Home Interviews Exclusive Interview with the Talented Author/Teacher/Reporter: Pascal Archimède
Exclusive Interview with the Talented Author/Teacher/Reporter: Pascal Archimède PDF Print E-mail
Written by Patricia Turnier   
Sunday, 15 September 2019 00:00
Pascal Archimède was born in Guadeloupe in 1976.  He considers that he grew up in a French-English environment even if he was born in the French-speaking island Guadeloupe, because at the age of 3, his parents enrolled him in a language institute to learn English.  His interests for languages began at this moment in his life.  In his formative years, Pascal Archimède studied and played piano.

The author is a very open-minded man who can easily adapt to different cultures.  He is trilingual:  he speaks French, Creole and English. Incidentally, because of the controversy regarding the etymology of the word ‘Creole’. Mr.  Archimède considers that he speaks Guadeloupean.  He grew up in Guadeloupe.  Later, he lived in Paris for around 16 years.  Before that, he was in London and he lived in Barbados at some point in his life too. More precisely, circa 1994, he went to the Academy of Commerce and Technical Studies in Barbados.  In 1997, he got a license in English.  In 1999, he obtained a Master’s degree in Martinique in foreign languages, literature and American civilization. In 2006, he earned a professional Master’s degree in educational sciences with a specialty in Skills Development in Adult Training.  For almost 15 years, he has been working in language training.  Therefore, Pascal Archimède is a translator/interpreter (French-English) and a self-employed ESL (English as a Second Language) trainer. He merged his passion for music and language by creating a unique language teaching method based on music. As a result, Pascal Archimède released his first book ‘Music in Professional Language Training.

Pascal Archimède appeared on one of the most-watched morning shows on BFM TV, C’est votre vie (‘It’s Your Life”) to present his innovative method for teaching language.  The magazine The Source http://thesource.com/2019/07/28/plantationa-rap-culture featured him recently. This publication is the longest-running rap periodical and was founded in 1988.  Archimède was showcased in one of the biggest French magazines created in the seventies for Black women called Amina.  He has been featured in The Dallas Examiner among other media.  In addition, amid different endeavors Archimède participated in the translation of the movie Arthur and the Revenge of Maltazard by Luc Besson, the César winner director.

As mentioned, Archimède is a very open-minded man.  He has the ability to work in a variety of cultural settings.  He currently lives  in the US. Previously he resided in France, England, etc. Since 2017, he has been collaborating with NOFI an important Black-owned French-speaking media company that has conducted interviews with Yama Rade, former French presidential candidate.  Through NOFI, Archimède interviewed Jada Pinkett, John Boyega and the cast of the world hit movie Black Panther when it premiered in London.  Moreover, Archimède interviewed Dr.  Umar Johnson for NOFI, which has been one of the best interviews with this psychologist. Pascal Archimède travels to several countries to talk with celebrities for NOFI.

Mr.  Pascal Archimède shares a passion for rap from the seventies, the decade of his birth, like the music style. His latest book Black American History, from Plantations to Rap Culture is a result of his love for this genre.  American rap took birth towards the end of the Black Arts Movement founded by Amiri Baraka aka Leroi Jones.  Also, a few years after the controversial Moynihan Report, rap was created when mass incarceration started in the 70s after the end of the Civil Rights movement while Nixon was in power, the absence of fathers, the dismantling of the nuclear Black families (among African-Americans, single-parent families were three times higher than the mainstream and the poverty rate of Black families rose to 700,000 between 1969 and 19891), the arrival of more drugs in the ghettos, the rise of unemployment, the 1970s energy crisis, the replacement of the U.S. dollar for the currency in 1971 (Nixon abolished the gold standard), etc.  According to the sociologist, Dr.  Robert Hill2, between 1970 and 1990, the U.S. had five recessions.    Hence, rap was developed in this specific socio-economical context.  Given that the youth from the ghetto did not really have access to instruments, they used the sampling technique and DJs utilized records to make noises. In addition, rap became more popular during the Reagan era in the 80s to denounce their living conditions and so on.  Rap took flight in the 80s during the economic policies of the president at the time, called Reaganomics.  

Rap became an important cultural movement.  Some people even think that there would not be the first African-American president, Obama without the existence of hip hop.  The former president was born on August 4th which is not a coincidence, on this date in 1789, feudalism ended, specifically in France.  In other words, the ruling class’ privileges were abolished.  A few years later in 1803, France lost its power after the U.S. purchased Louisiana when the European country was unable to maintain its hegemony on Haiti which became the first Black Republican and independent country in the world. It is important to note that Haitians greatly inspired Latin America in their independence movement especially with Simón Bolívar who led several expeditionary forces against the Spaniards in the 19th century.

This urban genre called rap was born in New York, more specifically in the Bronx in the early 70s (where white flight occurred especially in the South Bronx) with block parties.  This music style gathers graffiti, turntablism, break-dancing, vocal percussion, etc.  It took place thanks to the strength and resiliency of the inner-city youth.  To paraphrase the first nominated African-American vice-president (for the Equal Rights Party of Victoria Woodhull, the first woman who ran for the presidency in America) Frederick Douglass, the destiny of Blacks in the U.S. is the destiny of America.

Archimède’s latest book presents most groups that had an influence on the history of rap.  The author mentions that Public Enemy was inducted into the Rock & Roll of Fame in 2013 among other artists, Run-D.M.C, etc.  The book discusses rappers whose music has been included in movies since the 80s.  It is important to mention that LL Cool J with his song “Going Back to Cali” was the first rapper to be part of a mainstream soundtrack with the great movie Less Than Zero released in 1987.

