Series, documentaries … When rap bursts onto the small screen

(AFP) – After having conquered the music market, will rap triumph on our screens? From fiction to documentary, the projects linked to this music, the most listened to and sold in France, are emulated, carried by a market which does not know the crisis.

It’s a more than expected comeback: season 2 of “Validé”, the first French fiction on the world of rap, presented out of competition at the Canneséries festival – which runs until October 13 – will be broadcast from October 11 on Canal +.

The series, which depicts the world of rap through the story of Clément alias Apash, dealer in the beautiful Parisian districts by night and rapper by day, has been a flamboyant success in France with over 35 million views on myCanal – a record – but also abroad.

“The great success of this series is that it has allowed people who are sometimes a little refractory to take an interest in this environment”, congratulates AFP its creator, Franck Gastambide.

However the initial ambition of this “passionate” of rap was simple: “to address a public about which one does not necessarily speak much, to the many fans of the first music of France, even of the world”.

Since then, other projects have been imagined. Like “Diana Boss”, a series that will broadcast “by the end of the year” France Télévisions. Not anchored in the world of rap, the fiction will tell the story of a heroine divided between her passion for rap and her project to become a lawyer.

– “Rapwashing” ? –

“For us, rap and the law firm are tools to manage to talk about subjects like equality and patriarchy”, explains to AFP its producer Sébastien Folin. But “speaking of rap, we will reach more people, more young people,” he argues.

As for streaming platforms, they are not left out: Netflix announced in mid-September that it was preparing a French version of the successful American telecrochet “Rhythm + Flow”. The principle ? two rappers, SCH and Niska as well as the rapper Shay will cross France in search of a new talent of rap.

Amazon Prime Video will broadcast a documentary series on rapper Orelsan in mid-October.

“For a long time the audiovisual industry shunned the rap public, thinking that it was a niche audience. Today, he realizes that he can no longer do without”, analysis with AFP the philosopher Benjamine Weill , author of a book on the weight of rap and hip-hop culture in French society.

In France, rap remains the most popular and listened to music. In 2020, on the Spotify platform, leader in music streaming, rappers Ninho, Jul or Maes were at the top of the ranking of the most popular French-speaking artists.

To this is added a cultural argument, according to Ms. Weill: “there is a whole generation of young people fed on rap and hip-hop who arrive in production houses, which explains this slew of projects”.

In the United States, where rap is also doing very well, the same phenomenon is at work … but since 2015. For example, the series “The Get Down” broadcast in 2016 on Netflix – l ‘one of the most expensive productions in the history of the platform – or the documentary about star Travis Scott (49 million listeners per month on Spotify) “Look Mom I Can Fly”, broadcast on the same platform.

Be careful not to fall into “rapwashing”, namely “using rap for the sole purpose of attracting a young audience,” warns Ms. Weill.

“We paid great attention to the music. We wanted there to be real credibility in rap,” argues Sébastien Folin. Same tone on the side of Franck Gastambide, who recalls that “Validated” allowed the launch of the career of rapper Hatik.