French rapper 'Rohff' arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after salesman is beaten unconscious in rival artist's Paris boutique

The two 'rappeurs' have been exchanging insults for two years on social media and in the lyrics of their songs

Paris

One of France’s most successful rap stars – or “rappeurs” – has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after a war of words with a rival performer turned violent.

Rohff, 36, real name Housni Mkouboi, gave himself up to police after he was accused of being part of a gang which savagely beat up a young salesman in a clothes boutique belonging to Booba, another rapper.

The two rap stars, once friends, have been exchanging insults for two years on social media and in the lyrics of their songs. The attack happened after Booba invited Rohff to “come and look for me in Paris” and called him a “sale pédale” – slang for “dirty queer”.

The next day Rohff was identified by security cameras as one of a gang which entered a clothes shop belonging to Booba, 37 – real name Elie Yaffa – in the Halles district of central Paris. After an exchange of words, a 19-year-old sales assistant was beaten and kicked and taken to hospital unconscious, police said.

Rohff, one of France’s most popular rappers with album sales of more than three million, later gave himself up to police. He was arrested for questioning on suspicion of “attempted murder” and detained overnight.

He was appearing before an investigating magistrate on Wednesday night and is expected to face formal accusations – one step short of a charge – of causing grievous bodily harm and attempted murder.

Rohff’s lawyer, Francis Terquem, said that his client admitted that he was present in his rival’s shop and that he had “taken part in a brawl”. He said that fighting broke out when the sales assistant recognised the visiting rapper and insulted him.

“My client is pleased to know that the victim is recovering,” Mr Terquem said. “He says that what happened can be explained by a regrettable and passing fit of annoyance… It is to be hoped that this incident will bring a little calm to the rap world.”

The two men are among the most successful entertainers in France but neither of them has much of a following abroad. Both Rohff and Booba had criminal records and served time in prison as young men. Their feud began in August 2012 when Rohff, in radio interview, called Booba a “femmelette” or “little woman”.

After that the pair exchanged insults at regular intervals, either on social media or in coded references in their lyrics. The war of words appeared to have abated until last week when someone posted on the internet a Booba music video, inter-cut with footage and music from a shampoo advertisement.

Rohff expressed his amusement on Facebook. Booba reacted on the Instagram social networking site: “Trouve moi à Paname. Sale Pédale (Come and look for me in Paris. Dirty queer).”

The incident has been compared in the French press to the fatal feud between the two biggest American hip-hop stars of the 1990s, which led to the murders of Tupac Shakur in 1996 and Notorious B.I.G. in 1997.

Experts on the French, and wider, rap world said that such feuds often began as a form of marketing but then got out of hand.

Olivier Cachin, a leading French rap critic and commentator, said: “As long as they are just stars who tease one another and pull one another’s leg, it’s funny. Now, no one is laughing anymore.

“This is catastrophic for a music genre which has managed to become generally popular… It as if we have jumped back 15 years.

“Now Rohff and Booba need to get together and say: ‘we went too far’.”

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