The French rapper Lino raised the bar to an iconic level with his powerful French preface for  Archimède’s book.  His writing is so deep and it contains many layers.  The Congolese Lino is considered to be among the best French lyricists of his Generation X.  He got a double gold record in France.  Archimède’s book about rap is informative and accessible to a large number of people.  The author wanted to make the book comprehensible and did not want it to be academic with a hermetic language.  The book is available in English and French.  It was translated by Archimède into English likewise for his first publication Music in Professional Language Training: An Innovative Approach released in 2015.  The designs of Archimède’s most recent book have been excellently and adroitly made by Hamed Pryslay Koutawa.  All the rappers can be easily recognized in the book which is well written.

Archimède’s latest book traces the history of hip hop.  It discusses different types of rap such as trap music and diverse genres of dance associated with urban music like breakdance.  Given that rap progressed with different subgenres or styles, it would have been interesting to also include gospel rappers like Kirk Franklin and humoristic rappers such as Will Smith & DJ Jazzy Jeff who were the first rappers to earn a Grammy.

People will learn in Archimède’s latest book information related to sociology, history and politics connected with rap.  For the author, it was important to go back to slavery, given that rap talks about Black pain among many other subjects.  Archimède introduces an interesting analysis of this musical genre through three pillars: the church, the school and the press.

It would have been notable if the book mentioned how female African-American politicians challenged gangsta rap, such as Cynthia Delores Tucker with her famous protest campaign during the 1990s as well as her legal pursuit of 10 million dollars against 2Pac.  It would be noteworthy to present an insightful analysis on the infantilization and oversexualisation (the glorification of promiscuity) of rap with its impacts. Misogyny, the gangsta lifestyles, the dominant hedonism, the overutilization of the N-word, the prevalence of colorism in urban videos especially when it concerns women often presented as sex objects with vulgarities are other significant subjects to cover.  How come we do not hear anymore songs in commercial rap like the classic of 2Pac "Dear Mama" which payed homage by professing his love to Black womanhood especially his mother?  Why we do really not hear lyrics in commercial urban music that nourish and educate positively the soul?  These issues need to be addressed and assessed.  It is not a coincidence that 2Pac sold over 75 million records.  Often, his lyrics were thorough.

It would also have been noteworthy to present and analyze controversial songs throughout the history of rap such as ‘Cop Killer’ by Ice T that the vice president, Dan Quayle and president Bush of the U.S. at the time, condemned.   The people who defended the song used the right to employ the First Amendment and Ice T considered his single as a protest song.  In the early years, American rap had a greater social conscience.  Now, we see much more mercantilism controlled by very few conglomerates which often push out the competitions to maximize profit.  It would be noteworthy in future editions to present a critique about this phenomenon.  In a future edition, it would be worthy of note to write about how Africa influences rap music in America and to cover the main rap media such as Vibe magazine.  Moreover, it would be significant in the future to add white rappers like Vanilla Ice and Eminem, as well as the early white groups who used rap in their songs such as Blondie and Wham.  Future editions could also cover the clothes styles that accompanied rap throughout the decades with entrepreneurial ventures such as FUBU, the hip hop labels like Tommy Boy Records, Def Jam Recordings, Uptown Records, etc.  Furthermore, in other editions, it would also be interesting to add an analysis of rappers who created a foundation such as Common, MC-Lyte, Jay-Z and Yo-Yo.

In future publications, a critique about who is really making money in the rap business would be very interesting.  Women are not very present in this industry.  Even if many Black men are involved, it is not them who make the most money. Rap has been around for decades, and it's only recently that one of them has become a billionaire: Jay-Z (according to Forbes magazine, in 2019, the wealthiest rappers aside from Jay-Z are Dr.  Dre, Puff Daddy, Kanye West and Drake).  On the other hand, it is fascinating to observe in the U.S. that it is possible to be poor one day and later be part of the royalty or the elite.  This represents one of the beauties of this nation.  There are societies out there that do not give second chances but in the U.S., the American dream can be accessible for some, whatever your background.

Historically, rap had many voices.  Thus, women and children were involved even if they were not as numerous as adult males.  It would have been interesting to include an analysis regarding them in the book.  Given that rap started in the 70s and woman power was presented in the Western media like never before in this decade, Archimède’s most recent book should talk more about female rappers pioneers like Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, JJ Fad, Roxanne Shante, Salt N Pepa and Sister Souljah who collaborated with Public Enemy (Sister Souljah, considered by some as a raptivist, is among the greatest American females who wrote the book  No Disrespect, one of the most important critiques of the social conditions of Black women).  It would have been interesting also if the author penned about the females who came on the scene later such as Eve, Da Brat (a Grammy nominated artist and the first female solo rapper to get a platinum album in 1994 with “Funkdafied”), Foxy Brown (the first rapper who featured Jay-Z in her hot video "I'll Be", a renewal of the great song "I'll Be Good" from René & Angela in the 80s), Mary J Blige, the Queen of Hip Hop, the Swedish Neneh Cherry and the Grammy winner Lauren Hill.  Even if there were few children, it would have been notable to cover artists such as Kriss Kross and Raven Symone.   An analysis of what these women and children brought to the urban scene is important.  Although one book cannot cover all aspects related to rap, it would have been interesting to mention in the book artists such as NAS and Timbaland who contributed to the hip hop scene.

In sum, the book presents an overview of the history of rap which started in 1973 with the Jamaican DJ Kool Herc (who left his island in 1967 to live in NY) and his turntable experimentations.  He created the new genre via his block parties in the seventies.  The book teaches readers about that. Kool Herc is considered as the father of rap since the early 70s. Also in 1973, Afrika Bambaataa created the Universal Zulu Nation that had branches in Europe, Asia and Oceania.  The mission was to create an organization that would help the marginalized youth to change their lives for the better.  It had an international vision.

It is desirable to create a second edition because there are many other themes to include given that hip hop is a wide topic.  For instance, it would be interesting to talk more about the place of rap in movies.  The book should have more details about white rappers who used cultural appropriation of rap music and legal suits that occurred during the history of rap:  Vanilla Ice had legal issues with copyright infringements (reported by the media such as shows like Behind the Music) and Eminem (the first rapper to win an Oscar) who some consider to be guilty of cultural appropriation of rap and so on. It would be significant in future editions to cover how intersectionality (a word created by legalist Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989) plays a role in urban music among female rappers.

