#Didyouknow : Le Bataclan, birthplace of Hip-Hop in France

29 April 2020

Between 1982 and 1983 a cultural revolution took place in France: the transformation of jazz-rock and funk styles of music towards the first forms of hip-hop and rap music. Le “Bata”, as le Bataclan was nicknamed by young people, is one of the major places where this transformation occurred ! Indeed, Le Bataclan hosted the first U.S. Hip-Hop tour of France, the first dancing afternoons by DJ Chabin and the first dance and rap battles. Le Bataclan is also one of the first Parisian venues to welcome this new public who arrives from the suburbs.


Organized by Bernard Zekri (at the time journalist for the newspaper Actuel) and Alain Maneval (at the time radio host on Europe1), the “New York City Rap Tour“, allows France to discover the pioneers of the hip hop movement. On November 21, 1982, the tour begins with a show at Le Bataclan. On stage, the very best of the Bronx’s hip-hop scene : Afrika Bambaataa, with many dancers and graffiti artists, including DST, Rock Steady Crew, Dondi, Futura 2000 (with Mick Jones from The Clash), and Fab Five Freddy, create performances in which all the disciplines of hip hop culture are presented to the French audience.

“On stage, there are Grand Mixer DST and Bambaataa who are scratching, guys are rapping, others are doing graffiti in the background, others are dancing, girls are doing Double Dutch. When the French guys who were roller skaters or rock/jazz dancers see these performances, they don’t understand anything about what they are seeing !

Vincent Piolet – ihh magazine


The show at Bataclan was a turning point for several future pioneers of the French hip-hop movement such as Dee Nasty, Solo, Pascal Blaise or Dan de Ticaret… Those who attended the tour or saw it on TV did not really understand what they saw but they were struck by the energy or the artists. This show gave rise to the desire to be part of this counterculture. As Vincent Piolet underlines, “From then on, a significant part of the youth will abandon the music of the grown-ups.

In France, people did not understand very well what this movement was. You have to understand that, at that time, nobody had ever seen that. The people working in the music industry even thought this movement would only last three weeks…”

Bernard Zekri – downwiththis



At the decks of the “Bata” every Saturday afternoon, DJ Chabin creates a favorable climate for the apparition of a Hip-Hop culture in France. These afternoons promote a full immersion in many artistic practices. First of all, dance: young dancers come to try a new style of hip-hop dance called “smurf”. “Smurf” would be a wrong French designation for the street dance called “Popping”. “Smurf” is getting its name from the soundtrack of the film The Smurfs, titled “Let’s Do The Smurf” and whose video shows Popping dancers. Among the best dancers of “Smurf” and Breakdance at le Bataclan you could meet Joey Starr and Kool Shen, just before they formed their duo Supreme NTM.

“The young people from the suburbs came to the capital to have fun […] Everyone started to do Breakdance and Smurf, and we could meet in this crowd of Le “Bata” a multitude of actors who would shape the hip-hop culture of tomorrow. ”

Vincent Piolet – Regarde ta jeunesse dans les yeux

Take a “Smurf” lesson with Sydney ! He was the host of the legendary French TV show called “H.I.P H.O.P”


Rap music remained a minor discipline in hip-hop culture at that time: the real stars were breakdancers and graffiti artists. Karim Hammou and Vincent Piolet point out that in the early 1980s, the first traces of Rap in French discography lied “with artists quite distant from hip-hop culture: Plastic Bertrand, Chagrin d’Amour, Interview

But in 1983, DJ Chabin starts to spin more and more U.S. Rap vinyl during his afternoon at Le Bataclan, and he sometimes steps down in favor of young DJs like Dee Nasty and Franck. We can hear the first U.S. Rap disks at Le Bataclan, but it is also the place where the first Rap songs are chanted, in English or in French. At that time, there are two ideas of what rap music should sound like : As Karim Hammou states, “A split can be seen between the proponents of rap lyrics in English and those who seek to interpret Rap music in French “.

“The message was “there is a new music and there are guys who take the microphone and sing over it! ” In 1983, the first French rappers we heard were Domi T or Gary Gangster 8 who were rapping in English the songs of Grand Master Flash “

DJ chabin – downwiththis

At the end of 1983, the success of DJ Chabin’s afternoons was such that Le Bataclan became too small. The organizers relocate Le “Bata” to the Grange-Aux-Belles hall, Place du Colonel Fabien, where nearly 2,000 people could meet every weekend! Then in 1986, Dj Dee Nasty organized “block parties” such as those that existed in the Bronx, in a vacant lot opposite La Chapelle underground station. These block parties brought together all the disciplines of hip-hop culture: DJs, dancers, graffiti artists and rappers.


Since then, hip-hop has ceased to be considered as a counterculture and from the beginning of the 1990s French rap music became very successful with MC Solaar, Assassin, Supreme NTM, IAM…

Le Bataclan has continued to act as a reference venue for international rappers and, at the same time, as a springboard for the young French Hip-Hop and Rap scenes! We will never forget the three legendary concerts of NTM in 1995, the live of Kery James in 2009, and the one of Kendrick Lamar in 2012, and more recently the two sold out shows of Schoolboy Q in 2020. The great West Coast rapper, The Game, also chose Le Bataclan to make its comeback on stage after several years’ absence in February, 2020!

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