaces.

About a week later - just after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, Medine was back in the news again, this time explaining his lyrics, noting that when he rapped about crucifying "les laicards" and chopping down the "tree of their secularism" - he was actually presenting a "caricature" of secularism; that version which looks down upon the religiously observant. His critique of laicite, he said, was very much in the spirit of Charlie Hebdo.

Hip hop in France - and in Western Europe more broadly - has come under scrutiny in the last few weeks. Prominent French artists - Youssoupha, Diam's, Kool Shen, Maitre Gims, Oxmo Puccino - have denounced the attacks in no uncertain terms, some even composing impromptu tracks in honour of the victims.

Called for explanations
But hip hop artists have also been called upon to explain the reasons for youth alienation, and the relationship between hip hop and extremism. The fact that Cherif Kouachi, the younger brother, was at one point an aspiring rapper, featured in a television documentary, where he is up on stage, cap backwards, rapping and dancing, has counterterrorism experts again asking if youth are radicalised through rap.