It would have been interesting for the book to cover the link between graffiti and rap, to mention artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat considered as the patron saint of hip hop.  In 1983, he produced a rap record entitled Beat Bop.  He influenced several hip hop artists such as NAS, Jay-Z and Kanye West.  Basquiat dated Madonna.  She said he had a positive effect on her and during their courtship, she was working on her debut and breakthrough album mainly produced by the African-American Reggie Lucas.

As mentioned, Archimède wrote the book Black American History, from Plantations to Rap Culture in an interesting way by making the content accessible to a wide public.  In other words, it is not written for an academic elite and it creates curiosity among readers who want to further their research to know more about rap music with its historical context.  His book covers the history of Black music from the arrival of Africans through the Middle Passage to the United States until today.  The author wanted to offer a summary of the evolution of rap with his book. Although the paperback was intended to be a synopsis, it would have been a good idea if the book covered the expansion of rap on other continents as well.  For instance, it would be noteworthy to mention MC Solaar who collaborated with Missy Elliot on the hip hop scene or to cover other French-speaking rap groups such as Muzion with its Haitian members from Quebec.  It is important to mention that Missy recently became the first female rapper to be included in the songwriters Hall of Fame.

Overall, Archimède had the good fortune of growing up in a family that valued education and he has been encouraged on this path since his childhood. He expresses a lot of gratitude toward his mother.  He has a very positive mindset.  He is a man who believes in meritocracy thanks to hard work.  Aforementioned, Archimède was born in Guadeloupe.  He spent a couple of years in France with his family and returned to Guadeloupe.  His parents divorced when he was very young.  He lived at some point in a low income house.  He always knew that education was his ticket to improve his social condition, likewise for his 2 siblings.  They all ended up with Master’s degrees.  Education was highly valued in his family. His mother and grandmother have been very present in his life.

Archimède studied commerce in Barbados in 1994.  Later, he got a DEUG, a French national degree (more specifically a General Academic Studies Degree), a bachelor’s degree and a Master’s diploma in English.  In London, he taught French.  He has also worked in the aviation field for Air France and in finance.  Pascal Archimède wears many hats:  author, journalist, educator, translator/interpreter, ethnomusicologist and a respected ESL trainer.  Archimède is among the rare journalists and authors in the U.S. who can write in English and French.  I think the public must expect  Pascal to always write about subjects related to music in his future books because it has been his passion since his childhood.  He got a degree at Paris Nanterre University.  He earned a professional Master’s degree in educational sciences with a specialization in skills development in adult training in 2006.  He has also taught English at the elementary level, high schools and college including French as a foreign language in London.  He has been an English trainer for more than 15 years for people of any field.   He created an interactive training method for his students based on music with its pedagogical system that led to a book Music in Professional Language Training published in 2015.  There is also a French version.  His passion for music led him to this innovation. His method helps develop oral fluency in English.  This well-received book and its ensuing interactive teaching technics gave the author opportunities to get invitations to leading colleges, universities and international conferences in many parts of Europe.  For instance, he went to the University of London Union to showcase his creative tool.  The creation of his learning method has been put in place in around 40 countries. This method is  valid for children than adults alike and should be included at all academic levels: schools, colleges and universities.  In addition, it would be great to develop versions that would allow  people to learn languages other than English and French.

Pascal Archimède released Black American History from Plantations to Rap Culture in French and in English, both available at Amazon.  His latest book is a short essay about the journey of Black people from Africa to America while it explains how music, especially rap, played an important role in U.S. history. Largely the book covers the history of rap since the 1970s during the Vietnam War until now, including the involvement of rappers in the election of the first Black president Barack Obama.

Noteworthily, the author has other interests such as tennis, which he started playing at the age of 11.  He is happily married and is working on developing an enterprise with his wife.  He currently lives in Hollywood, Florida with his spouse and two children since last year.

In the following interview, readers will discover that Pascal Archimède had an ancestor who broke an important glass ceiling in France:  Gerty Archimède, his great aunt.  She became the first female member of the bar of Guadeloupe in 1939.  She was a fearless woman who came to be a member of the French Communist Party in 1948 where she participated in myriad of conferences around the world.  In Guadeloupe, August 1969, Gerty Archimède met Angela Davis who narrated this meeting in her memoir, one of the best autobiographies written by an American.  Many tributes occurred in her name such as a bronze statue on the maritime boulevard of Basse-Terre in Guadeloupe and a street in her memory in the Paris 12th Arrondissement.  The author Serge Diantantu wrote about Gerty Archimède as well as other illustrious Black women in his French book for children Femme noire, d'Afrique, d'Amérique et des Antilles: Tome 1 (Black woman from Africa, America and the West Indies: Volume 1).

Archimède will share with us what his great-aunt meant to him.  In 2006, her nephew Alain Foix, penned a play in her honor entitled "Pas de prison pour le vent" (“No prison for wind”).  It is based on her encounter with the iconic Angela Davis in Guadeloupe in 1969.   This play should be translated into English and then showcased in North America and elsewhere in the world.  So far, it was presented in France via the Sun Art Festival in 2008.  On 27 January 2007, Ségolène Royal honored Gerty Archimède during her election campaign.

[The following interview occurred last spring.  It is Archimède’s first Canadian interview].

P.T.  The does the acronym NOFI stand for?  In which country is it based and is it a Black-owned company?

P.A.  NOFI is the contraction of noir and fier in French which means ‘Black’ and ‘proud’.  It is based in Paris and was created on the 21st of February 2014.  This date is special and symbolic because it was the 49th anniversary of Malcolm X’s death.

P.T.  I have the same birthday as his wife!  But of course, not the same year.

P.A.  [Laughs].

P.T.  [Chuckles].  

