African American Studies


Karima Zerrou and Maboula Soumahoro are two influential figures within the world of French-language hip-hop. Zerrou is an internationally renowned hip-hop artist and producer while Soumahoro is a professor at Barnard College who has written extensively on the subject of French hip-hop culture. In their interview with the BAAHP, Zerrou and Soumahoro discussed many of the influences on the rise of the hip-hop genre within French society.

Zerrou got her start in the French hip-hop industry at age of 17 while working for an artist known as Monsieur R. From this job, Zerrou eventually worked for a radio show on a national hip-hop station in France. According to Soumahoro, Zerrou’s career coincided with a French law that 40% of music played on radio and television station had to be French music. This law opened up many opportunities for French artists, as stations would otherwise have been playing American music. Additionally, Zerrou also stated that much of her work has been distributed to French communities in locations outside of the country.

Zerrou and Soumahoro also discussed many of the societal influences on French hip-hop. For example, many French rappers and hip-hop artists come from Muslim backgrounds, a fact that has affected many of the decisions these artists have made in producing hip-hop. Additionally, Zerrou and Soumahoro said that, as in America, many French rappers and hip-hop artists have turned experiences in French prisons into a commonplace theme within French music.

Click below to download supplemental content.

Soumahoro, Maboula and Karima Zerrou Part 1.mp3 (87124 kB)
Soumahoro, Maboula and Karima Zerrou Part 2.mp3 (53396 kB)