MHD was once considered the “Little Prince” of North Paris. He began his journey in the capital city from the 19th arrondissement, delivering pizzas for a major American chain. Sometimes, it takes just one idea to change everything. On a memorable afternoon, the MPC agency contacted several rap media outlets, offering them an Afro Trap freestyle. Few believed in it, except for the public, and overnight, MHD became a star.
At that time, editorial teams were not prepared for the event. Facebook was the most effective platform for promoting artists. When major Facebook pages like Rapunchline unveiled MHD‘s first AfroTrap freestyle, it was like an explosion. Often imitated but never equaled, MHD garnered millions of views within hours. The counters were off the charts, and the Afrotrap prince became the leader of a movement.
What explains this success? In an era where urban cultures were booming, nobody in France had thought of merging Afro and Trap influences. Afro culture now permeates all of Europe, not just through the diaspora. Artists like Aya Nakamura, despite initial doubts from mainstream media, became the most famous female artist in France, drawing inspiration from the Afro wave. In this regard, MHD was a trailblazer.
In a matter of months, Afrotrap found its way into specialized clubs and radio stations. However, there were already concerns about MHD‘s questionable entourage. Like many artists from hoods, MHD was torn between his life in the star system and his childhood friends. Betrayal would be suicidal, but following them would lead to his downfall.
In his most famous AfroTrap freestyle, “La puissance” (The Power), amidst powerful ego-tripping, the artist expressed his doubts about his future and mentioned an “enemy.” MHD was far from being a gangster.
The court has recently sentenced him to 12 years in prison for his involvement in the Loic K. case.
MHD: The Loic K. Case!
On the night of July 5th to 6th, 2018, a serious incident occurred on rue Saint-Maur in the 10th arrondissement of Paris. A man named Loïc Kamtchouang, known as “Pépé,” aged 23 and of Franco-Cameroonian origin, was run over by a car and then attacked by a group of around ten individuals wearing hoods and dressed in black. The victim was punched and stabbed multiple times, resulting in about 30 knife wounds or scratches on his body. Unfortunately, one of these wounds, along his left thigh, led to his death a few minutes after the assault.
The backdrop to this tragedy is a long-standing rivalry between two rival groups in northeastern Paris. On one side is the Grange-aux-Belles hood in the 10th arrondissement, where the victim was from. On the other side are the Chaufourniers, located a few streets away in the 19th arrondissement, associated with the creator of the “afro trap” musical movement. This rivalry had already led to violence a year earlier, in March 2017, when a member of the Chaufourniers was attacked by the rival hood.
A few hours before Loïc Kamtchouang‘s murder, a member of the Chaufourniers, Binke K., was threatened at his home by about ten individuals from the Grange-aux-Belles, in front of his family. This raises the question of whether Loïc‘s murder was a response to this provocation on the same day. The trial that is underway will need to answer these questions and determine the responsibility of those involved, including Binke K., who is also charged with “voluntary homicide” in this case.
MHD: He Has Always Professed His Innocence!
Even though MHD has consistently claimed his innocence, several pieces of evidence link him to this violent clash. There is no need to defend or accuse the artist of innocence or guilt in this text, as the court handed down its verdict last night. However, this case strongly illustrates a statement made by Kery James (the founder of conscious rap in France with the album “Et si c’était à refaire“): “We are the first victims of our own violence.”
The fact that an artist like MHD, adored by millions, got involved in this path underscores how the abandonment of hoods by France in general, and the state in particular, has led these areas to adopt an alternative culture of violence. In the absence of hope, with a system ostracized by latent, if not institutionalized racism, and when the drug trade offers more than the local job market, alternative violence culture becomes a response to injustice and social inequality.
In the track “L’impasse” (The Dead End), Kery James also highlights this way of thinking. If the “black poet,” as he describes himself, resonates so deeply, it’s likely because, in his time, he defended this “alternative culture” of violence.
For a while, before his trial, MHD was temporarily released from prison and resumed his Afrotrap freestyles. However, these tracks left a bitter taste for those who had elevated him to stardom during his peak years. Perhaps, when faced with the image of this young French golden boy, we should question the utility of violence in our hoods. Maybe the authorities should also ask themselves another question: should we abandon entire territories.