TourmenT are a French hip hop group based in Toulouse. This in itself is fairly unusual, as the hip hop scene in France is highly concentrated around two cities: Paris and Marseille. Add to this the fact that TourmenT do not hesitate to denounce the machinations of the industry – from magazines to labels to radio stations – and that they self-produced and distributed their album… you realize that they are pretty much one of a kind.
TourmenT are part of the worldwide community working to advance hip hop. The history of the group goes back to 1994, and in 1999 rappers Mohammed and Walid joined original members Fredd and Mohmss. In February 2001, TourmenT released their first mini-album, the explosive ‘Spectacular Optical’. “We really let it all out on the first album”, Mohmss freely admits. “The second will be calmer, the texts will be more controlled and more accessible.”
TourmenT take their musical inspiration from funk, fusion and traditional French music alongside hip hop. “Every country has it’s own musical identity” states Mohmss. They acknowledge that they learnt an enormous amount through the experiences of the first album, and are proud of what they have achieved.
To record and distribute a record from Toulouse is, in itself, no small feat. “In Paris, you can make more contacts in a week than in two years here” claims Fredd. “There are very few studios, and very few sound engineers who are familiar with hip hop” adds Mohmss. Add to this the fact that concert venues refuse to program hip hop, claiming that rap concerts always end in fights, and you can understand their frustration.
The members of TourmenT are above all sickened by the business that hip hop has become. They cite radio stations in France which had no idea what rap was five years ago, now making a fortune from blasting hip hop morning till night. Worse, they program the groups which TourmenT label ‘pop rap’.
“They’ve taken hip hop culture to make money, they’ve made it something for kids only. Its ok to be a rapper at 18, but you’d better stop once you reach 25. Ten years ago these people knew nothing about hip hop. They’ve taken the culture and added clothing labels, sex… that’s not hip hop. Now, if you’re not dressed in Adidas, or Kangol, or I don’t know what, you’re not a rapper.”
TourmenT have also created the association TourmenT Production. They aim to bring together the hip hop groups in Toulouse, to organize concerts, forums and festivals. Their overriding goal is to renew the element of hip hop which can unite people. They acknowledge that this is no easy task, with most young groups fiercely competitive and individualistic. But they remain positive and philosophical, and above all, have a passion for hip hop culture which it is impossible to burn out.
Final words from Fredd: “Hip hop has been commercialized, and has lost its original value. It’s stopped evolving. Only the underground persists…”
By Rachel Malcolm for Hip Hop Hot Spot .Com