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Keeping the message alive. The politics of glocal hip-hop scences (Paris, Sydney, Québec)

Abstract : Three decades ago, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s hit song « The message » was innovative in both subject and setting. It did not only cross over to pop charts, it also gave a brutal picture of life in the ghetto and offered a new voice to the everyday human realities of black life. Hip-hop culture is nowadays a global phenomenon which has been adopted and adapted in various local contexts. But is « the message » still the same? This paper seeks to situate the socio-political dimensions of hip-hop music through a cultural geography to show how it expresses a poetics of place, race and ethnicity. By scrutinizing rap scenes in Paris, Sydney and Québec, we will observe the nature of the interactions between diverse local forms of rap and emphasize on the tensions and debates in relation to the notions of genuineness and commercialism to understand the political meanings and practices of some of the activists of the movement. The local and the global are bonded to one another through contemporary cultural circuits and media flows, rap in particular circulates at a global level within international networks and is produced at the same time in local, hybrid forms. Participants in glocal rap scenes are dedicated to hip-hop culture by adopting certain ways to make sense of their lives according to specific local and national situations. The political potential of hip-hop music is characterized by the attention paid to social inequality and injustice rather than by a revolutionary essence. Local rap scenes have also been shaped by cultural industries and public policies of all sorts. Most of all, identity policies have given certain frames of definition that have been challenged by rappers: in France, postcolonial issues are being brought up to contest the republican model (« rap de fils d’immigrés »); in Australia, indigenous claims are putting in perspective the multicultural outlooks (« Aboriginal rap »); in Québec, the intercultural approach, based on the promotion of French, challenges multiculturalism and its bilingualism advocated by the federal government (« hip-hop québécois »).
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Contributor : Marc Kaiser <>
Submitted on : Thursday, June 10, 2021 - 2:43:16 PM
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  • HAL Id : hal-03256835, version 1


Marc Kaiser. Keeping the message alive. The politics of glocal hip-hop scences (Paris, Sydney, Québec). International Conference "Changing the Tune", IASPM-Bfe, ASPM, Volume!, Jun 2013, Strasbourg, France. ⟨hal-03256835⟩



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