In 1988, no one in France took the hip-hop movement seriously. It was the rec-room era. JoeyStarr and Kool Shen were just two kids from Seine-Saint-Denis, the 93rd ward, a neglected tract of housing projects on the northern outskirts of Paris. One black, the other white, they shared a love and a talent for breakdancing and got together practising moves in bleak lots and house parties. They started crews and listened to Doug E Fresh, Masta Ace, Grandmaster Flash, and Marley Marl. DJs played the breakbeats looped over jazzy horn riffs, cats sported Kangol hats and Cosby sweaters, and they tagged the walls of the city with their calling card: NTM, an acronym for “Nique Ta Mère” (Fuck Your Mother). There were no labels, no official concerts or shows, and the only airplay was after midnight on Radio Nova, a station dedicated to underground and avant garde music, created and directed by French countercultural hero Jean-François Bizot.
For me, as a psychologist with a special interest and expertise in the arts, our fascination with art raises two long-standing and fundamental questions, ones that have engaged philosophers, psychologists and art lovers. First, why are we so drawn to works of art? For their beauty, of course, but that can’t be all, as the thought-experiments above show us. Second, what kinds of demonstrable beneficial effects, if any, can engagement in the arts have on us?
I walk round the cul-de-sac until I’ve done my steps.
All the houses look the same around here: sixties bungalows, two bay windows, a front door slap-bang in the middle and roofs that go up forever, like a face with a huge forehead looming over a frown or a sneer. Jude calls it the Suburban Psychotic style.
The growl of blocked air from his mouth
inches away, slack in sleep and opened