France’s feuding rapper caught in the line of fire

He sells out venues all over France, and has a classic ‘rags to riches’ life story. But lately the drug-dealer turned rapper who calls himself ‘The Weasel’, has become embroiled in France’s biggest hip-hop feud, which this week took a violent twist. Meet La Fouine, our French Face of the Week.

France's feuding rapper caught in the line of fire
La Fouine, performing in Dakar, Senegal on November 9th, 2012. Photo: The Mo Ibrahim Foundation

Who’s La Fouine?

La Fouine (The Weasel) – real name Laouni Mouhid – is a 31-year-old double gold record-selling rapper from the suburbs of Paris. Like any good hip-hop star, he has more than one alias and also calls himself ‘Fouiny baby.’

Tell me more.

He grew up in Trappes, in the western suburbs of Paris to a Moroccan family, “among junkies, with needles on the stairwells, and heroin on the stove.” He acquired his 'weasel' moniker from his appearance, and certain criminal characteristics in his youth.

Between the age of 16 and 21, he had four separate stays in prison for theft, burglary and drug-trafficking, before – in his own words – rap saved his life.

What’s he done since then?

He’s released four albums, launched a clothing line called ‘Street Swag’ and a record label called ‘Banlieue sale’ (‘nasty suburb’). He’s been married and divorced and is a father to a seven-year-old daughter. His 2009 album ‘Mes Repères’ (‘My Landmarks’) went gold in France. His two-disc concept album ‘La Fouine vs. Laouini’ went platinum in 2011.

What’s he been up to lately?

Getting shot at, to put it bluntly. At around 5am on Monday morning, Laouni was being dropped off at home by his driver when an unknown assailant fired in the direction of the car. La Fouine wasn’t hurt, and has declined to lodge a police complaint, but the attack has been big news in France this week, especially among hip-hop circles.

What’s that all about?

It’s hard to say for sure, but one thing we do know is that La Fouine has been involved in an increasingly nasty feud with another French rapper who goes by the name of Booba. Also from the suburbs of Paris, Booba is an older and more established artist in France, who has sold more than a million records in the country and collaborated with US superstars like Diddy and Akon.

On February 3rd, La Fouine escalated the tiff by uploading a song entitled ‘T’as le tremblote’ (‘You’ve got the shakes’) to YouTube, mocking Booba by name for his comparatively negligent sexual prowess, so to speak.

Booba responded just an hour later with a video of his own, called ‘Tue les tous’ (‘Kills all’), adding fuel to the fire by accusing La Fouine of sexual assault. In an interview with French daily Le Parisien, published on the day of the shooting, La Fouine discussed the animosity between them. “I take it pretty lightly, but I know that if it continues, it’ll end badly.” However there's evidence that has come to light to link the feud to shooting.

Paint me a picture of him.

La Fouine has a classically cocky rapper’s demeanour – full of macho hand gestures and head tilts – and dresses in sideways baseball hats, hoodies and baggy jeans. His rapping style is not particularly abrasive, and he mixes smooth RnB vocals to achieve an overall ‘down-to-earth Casanova’ persona. He’s got plenty of charisma, and a permanent smirk that makes him look something like the bearded, Moroccan cousin of American rapper and producer Pharrell Williams.

What does he have to say for himself?

On his 2011 concept album ‘La Fouine vs. Laouni,’ he constructed a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ split identity, between each of the two discs, and had this to say about it in an interview with Le Parisien at the time.

“La Fouine is a total idiot – stupid and vulgar. But me, Laouni, I’m calm. I respect women.”

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French police detain man over ‘TGV train attack threat’

French security forces on Friday detained a man who was threatening to commit an attack on a high-speed train, the French national transport operator said.

French police detain man over 'TGV train attack threat'

The TGV train heading from the eastern city of Colmar to Paris had a delay of 90 minutes as a result of being stopped for security forces to intervene, the spokesman said.

“The situation is finished and under control. The individual has been arrested,” a spokesman for SNCF told AFP.

A police source said that the man was initially detained by a policeman who was travelling on the train as an ordinary passenger.

The nature of the attack that the man had threatened to commit was not immediately clear.