Feminists win court war against ‘French Eminem’

French rapper Orelsan, known as the ‘French Eminem’ was convicted of insulting speech and incitement to violence on Friday over his violently misogynistic lyrics. The hip-hop star had been pursued in the courts by several feminist groups since 2009.

Feminists win court war against 'French Eminem'
Rapper Orelsan, known as the 'French Eminem' performing in Paris in February 2013. On May 31st he was found guilty of incitement to violence for his lyrics. Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP

A court in Paris found 30-year-old rapper Orelsan, known as the ‘French Eminem,’ guilty on Friday of insulting speech over the lyrics of one of his songs, sparking a row over artistic censorship.

The words“les meufs c’est des putes” (“women are whores”), from his 2009 song “Courez Courez,” which roughly translates as “Sleep around, sleep around"  were enough to have him convicted by the court.

Furthermore, he was found guilty of incitement to violence for the line “ferme ta gueule ou tu vas t’faire marie-trintigner” (“shut your mouth or you’ll end up like Marie Trintignant”) from the 2007 song “Saint-Valentine.”

Marie Trintignant was a French actress beaten to death in 2003 by her boyfriend, the French rockstar Bertrand Cantat.

Cantat, the lead singer of the band Noir Desir, served four years of an eight-year sentence for manslaughter, in a high-profile case that caused massive controversy in France at the time.

Orelsan, whose real name is Aurélien Cotentin, had been pursued in court since 2009 by five separate women's rights organizations.

The feminist group Chiennes de garde (Watchdogs), Le collectif feministe contre le viol (The feminist collective against rape), La fédération national solidarité femmes (The women’s national solidarity federation), and Le mouvement français pour le planning familial (The French family planning movement), united in bringing charges against the rapper.

For his part, Orelsan’s lawyer Simon Tahar condemned the court on Friday for “clearing a wide, deep path for the censorship of artistic creation,” according to Europe 1 radio.

Conversely, Alain Weber, lawyer for the five plaintiff groups, said he was satisfied with what he called a “legal precedent” in “the struggle for the dignity of human beings.”

Four years ago, Orelsan, originally from Alençon in Normandy, was unsuccessfully sued by French feminist group ‘Ni putes ni soumises’ for his song “Sale pute” (“Dirty whore”), which was a source of controversy at the time.

In court on Friday, he was ordered to pay a suspended €1,000 fine for his lyrical transgressions.

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8 of French duo Daft Punk’s most memorable moments

One of the era's defining dancefloor acts hung up their helmets on Monday, as French electronic music stars Daft Punk announced their retirement in a typically enigmatic fashion with a video showing one of them exploding in a desert.

8 of French duo Daft Punk's most memorable moments
Photo: AFP

From Da Funk in 1995 to Get Lucky in 2013, Daft Punk became the torch-bearers for French house music across the globe, winning six Grammy awards and pioneering the monumental sound-and-light shows that came to characterise the electronic dance movement (EDM) of recent years.

They did so while almost never revealing their faces — the ubiquitous helmets became another much-copied trope of EDM stars, but also afforded Thomas Bangalter, 46, and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, 47, a freedom from the fame that quickly encircled them.

“We have daily lives that are a lot more normal than the lives of artists who have the same level of fame as us, but who might be attached to being physically recognised,” Bangalter said in a rare authorised documentary by the BBC in 2015.

Here are some of the highlights of their career – although for our money nothing will beat the French army band’s performance of a Daft Punk medley at the Bastille Day celebrations in 2017, in front of president Emmanuel Macron and a plainly bemused Donald Trump.

1. “Daft punky thrash”

Bangalter and Homem-Christo met at school in Paris before an inauspicious start in music with the rock band Darlin’, which also featured a future member of the French indie band Phoenix.

One review in the British music press dismissed the band as “daft punky thrash” — which struck a chord with them.

Reemerging as an electronic outfit, they met with instant success.

This interview from 1995 is one of the few images of their faces:

2. Their signature look in “Around the World”

Early singles “Da Funk” and “Around the World” became club fixtures, and led to massive sales for their debut album “Homework” in 1997.

It was in the video for “Around the World” that they first donned the helmets that would become their signature look. It mirrored the tight control they exercised over every part of their career, which included ownership of their master recordings.

3. “One More Time”

They followed up with the even more successful “Discovery” in 2001, which spawned the hits “One More Time” and “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”.

There were some distinctively left-field choices in the years that followed, including producing the 2003 film “Interstella 5555” by Japanese anime master Leiji Matsumoto, which featured music from “Discovery”.

4. Human After All

While their next album in 2005, a more sombre “Human After All”, received mixed reviews, these were quickly forgotten amid the euphoria of their live shows over the next two years.

This included a headline appearance at US festival Coachella in 2006, performed inside a giant LED pyramid. EDM fans still speak about it with an almost religious reverence.

5. Tron soundtrack

In 2010, they released a soundtrack to the Disney reboot of Tron, which picked up a Grammy nomination.

6. “Random Access Memories”

But no one predicted the massive success of their last album, 2013’s “Random Access Memories”, for which they gave up their usual makeshift home rig for a full commercial studio– and used entirely live instruments.

The resulting work dominated album-of-the-year lists and helped lift their total worldwide sales to 12 million. It won four Grammies the following year including record of the year for “Get Lucky”, the millions-selling lead single featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers.

Their appearance at the Grammy Awards show was their last public appearance for three years.

7. “I Feel It Coming”

They showed up one more time for the Grammy ceremony in 2017, alongside The Weeknd, after collaborating on the Canadian artist’s most recent album.

Despite the Twittersphere erupting in excitement last month amid rumours they would rejoin The Weeknd for the Super Bowl half-time show, that did not in the end materialise. 

8. “Epilogue”

The video titled “Epilogue” announcing their split used footage from their cult 2006 film “Electroma” in which one of the robots sets the auto-destruct of the other.

A cutaway then reads “1993-2021” with two robot hands making a circle around a sunset.

Their publicist, Kathryn Frazier, confirmed the news to AFP by email, without giving a reason for the split.