R.I.P. "Wave": A French Hip-Hop Legend
Antoine "Wave" Garnier was a pioneering French Hip-Hop critic and documentarian who also served as an ambassador of American Hip-Hop to France. He even helped to introduce French rappers like MC Solaar to America, an effort that ripples today.Sadly, Antoine died of a heart attack in Montreal, Canada on January 20, 2009. He was 43 years old.
Of Guadeloupian descent, Antoine grew up in Paris. As a youth, he came to admire not just African-American music and television, but what he could glean of African-Americans themselves, who struck him as more truly free than people of African descent in France.
A sociology student who majored in "American civilization," Antoine first came to America in 1986. He stayed here, on and off, for the next 10 years, during which time he made it his business to meet many of New York Hip-Hop's movers and shakers.
Among them was DJ Chuck Chillout. "Antoine used to come to KISS and wait for me outside the radio station," Chuck recalls. Struck by Antoine's clothing, which did not conform to standard American b-boy fashion, and by his super-serious demeanor, Chuck asked him, "Where you from, b?" The pair quickly became friends. In recent years, when Chuck toured Paris in the company of Tha Alkaholiks, Antoine toured him around the city for a week.
Antoine returned to Paris in 1996 and commenced writing about Hip-Hop for such publications as L'Affiche and Da Noiuz, as well as for American outlets like The Source and Vibe. Eventually, he was named editor-in-chief of Radikal, an influential French Hip-Hop monthly.
An intellectual who never neglected the sociological underpinnings of Hip-Hop, Antoine also began producing Hip-Hop programming for both radio ("Fun Radio") and television ("Camera Graffiti").
In 1998 Antoine published the first of his books. Entitled "Comprendre Le Rap," it is a compact encyclopedia of American rap from "A" (A Tribe Called Quest) to "W" (Wu-Tang Clan). It also includes a lexicon of rap slang.
Antoine's second book is an ambitious two-volume memoir/critique entitled "Souffle: Au Coeur de la Generation Hip-Hop," published in 2003. The first volume is comprised of tales of Antoine's New York sojourn, 1986-1996. The second volume covers the French scene from 1996 through 2003. Herve Mbouguen, reviewing "Souffle" for grioo.com, praised Antoine's "militant passion for black culture."
According to Chuck Chillout, Antoine grew less tolerant of French racism, and moved from France to Montreal several years ago. In 2006 he self-published his third book, "Les Supremes: La Revolution Vibracultic." Although it focuses on Motown in the Sixties, it is reminiscent of his other titles in its tracking of the influence of African-American culture on the world (including its French author).
Antoine married a woman from Quebec in December of 2007. Their son Alexandre, was born in February of last year. "Antoine was a nice dude. He always showed me love," says Chuck Chillout. "He will be missed."
Here are people reading Antoine's "Comprendre Le Rap," the encyclopedia of American rap music.