P.A. As I mentioned, NOFI is a French Black-owned media based in France. To pay their staff, NOFI started working with project carriers. Then, big groups (such as Orange telecommunications) approached them.  NOFI works with companies like Disney and Universal which did movies such as Black Panther and Girls Trip.  NOFI aims for Black excellence by promoting Black culture.  It deals with everything connected to the Black community worldwide.

The founder of NOFI is Christian Dzellat.  In 2004, he created a t-Shirt with the French message Noir et Fier which means ‘Black and Proud’ as I said earlier.  The t-Shirt became famous which gave him great exposure including on social networks.  So, this situation became bigger than the t-Shirt.  It created a circumstance that was analyzed, meaning a real assessment occurred regarding what it means to be Black in French society.  With time, it turned into a necessity to provide a Black perspective about this issue.  This led to the creation of this media on the 21st of February 2014.  We are present on social networks with more than 1.3 million subscribers on Facebook where articles are posted. We are also on Instagram, Twitter, etc.  Every hour from Monday to Sunday, we post articles, videos and information related to Black culture.

PT.  When did you start to collaborate with NOFI?  Tell us about its mission, its date of foundation, its projects (particularly the creation of a TV channel), its publishing house and its independent newspaper Negus.  

P.A. I started to work with NOFI in February 2017.  Around that time, I submitted to this media the manuscript of my last book for feedback.  I was asked to write an article that summarizes the book https://www.nofi.media/2017/02/history-of-black-music-from-plantation-to-the-white-house/35687.  Many people read it (more than 20 000) and the article was very well received in the social media.  NOFI was glad to bring out my book which was the first one that they published. They are now working on publishing other Black authors. Among the projects, there will be a comic - the first Afro manga - a manga whose heroes are Black.

I continued to collaborate with NOFI because the team likes my writing style and enjoys the fact that I can write in English and French.  Very quickly they proposed me to interview celebrities like John Boyega and Jada Pinkett Smith when they came to premiere their films in Europe.
So, I pen articles (in French and in English) and I also interview, give the floor to Black artists/ actors/actresses/leaders/spokespeople in the community.
It is never easy to found a TV channel but we think it is important and vital to present a broader view of Blacks around the world with a wider perspective that provides nuances with its subtitles.  Our future channel will not focus on dance but will present other topics and issues related to the Black world.  There are not many Black channels in Europe and there is a need.  For instance, there is France Outremer (France ô), a public TV channel which was part of Group France Television but it will stop its activities in 2020 because of a lack of audience.  It is supposed to promote Black culture (mainly from/for French speaking Caribbean/Africa…) but Black people do not run the channel.  The people who make decisions in terms of programs (non-Black people) do not really know the reality of their target viewers who consequently do not feel concerned by their shows.

In general, the target of NOFI is to highlight Black excellence and raise our people’s consciousness. We deal with everything that is connected to the community (history, news, cooking, traditions…).    We also have a printed newspaper called Negus, after the name of Ethiopian kings. It’s an independent newspaper with no subsidies from the government.  The journal covers different perspectives on culture, politics, sports, etc. regarding Black culture.  It is distributed worldwide in French-speaking countries.  NOFI encompasses several structures: a newspaper, an official website with social networks, a publishing house with an opportunity in the future to create a TV channel, a shop named NOFI store, Negus magazine and the NOFI play app.

P.T.  When you interviewed the cast of Black Panther via NOFI, you asked a very important question regarding the presence of Black heroes for kids.  What does this represent to you, including as a father, author and journalist?

P.A.    I remember when I was a child, I seldom saw Black people I could see in films or even on TV.  I reminisce how happy I felt when I glimpsed one on TV.  Today, unfortunately, very often when you see Black people in films, they portray bad roles (thief/robber/criminal/junkie/prostitute…).
I think that in the collective imagination and in the intellectual construction of our future generations, we should be able to offer our youth positive images, representations of heroes that will make them dream and help them make their way in a society in which the rules are not necessarily made and designed for them.  The imagery needs to represent our youth in every way, including Black dolls, Barbies and so on.  This is important to me because I have a daughter.

P.T.  Growing up, I never had a Black Ken doll [chuckles] and never saw one.  

P.A.  [Laughs]  As an author, in my book I’m focusing on the important role played by our ancestors who paved the way to allow us today to have a more comfortable life than the one they lived.  I was really excited to see how we are represented in the movie Black Panther and I am happy that our children will be able to identify themselves with many of the protagonists.  I am aware that some people had criticism toward the film but nothing is perfect and we need to start somewhere.  I believe that the movie will have a lasting and positive impact on the consciousness of many children.  It was great for me as a journalist to assist at the preview of Black Panther.  It was superb to see a mainly Black cast, handsome, brilliant, well-dressed, etc.  It made me joyous and proud. I think that Black Panther will nurture children’s imaginations for many generations.

P.T. Please, tell us about the creation of your learning method via music, the basis of your first book.  What is your assessment regarding the percentage of success among your students who used your learning method?

P.A. Today, I’m an ESL trainer, teaching English to adults mainly in companies.  Through my various teaching experiences, I had noticed that the more we advance within the school system, the less music is used in languages teaching.

I took a particular interest in the effect of music on learners. Here are the main characteristics:

-    Music restores harmony between both brain hemispheres: the learner is more receptive and assimilates more easily.
-    Music relaxes you and reduces stress level which facilitates the learning process.

It has a powerful impact on memorization. I have in mind how easy it is for some people to remember songs, turns of phrase or vocabulary thanks to music.  It is simple to remember songs we love.  Music can definitely facilitate the learning process especially when my students choose their own songs.  They are much more motivated because it allows them to become full participants.

Music educates the ear from a linguistic standpoint. Indeed, the ear forms the psycho-acoustic system (sounds) of our mother tongue up to the age of 12. After all, the brain does not hear irrelevant sounds. Music is therefore used to overcome this “pathological deafness”.

