9 // Black Future Month // On N*ggas in Paris (2/X)
Posted on February 10, 2012
Since Hova and Yeezy take the liberty of performing the track 13 times in a row, I don’t mind doing two post in quick succession to think through it. Yesterday, I did a mashup of Baldwin’s “Who’s the Nigger” over the Niggas in Paris instrumental. Today it’s a similar song.
Before the album dropped, and we unanimously turned our gaze towards the throne, I saw the track listing. Niggas in Paris. (Excuse my french, but they’re in France).
I imagined Jay and Ye’s thoughts on those imagined, in the popular consciousness, to be niggers. Those who uprooted from The States and made their homes in France. The Cullens, Bakers, Baldwins, and Robesons — whose fame and talent were more freely appreciated overseas than at home. I was amped to hear Jay and Kanye draw some parallels begin the conversations they must have in closed company and a exchanges like this one from Poitier’s Paris Blues:
The album was released. I heard the track for real. It’s an undeniable banger, barbershop to barbershop, Los Angeles, Madison, Atlanta, Heathrow Airport– everywhere I’ve been since Watch the Throne dropped — a black man has made reference to the song. No exaggeration. My younger brother, (I suspect in jest) said he wanted it to be his wedding song. I’m not going to lie — I hear the synth sound and I feel like I’m balling so hard nobody can find me.
But for something so often quoted, already so viscerally embedded in the African American consciousness, little mention is made of those treated like niggas, living in Paris. I talked to some of my students, and they were under the impression that Jay and Kanye were the only two diasporic Africans who’d ever made it to Paris. As if France were the promised land.
I don’t intend to circumscribe pejorative or disrespectful labels around Parisian Africans, but as xenophobic/neo-racist tendencies go widely unaddressed in Paris and here in the US — I begin to ponder, who are the niggers in Paris? Who are the folks that disrupt the “traditional” French sensibilities — make polite cafe and croissants an opportunity for social introspection. Who?
A 2008 French theatrical release “The Class (Entre Les Murs)” does fairly heavy lifting around some of those questions.
So, who? The French -Algerians, -Haitians, -Senegalese? The folks from Guadelupe and Martinique, or of course, the African-American French? They Niggas in Paris? to Paris? Are they really “goin Gorillas”? Huh?
What are their coping mechanisms? What are their techniques for thriving? Are there transatlantic similarities between our existences and theirs? All questions I’d hoped to have answered by Mr. Carter and Mr. West, by the third verse at least.
No such luck. Perhaps there are answers here, in this cypher near Le Metro, where everybody seems to rep the Yankees. Pretty reflexive, considering that to two famous American rappers, NY isn’t a fantastic, idyllic destination. Paris is.
Realest bars in the song? “If you escaped what I escaped you’d be in Paris getting fucked up, too.”
Tomorrow, we go back to our general Black Future Month format. I’ll be writing about someone other than Jay and Kanye — and we’ll look towards a new day. That shit kray.