French Rappers Pretend to Be Rappers

TTC2.jpgHey the Fader! Status Ain't Hood got a digital camera now! Stop bellyaching!

TTC Knitting Factory September 29, 2005

It's not a bad thing, necessarily. I'm not even sure why it bothers me. I mean, it's a good thing that white hipster kids listen to rap. I moved up to New York from a town where plenty of the hipster kids are dimly aware that rap exists, where I still hear the same Neutral Milk Hotel album at every goddam barbecue (they're starting to finally embrace Baltimore club, though, so that's something). I love the whole Hollertronix aesthetic, I love M.I.A. and Fannypack, I love hearing DJs going from the Cure to Young Buck like it was nothing. And if hipster kids like rap music, then why shouldn't hipster kids have their own hipster-kid-rap groups? It makes sense; rap makes up a huge chunk of popular culture, and these kids have a right to this culture as anyone else. There's even something refreshing about Plastic Little or Spank Rock, how they approach rap completely from the outside, just as something to have some fun with. It's not like Aesop Rock or Little Brother or something where the people who like them insist that they're the truest, greatest manifestations of the hip-hop tradition or whatever; no one has ever tried to tell me that Spank Rock is a better rapper than Jay-Z or Scarface. And groups like this use dinky little electro-bleep beats because they don't have expensive studios or name producers at their disposal, and these beats they're making are fun and functional enough.

So it's not the dilettantism that bothers me. I'm a dilettante. We're all dilettantes. It might be the only honest way to consume music in 2005, when thousands of albums come out every week and it's entirely impossible for any one person to stay on top of everything. You can love rap without having an encyclopedic knowledge of Pete Rock or whatever. And I don't think it's the lack of sincerity. The Diplomats aren't exactly sincere all the time. Neither is DJ Quik or Atmosphere or Field Mob or Paul Wall or Kanye. Rap is funny, and just about everyone who makes the music or loves the music has fun with it sometimes. It's a good thing.

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And that's where TTC comes in. TTC is a rap group from Paris, and judging by last night's show, they're a French version of Plastic Little. Three of the group's four members are white, and they rap over the same dinky Casio beats that American hipster-rap groups use. The group's apparent leader is Cuizinier, a tall Federlinian dude with a three-day beard and a XXXL T-shirt and a fitted cap that still has the shiny sticker on the brim. Their DJ, unfortunately named Orgasmic the Toxicologist, wears enormous sunglasses and runs through perfunctory, halfassed scratch routines and throws on DJ Assault tracks so the other dudes in the group can pull girls up for onstage freaklines. Cuizinier and Tido (the one nonwhite member) seem to at least attempt straight rapping, but Teki, the fat beady-eyed bald guy in the group, seems bent on transforming himself into a human caricature, squeezing out his verses in an obnoxiously high-pitched nasal leer like Curly from the Three Stooges, taking off his shirt and doing butt-dances. They sample "I Like to Move It" and rap in French and yell for the crowd to put its motherfucking hands up in cute broken English. Their cheap little electro-beats are pretty good, as is their stage show; they hit all their lines with precision and mostly avoid yelling all over each other's verses.

They might be huge pop stars in France, but I doubt it; they seem more likely to be the sort of group that's a hipster curio all over the world, a gift from God to cultural studies undergrads writing thesis papers about the globalization of pop culture. (Every review of their album that I've read has used the word "crunk," which is ridiculous.) At the Knitting Factory last night, they drew a hipster crowd who danced the whole time and cheered when Teki took off his shirt and generally acted like they were in on the joke. And maybe that's what bothered me. I can't imagine anyone ever caring deeply about TTC, not even the people in the group. The whole thing seemed to just be an elaborate joke for people who think rap is funny. And these people aren't wrong, but there's much, much more to it than that.

"I've heard that New Yorkers are very hard to please," yelled an adorably heavy-accented Teki at one point. Seems to me that he was misinformed.

Stream: "Dans Le Club" video

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