I then created this method based on music. I don’t want to sound too technical, but the idea is to implement activities with music to build, develop and improve the 4 language skills: writing, reading, listening and speaking.

So far, I have had a 90% success rate (90% of the trainees have reached the targets set at the beginning of the language training) and a 100% satisfaction rate (100% of the trainees have been satisfied with this “Musical” approach).

Everything is explained in my book Music in Professional Language Training available at Amazon.
My method is taught in primary schools, high schools, etc.  The courses provided are personalized and take into consideration the interests of the students with their level of understanding.

Learning a language is not only about knowing a certain number of words and so on.  It is also about learning the culture, traditions, the customs, nuances and/or subtleties.  Studying the vocabulary is about knowing the social context related to the history, etc.  I often inject a part of culture in what I teach.  I give many examples to illustrate different concepts.   I help my students to set goals for their training session.  The method I developed can extend to other languages.  I was invited to universities to present it.

P.T.  Tell us more about the four linguistic competencies that your learning method helps to master.  In addition, you mentioned in one of your interviews that some professionals identified a fifth competency. Do not hesitate to talk about this also.

P.A.  As I mentioned, the 4 language skills are writing, reading, listening and speaking. According to their professional profiles, the trainees are asked to use one skill more than another. For example, a secretary will be more likely to communicate by e-mail (reading and writing) while a salesman will be more likely to listen and speak. The purpose of my method is that from a song by the trainee’s favorite artist(s), I will put in place a series of activities to develop and reinforce those 4 language skills (fill in the blanks activities/ work on the biography of the singer(s)/ translation of the song, the context of which the song was released…).
The idea is to match the content of the song (grammar/vocabulary...) and the language level of the trainee with the objectives set at the beginning of the training session.

The fifth language skill is the cultural contribution. Speaking a foreign language is not just using words/vocabulary or making sentences. It’s also and foremost understanding the mindset, state of mind and culture of the people you are communicating with.  In other words, it is about knowing the nuances and subtleties of the culture. So, it’s always good when speaking about a song to talk about the context in which the song was released (Society/culture/history…).

I strongly believe that music represents a great tool for students to memorize the material.  Music has several benefits:  it relaxes the mind and body, it can make some complex learning processes esier and create motivation because our students participate actively in the learning process.  There is always a way for me to inject culture into what I am teaching, my method is dynamic and interactive.  That way, we help our students to develop and reinforce the different competencies.  We also help our students to improve their pronunciation and grammatical knowledge. Of course, the focus is on learning vocabulary related to their professional field.

P.T.  Do you have a patent for your learning method?  Did you ever think to present your innovative technique to a show such as Shark Tank?

P.A.  My teaching method definitely has a patent. This method is the DNA of my occupation as an ESL trainer.   To be honest, I never thought about presenting my method to ‘Shark Tank.  I was lucky to talk about it on the morning show on BFM TV in France, one of the most popular shows in France with millions of viewers every day.

P.T.  You said to the media that writing your latest book was a duty of memory.  Can you elaborate on that?

P.A.  Answering this question brings back to telling you why I wrote this book, Black American History, from Plantations to Rap Culture.

- From an educational standpoint, I have a Master’s degree in English with a specialization in American civilization. I quickly focused my research on the link between the evolution of Black people on American soil and the various musical genres that they created.

- I’ve never really felt concerned by history at school. When I got to university, I had a revelation because for the first time in my life, I was taught a part of history which is connected to my ancestors’ one. I realized how people who evolve in a society in which nothing is made and designed for them, have to fight to keep their heads above water. Since then, I decided to write a widely accessible and easy to read book in which I would share what I learnt.

- From a personal standpoint, as a Guadeloupean our fates are connected/linked to those of the Afro-Americans’. Our common ancestors who were brothers, sisters, cousins and parents (relatives) were massively deported from Africa on the same boats and were dispatched on various lands (territories) and became isolated geographically, linguistically, culturally and spiritually:  a unique and traumatizing experience.

Writing this book was then for me a duty of memory and remembrance. I wanted to pay tribute to those who sacrificed their lives to improve ours.  This represents the main reasons for writing  my book.

P.T.  When was it that you fell in love with rap and what does hip hop symbolize to you?

P.A. I love Lino’s work. But previously, I was drawn to the body of work of the pioneers: Afrika Bambaataa, Kurtis Blow, George Clinton, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five with their song “The Message” released in 1982, and The Sugarhill Gang with their hit “Rapper's Delight” in 1979. Later, I enjoyed singles such as “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy.

I was born in the 1970s, so I witnessed the birth of rap, its evolution but also its cultural appropriation by the music industry. Rap and hip hop, just like many people from my generation, have accompanied our lives.  It really spoke to me.  Chuck D from Public Enemy used to say that this genre represented the Black CNN.  With time, rap became the worldwide voice of the youth.  

P.T.  You decided to start writing about work songs for your last book.  Talk to us about its importance in relation to the creation of rap.

P.A.  Black American History, from Plantations to Rap Culture explores Black American history through the various types of music that they created, from work songs (which appeared at the second generation of the enslaved) on plantations, to rap music today. Indeed, at each step of their integration on American soil, Black people created the type of music that reflected their social and economic evolution as well as their state of mind.

So, the book goes through the work songs of the slavery era, the evangelized negro and the Negro Spirituals, the sharecropper and the Hollers, the Blues of the itinerant African-Americans, the “recognition”of Black culture thanks to jazz, the awakening of the Black Consciousness through soul music/funk and, of course, the situation of Black people for the last 40 years through rap music. This genre is a result of work songs, musically, culturally, spiritually and historically.

P.T.  In your last book, the Afro-European rapper Lino wrote a powerful preface in French.  What does this mean to you?  What does Lino represent to you and why was it important for you to have him as your prefacer?

