In defense of rap
Last week saw disenfranchised French teens rallying outside a well known company’s headquarters, fearful employees performing a sit in, a boss locked up in his office, and the company’s major stakeholder calling for calm and negotiation. Just another bout of popular discontent in the land of la Révolution? Not exactly.
This time the kids are avid radio listeners who fear their favorite FM station, Skyrock, is being silenced (or at least forced to comb its wild hair). The employees are up in arms in defense of their boss, Pierre Bellanger, who was suddenly booted off Skyrock’s board of directors on Tuesday. Bellanger actually locked himself in his office in protest of what he says is a coup d’état in the radio station he founded 25 years ago.
And the evil, profit-hungry majority stakeholder? It’s the major financial group Axa, in fact an evil, profit-hungry majority stakeholder who has announced it wants Skyrock to boost its revenues by 30%.
That announcement – and Bellanger’s dismissal - have sparked a cry of protest so loud even high-brow daily Le Monde is tuning into the Skyrock drama (okay, page 12 in the Sunday edition, but still).
The fear is that Axa’s intentions to push Skyrock to make more money will, in practice, mean a major identity makeover for the iconic radio station.
Since it went on the air in 1986, Skyrock has been a haven for French teens, spilling the kind of candid talk about sex that makes grandma blush and blaring the music parents just don’t understand.
Tracking the latest teen trends meant that starting in 1996 Skyrock began playing more and more of that still cutting-edge music called rap. Today, commercial rap and R&B dominate the station’s playlists and shows.
So Skyrock’s DJ’s and listeners are equating Axa’s marching order to increase revenues to the following statement: “Rap is not profitable enough and needs to be replaced.”
Since Tuesday, a steady stream of France’s best-known (read mainstream) rappers have stopped by Skyrock’s offices to voice their support for Bellanger, and the Facebook page created to “save” the station has won 600,000 fans in just five days.
Almost overnight Skyrock has become the only place in France you will find former Socialist Party head Francois Hollande, who has as much soulful bounce as a bag of hammers, giving dap to singer/rapper Laouni Mouhid, who goes by the stage name La Fouine, or "The Ferret".