Recently I met Gérôme, who runs his own hip hop label. I was amazed when he told me that he could introduce me to a hundred groups, from his region of the Paris suburbs alone! A statement like that just shows how much the French hip hop scene has established itself and become an integral part of the music industry in France, not to mention an essential part of youth culture.
After numerous false starts, France now represents the biggest market for hip hop music outside the United States. But now certain superstar groups are established, how do newcomers get a look in? The mainstream/underground battle and the politics of the music industry have become burning issues here, just as they are on the other side of the Atlantic. At a hip hop forum, I met Gérôme, who has invested a huge amount of money to launch an independent label, DPZ. I wanted to know more…
First, I asked about the origin of the label’s name. Explanation: “Originally we called ourselves Delirium Prodz, because of the way we work. It’s always a bit mad (‘la délire’ in French means ‘madness’), it can be a bit disorganized, a bit crazy… But we discovered that there was already a techno label called Delirium, so we kept just the initials.”
The label is totally independent, which brings the advantage of artistic freedom, but the downside of being very hard work. Gérôme takes the records from shop to shop all over Paris, and the compilation “Paris Sud Connexion”, the main album that the label has released so far (a follow up is planned) is now available in some major outlets, as well as smaller record stores. For 2001, more is planned: “We’re in the process of developing a brand of street wear with the label’s logo. We’re also planning to release at least two EP’s before the end of the year.”
When I ask how difficult it is to get started, Gérôme is frank: “There are tons of rap groups, there’s always a new group which has just been formed, a group that’s releasing an album, there’s good and bad in equal measure. It’s good that the scene is developing, but there’s always some really awful stuff being released. There’s a lot of people who say to themselves ‘we’re going to make some cash here’.” This is why an immense amount of work went into the album before it was launched, and it comes complete with a booklet detailing the groups who appear on it: “We wanted a quality product”. Nevertheless, it is sold at 60% of the standard price – to be accessible to as many people as possible.
This is a label that deserves to succeed, a label which in no way controls its artists. “Hip hop can give a voice to those that don’t have one. It’s a mode of expression that comes from the street. The rappers come with their own words… we hear what they want to say.” Peace to hip hop in Paris!
By Rachel Malcolm for Hip Hop Hot Spot .Com