France has ghettos, there are projects in France. I know it sounds ridiculous to say that, as if you didn’t know. Here’s the thing, until the riots in Paris a few years back, I was totally unaware of this fact. Press reports would say the people involved were from the “deprived Paris suburbs”, but it’s true, that in that moment I realized that Paris is a large city and like most large cities, there is probably some equivalent of what Americans call the “projects”. It was also during this time that I learned that France has a vibrant rap scene. Oddly, the concept of French rap was less shocking than coming to grips with the idea that Paris had “deprived suburbs”. Want to learn more?
Then I would highly recommend the book “Sufi Rapper” by Abd Al Malik. This book is a great read. It follows the spiritual journey of the author from his beginnings as an aspiring criminal in Neuhof, described as a “difficult” quarter, into becoming a leader in the French hip hop community, and through his discovery and evolution within the Muslim faith. “Sufi Rapper” gives the reader a look at the life of a street hustler and a musician, a history of rap music from the French perspective, and an introduction to many Islamic paths. It’s like he wrote the book for me!
Abd Al Malik’s writing has a lyrical, enchanting quality to it. It shouldn’t be so surprising, coming from a lyricist. Seriously though….
“Despite everything, I cannot help but feel affection toward this father-child. No doubt he also served me as an anti-role model, with his fickleness and libertine habits, whose consequences we suffered. But I have never been able to nurture the slightest feelings of bitterness toward him.”
….if I could write like that I wouldn’t be here blogging to you people, I’d be published and an Oprah pick!
As much as I enjoyed the glimpse into the art of crime and learning about the French hip hop scene, the most fascinating part of “Sufi Rapper” is Abd Al Malik’s evolution into, for lack of a better descriptor, a Sufi rapper. Any person who has been on a spiritual journey, or struggled with finding a place in their faith, will see themselves reflected in this story. Or, if you’re like me, and just nosey about how people practice their faith, you’ll like it too!
Crime, music, religion….I love this book!