P.A.  When I submitted my manuscript to the publishing house NOFI, one of my wishes was to have Lino preface my book because this rapper has been in the French rap game for decades, since the 80s.  He is regarded as one of the pioneers of French rap.  In addition, he remained loyal to his line of conduct.  He used rap music to spread mindfulness.  He was always consistent with his principles and values.    He is also viewed as one of the best lyricists in French rap.  For all those reasons, I am truly grateful that he validated my work.  I am honored that my book became his first preface.  I think that his words create a great introduction for my book and it is awesome that he did it in his style as a rapper.  After finishing my book, he was inspired to write the foreword.  The fact that someone like him prefaced my book represents a great validation and endorsement of my work.  It is like a reward that will stay in the annals. Lino is a conscious and courageous rapper who is not afraid to voice his opinion about issues that matter to him.  Earlier, I spoke about Malcolm X.  Lino agreed to celebrate this man in an event that occurred on May 19th, Malcolm’s birthday.  Malcolm was about Black pride.  I am honored that an artist like Lino endorsed my book which celebrates also Black pride.

P.T.  In your opinion, what are the fundamental principles of English rap and French rap?  Which one is more militant and why?

P.A.  I think the main difference is the language. Depending on the chosen tongue, the melody and rhythm do not sound the same.  The origins of rap are linked to the contestation of social issues, in other words, disputing the status quo.  It was an artistic style to revolt and report, to denounce and condemn the establishment.  It filled a void in the music scene.  I do not think that one is more militant than the other.  Some rappers still use this musical form to denounce social ills such as structural causes of inequality, poverty and discrimination, their experiences, their respected realities, the issues they face.  Rap is a tool used by artists and I do not think that this artistry from the U.S. or Europe is more efficient or combative than the other.  The rappers from each continent develop their styles and bring their own stuff to the table based on their social contexts.  I think the way you use the tool is not defined by where you are from.

Some, like Booba, use a Frenchy style in their rap, meaning they create a fusion between English and French.  So, it can take different forms.  Booba utilizes other techniques in his texts such as alliterations, parallelism and personification. He knows how to play with the nuances and subtleties of the French language.

Overall, the French rap uses less samples and it employs more prose.  The beat is less important.  The image and materialism are more present in the U.S.  Guest artists are often used, especially when the music is commercial and not underground.  It has been like that for decades.

In the early days of American rap, the sound was more distinctive and unique.  With time, sampling became more and more frequent.  Now, there are mixtapes, more than ever.  Before, there were more protest songs in America compared to now in the commercial hip hop genre.


P.T.  In your latest book, it was important for you as an author to present the three main institutions of African-Americans:  the church, the school and the press.  You qualified these components as pillars of the emancipation for Black America.  What do you want our readers to know about that?

P.A.  In my opinion, the church, school and the press were the three pillars or foundations of the Black community.  These institutions managed to bring together African-Americans for a common cause, they shaped the collective consciousness.  They also represent a means to blend in the American mainstream.  African-Americans build a community around these pillars.

Regarding church, God was regarded as a provider and a promise to a better future.  In terms of location, the church represented an essential place of worship.  It was the church that educated slaves and former slaves.  Their education was severally restricted or prohibited by the Black Codes, Jim Crow laws and so on.  Education is evidently linked to freedom and emancipation, one of the biggest deterrents to poverty.  So, it was a fundamental part for the development of the Black community.  Churches played a huge role in the schooling of Black people and also allowed African-Americans to meet, to support one another while laying down their heavy burden, to raise their self-esteem and help them keep their dignity.  In other words, this institution humanized Blacks while elevating the collective social consciousness with its awakening.  Social gospel became an integral part with activists like Dr.  King and the Rev.  Jesse Jackson.  It was tied to the Civil Rights Movement and what followed after.

The press or the media as a whole gave access to knowledge without limits.  It represented a mean against oppression by informing the masses.  Being informed means being in a position to anticipate, analyze, make nuances and understand a myriad of situations while fighting the yoke of domination.

These three pillars became a way to fight, to free and to build a new nation.  This trilogy helped to hoist the Black community and to combat the social ills such as gangs, prisons and intraracial deaths.

P.T.   What are the main messages that you want to convey with your latest book?

P.A.  The 3 main messages that I want to convey with my book can be summarized by the following quotations:

-    “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” Marcus Garvey
-    “Until the lions have their own historians, the History of the hunt will always glorify the Hunter » Chinue Achebe
-    “Be Black and proud » James Brown

I feel like adding that loving my own people doesn’t mean hating others. I’m specifying and highlighting it just to prevent anyone from making shortcuts, interpretations or jumping to conclusions.

P.T. [chuckles].  All the communities promote, defend and protect their own first.

P.A.  You see what I mean [chuckles].  I am responsible for what I say but not for what people think or interpret.   Another principal message that I want my book to convey is the richness of Black culture, and its important participation in mainstream culture today and throughout  history.  We are unique and very creative.  To better grasp these aspects, we need to be more aware of our history.  By increasing our pride, it will help us to build together.    I hope that my book will be a continuous part of all the accomplishments among our people.  Again, I reiterate that loving my people does not mean hating others.  This statement makes me think of the James Brown's legendary funk song "I'm Black and I'm Proud".  I hope that like Dr. King, we will be able to see the humanity in all people and be part of the same human family on planet Earth as our home.  In sum, writing my book represented a duty of memory.

P.T.  You told the media that Black people around the globe have a common root from Africa.  Would you define yourself as a pan Africanist?  If so, how do you perceive rap music in this context?

