‘You’re not welcome’: rap’s racial divide in France

'You're not welcome': rap's racial divide in France thumbnail

While the genre is hugely popular in the country and sells in vast numbers, the French music industry and politicians have tried to downplay its success

Dave’s Mercury prize-winning debut album, Psychodrama, was the biggest-selling British rap album in the UK in 2019, certified gold for selling more than 100,000 units. Those numbers wouldn’t even have landed him in the top 10 biggest rap albums in France last year, where artists from greater Paris sell more rap albums than acts from any other city. But, while Dave won album of the year at this year’s Brit awards, and gave a nationally televised performance decrying the prime minister as racist, at last month’s Victoires de la Musique – France’s equivalent of the Brits – none of France’s black or Arab rappers were nominated in an album, artist or song category.

Days after the ceremony, French music industry body SNEP, which is responsible for collating the charts, distributing royalty payments and more, declared rap music an “overexposed phenomenon” in their 2019 market report. It argued that “fan support for urban music must not eclipse the performances of other musical genres” – an explicit call for less promotion and celebration of the most successful French popular music movement of all time.

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