Jay-Z and Kanye West "Niggas in Paris": The Unlikely Soundtrack for France's Presidential Election


Picture this: You are the candidate in a major presidential election. You have to produce a campaign video showcasing your program and beaming your message to captive audiences nationwide. Obviously, music would play a key part in this, so you muse deeply on the choice.

Classical or Rock? Pop or Rap? Emo or Heavy metal? In the past, American presidential candidates have selected songs which best encapsulate their campaigns. Barack Obama chose “City of Blinding Lights”; John McCain selected “My Hero” (but was later asked by the Foo Fighters to stop using it ); even Rick Santorum had some theme music going, with “Gloria in Exclesis Deo.

But, if there were a prize for most inappropriate and bizarre campaign song of 2012, it would go to: French presidential candidate François Hollande.

François Hollande is the balding, pudgy front-runner in the French presidential elections on course to topple Sarkozy from his perch. Often mocked by the French public for his provincial-like air and appearance, Hollande leads in polls by 12 points in France's second-round election in May

It makes sense, therefore, that his campaign video features a song about hope, joy, and optimism: Kanye West and Jay-Z's "N*ggas in Paris." The video tries to evoke something ubiquitously French by involving a passing reference to a pleasant evening in St-Tropez watching the girls go by.

Brave decision for a man that looks like your average white–collar manager crossed with a high-school history teacher. Hollande does not have a very cool look in anyone's book, hardly part of the jet-setting, Crystal-champagne swigging A-list. 

So, what is Team-Hollande thinking?Taken out of context, the choice of music seems likea terrible idea. The song plays in the backgroundas Hollande is shown visiting the disenfranchised and desperately poor French suburbs, home for many of the country’s ethnic minorities. Considering the word ‘N*ggas’ features quite prominently, this might also come off as so be a touch insensitive. The lyric: "I'm losin' my n*gga / I'm losin' my killer" hits close to home for a segment of the population long blamed by many French peoplefor the country's rising crime rate. 

From an intellectual standpoint, however, the film and song do bring into sharp relief through soft focus filming the fact that France is now a multicultural nation. It might also be designed to allow Hollande to gain ground with younger voters in a more direct way, as well as targeting those of an ethnic minority background to give him extra electoral boost.

Whatever the political spin, the film has done its job and created a stir, possibly winning Hollande more votes from the younger generation. The campaign video and accompanying soundtrack, however, must go down as one of most peculiar of this year.

This use of a U.S. rap song in the French election shows us that we're wrong about modern France. We thought France’s election would be set to the soundtrack of accordions and feature many men in stripped T-Shirts on bicycles with berets on their heads and onions round their neck. We were wrong. It turns out that a man running around various crime-ridden neighborhoods in a suit to the tune of “N*ggas in Paris” represents modern France.For unintended comedy, this surely wins the prize.