I’ve definitely always looked to Paris as Europe’s most hip-hop city, with Amsterdam running a close second. As a continent, we were once dangerously obsessed with rap and all its related sub-cultures — memorising shout outs, trading tapes and haplessly trying to ape NYC’s styles with local brands and no-name hi-tops. Germany had its own thing, but it was all a bit too wide-eyed and headspin led, third gen dubbed Britcore C90s for me and the UK’s bumpkins with boom boxes, obsessively tagging are fun, but it never held up as well as that small scattering of soundsystem centric acts that had their moment in the early 1990s before burning out.
We all seemed to try too hard and while hip-hop wasn’t the French’s first language, it seemed to slot into their linguistics and innate Gallic cockiness. It seems Parisian folk were hip-hop before hip-hop even existed. They could wear goose downs without looking like caricatures and can still flip the bucket hat and bulky leathers — in some cases even a name belt — without coming off like boom-bap pensioners. I’m not talking Solaar and whatever groups were on some crummy global rap compilation back in the day, but the militancy of NTM and the work of BANDO and co — graffiti in Paris never seemed to lose its edge either. They’re the kings of Euro sports footwear culture too, and I appreciate Xenophobics will want to get me in a headlock for those sentiments, but no other nation can still make hip-hop’s elements not look like a Bomfunk MCs video.
However, I still need to understand what the rapper’s saying, so I barely listen to any French rap — I’m just caught up in the aesthetic. Today I spotted some good news via Mr. Thomas Giorgetti’s Facebook page — Japanese photographer’s Yoshi Omori’s time on the French hip-hop scene between 1984 and 1989 has been compiled into a book called ‘Mouvement’ that’s published by 19/80 Editions. Lots of leather jackets, lots of b-boy swagger done right and a documentation of something that looks to have a certain stone faced unity about it. There’s some faces in the preview shots that are still involved in the scene and I think that some of them might take old loudmouth Rosenberg’s side on the HOT97 Minaj ‘Starships’ debate — they just would have dismissed it with a little more flair than Peter’s drunk dad at a barbecue technique.
On a completely unrelated topic, the videos of partygoers exiting NASA at NYC’s The Shelter (the spot from ‘Kids’) via Scotto TV includes a parade of some of the most early 1990s clothing styles possible.
Other things I’m into today are the ‘FUSE 1-20’ book by Taschen for a Neville Brody-designed fuckload of typography, plus Y’OH‘s new t-shirt and sticker designs (image jacked from Kara Messina’s Instagram) which are so well executed that Y’OH feels fully established in just a couple of seasons — there’s a lesson here in getting your brand’s visual identity on point early, which is something that most UK brands flop on in a mass of Brooklyn Kid and knockoffs. Bring something new to the table like Kara and you’ll reap the benefits.
On discovering a bag of old ‘zines during a clear out, I was reminded how tremendous the art direction for Milk’s ‘Never Dated’ mini-album was (complete with Mike D on drums). The broken bottle with blood cover and the ‘got milk.’ ad are still peerless.