From under le flic's armour, hip-hop keeps breaking out

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The Independent Online
ONE MIGHT think that the only link between the word "rap" and the French riot police would be the sound of baton against skull, as the armour-clad officers charge a mob of football hooligans.

But there is now an exception to that rule, a 33-year-old policeman named Patrick Prunier, who has a second career as a rap musician. He endeavours to present the case for the forces of law and order in the face of the heavy, anti-police sentiment of French "gangsta" rap groups such as NTM (Nique Ta Mere) which currently dominate the country's hip-hop scene.

Mr Prunier, aka Mr Double P (or in French, Meester Dooble Pay), describes himself as "the first ever pro-police rapper in France". He combines his police work with a burgeoning musical career in the hope of softening the unpopular image of the Compagnies Republicanes de Securite (CRS) in the tower block estates from where French rap originated.

Trying to combine the two lifestyles can be exhausting. The CRS is a national force and Mr Prunier's job involves much travel. He often spends his weekend as a disc jockey and rapper. Last week it was a 24-hour "set" on a local radio station for Telethon 2000 in his hometown of Troyes, a nationwide day of charity fundraising.

MONDAY: Mr Double P has a regular slot on the radio station L Attitude FM playing a selection of R 'n' B, groove, garage and soul.

He spends the rest of the day in discussions with record labels about signing a permanent contract and bringing out his first compact disc, which will be called A tous mes potes du Ministere (to all my friends on the force). "There are 110,000 policemen in France, that could give me quite a big fan base", he says.

TUESDAY: Mr Prunier goes to Lille to listen to offers from Belgian record labels who use the town as a meeting place with prospective French talent. The offer from EMI is the most interesting, he could sign with the company next week.

Mr Prunier admits to liking some United States rap, which contains similar if less radical anti-police sentiment. "I don't like aggressive lyrics," he says. "I listen for a good melody. With American rap I hear the tune before understanding the words, so I get to like the song regardless.

"Also, I only know the situation here. There could be good reason for criticising the police in other countries. Who am I to judge?"

WEDNESDAY: Mr Prunier returns to Paris to record a television show for France 3. The programme, C'est Mon Choix, is about unpopular jobs (his police work, not the music).

In the evening, he goes to a celebratory dinner to mark the 50th anniversary of the creation of the CRS at the police union headquarters in Paris. His rap meetings run late and he misses the dinner, but celebrates with a few glasses of champagne with "the lads".

THURSDAY: He visits a local school in the afternoon to speak to "difficult" pupils at the invitation of their headmaster, who had read about him in the local press. He talks for two hours in an attempt to alter their opinions about the police force. It turns out that some of them listen to his radio show every week. They are incredulous that he is a policeman.

FRIDAY: The end of the week sees a return to police duty for Mr Prunier at the Division One football match between Troyes and Bordeaux. He reports to the station at 4pm for briefing and to "prepare the weapons", arriving at the ground with his company of about 100 men three hours before the start of the match. The evening passes without incident, with the police officers standing aroundtheir armoured and meshed vans "just showing a presence rather than anyt

THE WEEKEND: No nightclubs for Mr Prunier on Saturday evening. He needs to catch up on sleep after a hectic week. His next assignment is security outside the European Parliament in Strasbourg, which means a 5am rise and a shift starting at 10am.

If his music career takes off, Mr Prunier is allowed to take up to three years' sabbatical away from the CRS. He thinks that he can do valuable work for the police force as Mr Double P.

"My superiors agree with the concept, or so I'm told. I get messages which filter down saying they think it's a good idea. It's frustrating that there is no direct contact, but it's like that in the police. They're just not sure how to react to the first policeman-rapper in France."