PARIS - A French rap duo calling themselves “Holocost” caused a stir in Paris recently after they pasted promotional posters up around the city announcing the release of their new album. The black posters with the word “Holocost” printed in yellow and an image of an automatic weapon were seen throughout the French city and its suburbs.
The rap album, called “L’Argent de la Brinks,” was produced by the record label Ghetto Fabulous, which represents independent artists. The two artists behind Holocost are Shone, an immigrant to France from Burkina Faso, and KER, of Cambodian origin. Both the rappers are from Clichy/Montfermeil outside Paris, near the suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois where the race riots began last autumn.
On their website, the two explain why they chose the provocative name. “When we created ‘Holocost’…we wanted to find a name that makes you ask, why are they called that? There is a certain provocation, but it is to attract interest. ‘Holocost’ means to say the extermination of a race, agreed? We consider slavery as a manner of exterminating a race. We appropriated the term because we were also subjected to a holocaust, and there isn’t a separate expression for that.”
The lyrics of Holocost’s songs do not have an anti-Semitic bent, but rather express severe social criticism directed chiefly towards French society. In one of their songs they sings, “When the police come to my ghetto, it’s an Intifada, Palestine.”
The album, which was released in mid-April, was well received in the rap community according to reviews in online rap websites and blogs.
“The place of rap in suburban culture is extremely important,” Jewish French author Michael Saban, who writes about the subject, said Sunday. “It started as a copy of the American model and turned into the most significant voice today among residents of French suburbs. There is consistent attention to police, violence, prisons and immigrant’s problems.”
According to Saban, the name chosen by the rappers is not surprising. “It’s a phenomenon that has existed for a while in France, a sort of ‘contest’ of suffering and memory. You might say that they want their own holocaust, that it also be recognized.”
Saban noted that the suburban rap scene has also seen anti-Semitic songs in the past. “There was a rap song called ‘Screw the Jews’ a year or two ago. There was an investigation launched, but the clip was anonymous and no band took responsibility for it,” Saban said.
Prominent figures in the Jewish community in Paris said that they have no intention of protesting the musical group. “Why should we give them free publicity?” they explained.
Story first published in Yedioth Ahronoth