This old picture of the Parisian suburb of Sarcelles captured my attention. A pic says more than a thousand words, right?
Originally devised as a social housing project, Sarcelles became a symbol of the problems of the grands ensembles, monolithic suburbs for immigrants. In the sixties, the term ‘Les Sarcellites’ emerged, describing the inhabitants of the grands ensembles. Sarcelles is a only a few RER stops away from central Paris. It’s a good place to unwind after a shopping spree on Champs-Élysées. Take line D1 in the direction of Orry-la-Ville-Coye. Because I’m interested in the effects that architecture and social engineering have on music, I’d like to present to you a music video by Playcos, a young rapper from Sarcelles. In ‘Bienvenue dans ma ville, Sarcelles’ from 2007, Playcos welcomes us to his wonderful world.
Needless to say that in the City of a Thousand Suns, Hipcescu, where social harmony and cleanliness prevail, such transgressions would never occur. Thank you.
Game Over (2009) is a music video by Booba, a Moroccan-Senegalese rapper from the Parisian banlieue of Boulogne-Billancourt. I tried to find out who the director of the video is, but to no avail. Despite a slow start, this video is worth the watch. The art direction and photography are excellent. The gloomy atmosphere is incisive. You almost sense the roaches on the wall of the claustrophobic apartment in which part of the video is set. This stuff is really fine-tuned to deliver Booba’s message and music.
I’m fascinated by the banlieues that surround Paris. The often monolithic building blocks, called grands ensembles, were built in the 50s and 60 to accommodate large streams of immigrants from Algeria and other (ex-)colonies. From an urban planning point of view, it was a great solution – if you didn’t think about the consequences ten, twenty years down the line. Unemployment, violence and alienation festered inside the grands ensembles, creating a sort of externalized Bastille – stagnant social pools, just outside the Périférique, Paris’ ring road.
Fortunately, also good things like hip hop have come from those massive concrete zones. The ever-expanding library of French hip hop videos provides a great insight into functional architecture and its consequences.
Please note that videos, such as the one mentioned above, could never spring from the suburbs of the City of a Thousand Suns, Hipcescu, because social harmony and cleanliness would make such transgressions impossible. Thank you.