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CULTURE

VIDEO: Meet the politest new addition to the French rap scene

Meet the new star of the French rape scene, who sings about pandas, politics and poetry and is a big fan of Serge Gainsbourg.

VIDEO: Meet the politest new addition to the French rap scene
Rapper Lord Esperanza. Photo: AFP

He is clean-cut, ambitious, painfully polite and with the kind of upbringing that might have landed him a job as a young executive in a multinational company.

Meet Lord Esperanza, one of the new – and distinctly upper class – great white hopes of French rap.

At 22, the well brought up Parisian – the son of a life coach and a corporate branding guru – is on the cusp of what many see as big things.

His debut album, Drapeau blanc (White Flag), has been hailed by the critics for its maturity and sophistication, while the singer songwriter sees its earnest appeals for a better world as “giving hope to the people”.

“Wake up!” he cries in one of the album's catchiest tracks, whose title translates as The Silence of Politicians, to the destruction of the planet and the spectral “skeletal polar bears” roaming the Earth.

While French rappers tend to sing about sex, drugs and money, Lord Esperanza – whose real name is Theodore Desprez – gets fired up about food waste, social determinism and humanity's ineffable talent for undermining itself.

He voted Green in the recent European elections, he told AFP in an interview around the corner from his childhood home in the fast gentrifying streets behind Montmartre.

He may have come from a comfortably off family, but Lord Esperanza insisted that he is a “yellow vest protester in his head”, referring to the mainly rural and working class protesters who have been taking to the streets for the last six months in France.

That is why he turned down an invitation from French President Emmanuel Macron to join him at the Elysee Palace later this month for the country's annual mid-summer street music festival.

A fan of the timeless ballads of Jacques Brel and Serge Gainsbourg, he has managed to meld some of the traditions of the french chanson into his work.

Indeed his friend and closest collaborator, Majeur Mineur, who composed the music for the 14 tracks on the album, insisted that Esperanza is “passionate about the French language and fascinated by pop and the avant-garde”.

That poetic legacy is clear in his lyrics. “For me happiness/ Is a succession/ of less sad moments,” he sings at the start of the album in a flourish worthy of Brel.

Indeed privilege is no guarantee of happiness, with Esperanza admitting that his fraught relationship with his father – the product of one of France's most elite schools – is one of the things that drives him.

When as a teenager he announced he wanted to become a rapper, his father “took a blank piece of paper, drew a graph on it, and put up my idols (the rappers) Orelsan, PNL and Damso at the top of it,” he said.

“He put me at the bottom and told me that I was going to stay there,” he told AFP.

“It was his way of telling me I had to prove the contrary.”

Lord Esperanza's stage name, which translates as “The Lord of Hope”, was his way of kicking against paternal scepticism.

His often bragging, super-confident stage presence is further armour against it.

For Majeur Mineur (a business and sociology graduate whose real name is Hugo d'Azemar), the whole Lord Esperanza project comes out of this “paradoxical, bipolar” worldview.

“He is rooted in his era, a world that is fractured socially and ecologically, but that is full of creativity.”

The Lord Esperanza character has melted into Desprez's own personality creating a mix somewhere between “extreme kindness” and “lots of pride and ego”, said Majeur Mineur, “two things which are a must if you are to succeed in this business”.

Certainly Esperanza doesn't lack outward confidence — something he attributes to his mother who urged him from an early age to trust his unconscious creative self.

He sees himself as “the inspirational force” for the team of 15 behind him.

“I give them energy and elan, then the people around me put it in place. My only real talent, in all humility, is that I know how to surround myself” with good people, he said.

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CULTURE

How to make the most of France’s ‘night of museums’ this weekend

More than 3,000 French museums will stay open long past their bedtimes on Saturday May 14th for the 18th Long Night of Museums.

How to make the most of France's 'night of museums' this weekend

The annual event takes place on the third Saturday in May each year in towns and cities across the whole of Europe. There are temporary exhibitions, themed guided visits, musical entertainment, lectures, concerts, food tasting, historical reconstructions and re-enactments, and film projections. Best news of all, almost everything is free. 

Here’s The Local’s guide to getting the most out of the night:

Plan, plan, then throwaway the plan

Consult the online programme and map out your route. A little preparation will make the night much easier – 3,000 museums will be open long into the night in France, and you don’t want to waste hours standing on a bridge arguing about where to go next. 

The site has suggestions for major cities, including Lyon, Dijon, Bourges, Strasbourg, Lille, Rouen, Bordeaux, Toulouse, and Marseilles. And four museums that have been closed to the public for years – Musée de Cluny in Paris, the Musée de Valenciennes, the Forum antique de Bavay in Nord and the Musée départemental Albert-Khan in Boulogne-Billancourt – are reopening on the night.

So, decide where you’re going beforehand – then feel free to dump your carefully plotted plan in a bin when you overhear someone else talking about this extraordinary thing they have discovered and go with the flow.

Be patient

When you are consulting the official website, try not to scream. You have to navigate a map rather than a traditional programme format – though, at least, this year it’s broken down in to French regions, which is marginally less frustrating.

It is actually much easier if you know the specific museums you are interested in visiting, as they have individual programmes of events. But half the fun of a night like this is visiting somewhere you’ve never been before.

Wear comfortable shoes and travel light

Wear shoes for the long haul rather than the first impression. There will be distances to cover and you might even find yourself dancing in the middle of a museum. 

And blisters are never a good partner with great art. Leave your skateboard and shopping trolley at home, they will just prove a nuisance when you are going through security checks.

Come early – or late – to avoid endless queues

Arriving at the Louvre at 8pm is always going to mean a giant queue. And nothing ruins a night quicker than spending most of it standing in an unmoving line. Try to escape peak times at the major museums – but check they’re not doing something interesting that you don’t want to miss – hip hop dance classes in the Department of Oriental Antiquities, in the Louvre’s Richelieu wing, for example…

Go somewhere you’ve never been to before

Do a lucky dip. Pick somewhere you’ve never heard of and know nothing about. What about the Musée de Valenciennes, which reopens after years of being closed to the public, for example. Its giving visitors the chance to see its fine art under ultraviolet light – which will reveal things you wouldn’t normally see.

Or you could delve deep into the Aude Departmental Archives, in Carcassonne, and discover the amazing life stories of some of the region’s historical figures

Make it social

Gather the troops, this is a night for multi-generations of family and friends. Art, history and culture, is very much a shared experience and you can usually find something that everyone loves – or hates.

Plan a pitstop

You will always need refreshing and wouldn’t a night of culture be wonderfully enhanced by a delicious picnic on the banks of the Seine, if you’re in Paris. 

Your mind will need a little pause from all the intellectual overload. Find a spot, listen to the music (there’s always music from somewhere) and watch the Bateaux Mouches go by as you eat a baguette with some good local cheese and some saucisson.

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