P.A. Black people around the world have common ancestors from Africa, where we were tragically dispatched and displaced from centuries ago.  If pan Africanism is defined as a doctrine, a philosophy that tends to develop African unity and solidarity among Africans and Afro-descendants, then yes, I am without a doubt a pan-Africanist.  As I explained in my book, rap music is the heritage of African culture.  Rap music and all other forms labeled as Black music are the results and outcomes of African art including the traditions.  Rap is a militant genre of music which marks a new awakening and consciousness of the Black community.  That awareness is linked to the degree of the afrocentricity present in rap music.  Afrocentricity is the revival of African roots through important figures, movements and ideas.  It aims to raise the consciousness of young afro-descendants.  The rappers become a verbal shaman or griots who exorcise the demons of cultural amnesia.  Afrika Bambaataa was one of the pioneers of that philosophy when he founded the group Universal Zulu Nation in 1976 in NY.  His goal was to gather rap and Black militancy to make African-Americans understand that they have a role to play in society.  In addition, many rappers refer to blackness or negritude (a concept created by Aimé Césaire) in their texts.  This term represents the unique historical experience of Black people worldwide including in America.  Blacks fought and are still combatting oppression, discrimination and exploitation via music and language.  So, I compare some rappers to urban griots, these ambulant African poets and musicians who are the gatekeepers of their customs and culture.  Indeed, through their lyrics, rappers convey their stories whichare often linked to the past or daily life.  He or she becomes a spokesperson for his/her community.  Overall, rap became a sociological case that gives light to different social phenomenon related to the condition of Black America.

P.T.  Many people could have easily thought that rap and hip hop would only be temporarily popular like so many other genres of music.  Why do you think it is lasting and why has it become an enduring international phenomenon?

P.A.  You are right, we can say that a new musical genre was born.  However, rap has merged with other musical genres (classical music, rock…). It evolved with time in terms of content, rhythms, etc. and it remained the cultural expression of the oppressed by excellence.  It became a catharsis for some.  As mentioned, Chuck D from Public Enemy used to say that rap is the CNN that Black people never had.  This genre became a global phenomenon and was embraced by the afflicted of the world with the philanthropists.  Many problems such as racism and the domination of different groups over others have not been fixed, so this is how it remained current.  This partly explains why rap is timeless.  

Historically, every time a revolution occurred in the Black community, a new type of music appeared.  During slavery, work songs were born; during the evangelization, negro spirituals yielded, after the Civil War ended, blues appeared around the 1870s (some people even think it existed since slavery) according to musical experts and later jazz developed and during the sharecropping era, we saw troubadour.

With the Great Migration of Blacks from the South towards the north of the country, Chicago became a blues town in the 1940s.  More specifically, Chicago blues was really influenced by Mississippi bluesmen who came to Chicago in the early 1940s.  R&B replaced the offensive term “race music” after the second world war around 1948.  Soul music appeared in the late 50s during the Civil Rights Movement.  The Motown sound of the 60s helped to create an atmosphere of integration that really began in the late 60s, early 70s thanks to two milestones legal breakthroughs (among other socio-political factors):  the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1968 after Dr.  King’s death.  Rap music was created in the 70s and became more militant in the 80s when Ronald Reagan became president.  Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five with his hit ‘The Message” represented the voice of the ghetto and the hard life in urban areas.  At each historical period, Black America created a type of music that reflected the era of the time related to their socio-economic situation and state of mind.   So, this genre evolved with time and remained a cultural expression of the oppressed.  Maybe there is a new type of music right now that has not been discovered yet.  Fortunately or unfortunately, if the music industry did not spot it yet, it will remain underground.

I would like to mention that I think it is very interesting to see now more than ever how several rappers embrace entrepreneurship.  

P.T.  For instance, we see Puff Daddy who has a fortune of more than $800 million and it is obvious that he got his money not solely from his music but from his entrepreneurship skills.

P.A.  Exactly!    His music became a springboard to allow him later to become a mogul.  Some artists invest in movies, a TV channel, clothes; others become producers, etc.  Jay-Z made a lot of money with Live Nation, a powerful enterprise that mainly organizes events, promotes shows and manages artists with its branches in several countries.

Especially today, all artists do not make as much money solely with music.  They go on tours, etc. This is why we hear about the 360 deal and so on.  In addition, more and more entertainers have realized that they need to broaden their possibilities to earn other revenues, by selling derived products from their websites for instance.

P.T.  How is rap currently studied academically in America?

P.A.  Some schools and universities include rap in their curriculums.  Certain academic institutions explore the hip hop phenomenon by analyzing how politics and society with its realities are shaped by that culture.  I spoke recently to a university professor who teaches this subject.  She focuses on the historical part of rap.  She takes also into consideration the social and political part of rap, which shaped it and which occupies an important place in American youth culture.

In Washington D.C., there was a college course about hip hop in American society.  I learned that this course is part of a sociology curriculum.    The rap phenomenon is definitely explored academically.  I also know that hip hop was taught at the University of Massachusetts.  The well-known professor and author Dr. Michael Eric Dyson is a great example of an intellectual who embraced rap and analyzed it through his writings and so on.

P.T.  Do you think that contemporary rap talks about the real problems of Black America with a social and/or political conscience?

P.A.  There is still an expression of rap that talks about current socio-political and economic problems.  Originally, the purpose of this genre was militant and aimed to denounce the inequalities that Black people were facing and experiencing.  Unfortunately, the music industry changed this goal.  The entertainment field with huge labels rather exploit the mercantile imagery (earning easy money) with the nouveau rich stereotype, misogyny or promotion of a criminal life and mask the message of protest.  Ignoring the contents for the benefit of the melody remains.  It is a way for the record labels to grow rich to the detriment and to the disadvantage of these makeshift activists/militants.  The agenda seems to hide, conceal and/or  cover the message of dissent. Hip hop has become an amusement/entertainment music. Rap is also festive in reference to the Block Parties which first promoted rap music.

Conversely, there are some exceptions such as Childish Gambino who received a Grammy this year in February for his hit “This is America” that denounces the injustices against Black America.  Let’s not forget that this rapper won the Grammys for song and record of the year, becoming the first rap song to win those awards.  This represents a recognition.

P.T.  A couple of years ago, I was in Atlanta and heard a great local group who was rapping about Dr.  MLK.  It made me realize even more that these groups do not get the exposure they deserve and the general public is being deprived of hearing them.

