Trace TV, twenty years of urban music


It’s not “the little chain that goes up”, as claimed in the 1990s by M6, the first French channel with 30% music programming, but the small channel that spanned the whole of France and the world. In the suburbs and the countryside, on the African continent, French-speaking and English-speaking, in the Caribbean then in America and Asia.

Created in 2003 by Martinican entrepreneur Olivier Laouchez, Trace TV is first and foremost a broadcasting solution for local hip-hop artists who feel under-represented in the French media. The channel, which struggled for four years to find funding, broadcast its first program on April 27, 2003 and, from there, accompanied the explosion of what is now called urban music: French rap and American, grime, R’n’B, dancehall, reggaeton, nu zouk, afrobeat and all variations of Afro-descendant music.

“Success Story”

Twenty years later, Trace is twenty-nine thematic channels broadcast in 190 countries and reaching 350 million viewers. A success story that the channel modestly celebrates by offering on its antenna a compilation of the twenty-five most broadcast clips each year since its creation. For twenty weeks, the spectator can thus see the evolution of this music and their aesthetic standards.

In the 2000s, young women were still skinny, corresponding to the standards of haute couture designers. In 2020, they proudly display their generous curves. Each year sees the appearance of new genres such as reggaeton, a mixture of Jamaican music and Latin rhythms, with Gasolina, Puerto Rican Daddy Yankee in 2005; crunk’n’b, the style invented by Atlanta DJ Lil Jon, mixed with singer Ciara’s R’n’B to Goodies in 2004 or singer Usher with Yeah!

Well established in London thanks to the glossy version of the magazine Trace, created in 1997, French-speaking spectators can discover a harder and “dirty” version of English rap, grime, represented by Kano, actor today in the TV series top boy, streaming on Netflix.

The Trace Urban channel, which was broadcast on a loop in suburban MJCs as well as in small Dakar restaurants or beach bars in the West Indies, allowed the success of zoukeuses like Lynnsha, absent from the screens since, or the first big success of the Marseillais Soprano, Has a well. The 2000s were also the consecration of artists who have today become staples of popular culture: Pharrell Williams, omnipresent with his team of producers, The Neptunes; the singers Beyoncé and Rihanna, who have since become huge stars.

Trace turns 20e anniversary with the 25 most broadcast hits each year. Every Friday at 7 p.m. on Trace Urban (rebroadcast Saturday 9 p.m., Sunday 5 p.m.).

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