P.A.  I see what you mean.  There are rappers who talk about things with substance but they get little airplay.

P.T.  How your last book was received among the Anglophones, Francophones and young people.  Moreover, did you do something special regarding rap history for the last Black History Month this year, such as a book tour?

P.A.  For now, I have received a very positive feedback in French and English speaking areas.  Articles about my book have been written in English and French.  I participated in TV shows in France.  In March, I also had the opportunity to present my book at the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center in Fort Lauderdale (Florida).  Regarding the youth so far, I received great reviews and young people are glad to know more about the history of rap.  Many French youths did not know the Rap connections between different continents.  They learned more details about the involvement of African-American hip hop.  The African heritage of rap makes them proud.  My book created a bigger thirst for knowledge.  The bibliography presented at the end will allow them to go deeper in their research.  Young people enjoy the fact that my book was accessible to them.  I am sure that the illustrations played an important role in this.  I am totally open to doing school tours if the occasion presents itself likewise for presenting my book during Black History Month.  Several propositions are coming my way.

Overall, I got very good feedback for my book.  People appreciate the designs of different Black icons which were made by the illustrator Hamed Pryslay Koutawa.  Michael Damby did a great artwork on the cover of the book.  They were really instrumental and brought originality because for copyrights reasons it would have been complicated to use pictures of celebrities.    I would like to add that Damby is currently working on the cartoons Afro Manga.  Also, Koutawa received an award “Prix auteur africain, catégorie Bande Dessinée” (as an African author in the cartoon category) for his work.

P.T.  Mrs.  Eugénie Éboué-Tell and your great-aunt Gerty Archimède broke the glass ceiling of the French National Assembly by becoming respectively the first and second Black female deputies.  What does this great political accomplishment from your great-aunt represent to you, what did you learn from her professional path and what did she mean to you as your great-aunt?    

P.A.  I was lucky to know and meet my great-aunt when she was still alive. I continue to cherish good memories of our meetings.  I remember that she was pleasant and affectionate towards me.  I admire her lifetime fight for justice, equality and peace.  I took her humility as an example and her educational success. Education is key. For my great-aunt, aiming for excellency was one of the best deterrents to any obstacles.  In other words, she believed you earn respect with your knowledge.  She knew that prosperity starts with education.

The two aforesaid elements (education and humility) drove my desire to get university degrees.  I learned through her that with hard work, determination and a lot of persistence, anything is possible.  I believe in meritocracy.  She had a clear career plan and I wanted to emulate that from an early age.  She was a role model and a great inspiration for me. She lived on her own terms at a time when women had less choice.  In her days, many people worked on cane plantations.  She was a rebel [Laughs out loud].  She became the first female lawyer who passed the bar in Guadeloupe where we are originally from.  She paved the way for many women who wanted to follow her path.  Mrs.  Éboué and my aunt opened the door for the other deputies to later join the French National Assembly such as Mrs.  Christiane Taubira and so on.  They were courageous women who wanted to live on their own terms.  Our children need to know about them and to be made aware of the possibilities back then, despite the obstacles.  I strongly believe that excellence is the best way to break visible and invisible barriers.

I have to say that her father encouraged my great-aunt to go further professionally in spite of structural barriers.  She learned a lot from her father, Justin Archimède who was the mayor of Morne-à-l'Eau in the beginning of the last century.  Throughout her life, my great-aunt fought for women (she was the founder and president of the Union des Femmes Guadeloupéennes (Union of the French Women: UFF) which celebrated its 60th anniversary last year) and for people in general.  I would like to add that the UFF aimed for the execution of the implementation for social security and retirement right for women in Guadeloupe.   My great-aunt was a big advocate for this.  Her former house is now a museum in Guadeloupe.  This year it has been exactly 110 years that she was born.  So, I wanted to pay tribute to her and I wrote an article about her life that got published by NOFI on 27th March 2019.

Largely, my grant-aunt was true to her words.  Her loyalty is one of her values that I cherish the most.  She really was committed to her loved ones and on a professional level.  I consider that I am choosing my own path like she took hers, even if it is possible that a transferal exists between her and me regarding the continual work to achieve.  

P.T.  As a jurist, I think her professional journey is very inspiring because she accomplished so much at a time when opportunities were much more limited for Black women regardless of their talents and/or intelligence.  I am convinced that her boldness will enthuse many people around the world to achieve their own dreams.  People need role models to believe they can go further in life.

P.A.  Absolutely!  If people need to dream of what is possible by watching a movie like Black Panther they also need real role models or heroes.

P.T.  Are you planning to write another book?  If so, what will be the theme and why are you interested in your chosen subject?

P.A.  I am not planning right now to write a book because I am caught up with other projects.  However, if I do write a book in the future, it will again be connected to music because I have a passion for this.  It requires time and discipline to pen a book and I do not have time for this these days.

P.T. To finish, can you talk about the company you are developing with your wife?

P.A.  We are developing a company in the food industry.  This represents a new experience for me.  I will tell you more about it during our next interview.  I promise [chuckles].  They say that it is better to not talk too much about a project before it materializes. So for now, I won’t say more.  I will wait for it to become successful [chuckles].  

P.T.  Big thanks to you for giving us this very interesting interview!

Twitter: @ArchimedePascal


Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/pascal.archimede

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWK6cj5-rcZeOJy-FWhV6-w

Pascal Archimède's books are available on amazon.com, .ca, .co.uk and .fr

Below, there are pictures of celebrities.  Most of them are holding Archimède's latest book:  James Mtume,
Dr. Umar Johnson, Lino, Calbo (Arsenik), Ryan Coogler, John Boyega, Will Poulter


1 The Strengths of African American Families, Twenty-Five Years Later, Dr. Robert B. Hill PhD, p. 16
2 Ibid, p. 16

main reasons for writing  my book