The age of Hip-Hop, from the streets to cultural dominance: A tribute

First of all, let me start by saying that hip-hop goes far beyond the musical aspect of the culture.

Actually, hip-hop IS culture, and culture always transcends music and the arts.

  • So, what is culture ?

Culture is the sum of all the universal elements that bring people together.

It’s when our individualities work together to bring about change and evolution.

  • What makes hip-hop a culture ?

Hip-hop embraces different artistic elements.

Overtime, it blended and transcended the artistic aspect of itself to become a means for seeing, celebrating, experiencing, understanding, confronting, and commenting on life and the world.

Hip-hop is also an emotion, a state of being and a frame of mind.

It’s the feeling you get from the MC, graffiti artist or DJ when they’re in their element.

It’s a long lasting feeling that lives within you, it’s ingrained in your thought process and your vision.

Hip-hop, in other words, is a way of living, a culture.

  • Where and when

The elements of hip-hop came together in the Bronx borough of New York City. It was the early 1970s and times were tougher than usual for the poorer parts of urban America.

From a whole lot of nothing and a whole lot of imagination, hip-hop was born.

  • Where did hip-hop get its name?

Hip-hop combines two slang terms:

The word “hip” has many plausible definitions and origins, none of which is actually official, so believe whichever one you prefer.

  1. Research and speculation by both amateur and professional etymologists suggest that “hip” is derived from an earlier form, “hep”. Many etymologists believe that the terms “hip”, “hep” and “hepcat” derive from the west African Wolof language word “hepicat”, which means “one who has his eyes open“.
  2. Hip” also means “in the know” or “aware” (which isn’t too far off the definition above) and has been a part of African American vernacular since the late nineteenth century.
  3. Hip” also means “very fashionable”.

Hop”, on the other hand, represents the hopping or leaping movement exhibited by hip-hop performers.

  • The difference between rap and hip-hop

Put simply, rap is a method of delivery, it’s the action of speaking rhythmically.

Hip-hop is the whole cultural movement behind rap (music).

Hip-hop entails business-savviness, marketing, money management, philanthropy, entrepreneurship, advertising, content, graffiti, DJing, fashion and design, not just “music”.

  • Artists that shaped my frame of mind

Like many people my age (90s kids), I grew up listening to hip-hop on the radio and cassette tapes.

From KRS-One to Big L, Mos Def, Jay-Z, Pun, Wu Tang, Snoop, Ice Cube and Pac, these artists shaped my mindset and outlook on life.

Later came the likes of Eminem, 50 Cent and Ye, just to name a few.

Many (if not all) hip-hop artists come from very humble beginnings.

However, despite starting at the very bottom and with virtually all the obstacles one could face in modern society, these craftsmen honed their skills and built empires through hard work, talent and focus.

Their determination and fighting spirit are beyond admirable and I’m glad I had them to look up to as a kid.

  • Hip-hop is my culture

You’ve probably heard me say this on my podcast, but I’mma say it again: hip-hop is my culture.

And I ain’t talking about the music. Hip-hop is a lifestyle.

It’s the way we talk, the way we walk, the attitude and the flavors.

It’s how people carry themselves, how Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone (KRS-ONE), the power of storytelling and communities as well.

  • Let’s go deeper, though 

People in the 90s used to say hip-hop (and MCing) was a fad. 

Growing up in a (somewhat) conservative, immigrant family, rap music was always looked down upon.

They labeled it “gibberish”, “noise”.

My old man (and most people his age) told me this a hundred times.

They didn’t get it then and many still don’t get it now.

So let me explain hip-hop culture, once and for all, as simply as I can.

  • Explaining hip-hop culture

The first thing you gotta understand is that this culture has many themes, the most common ones being knowledge, righteousness, struggle, empowerment, violence and drugs.

The best songs in hip-hop are about everyday life, struggles and change.

Hip-hop artists, whether we’re talking about musicians, DJs or graffiti artists, take cues from their lives to create art pieces.

Violence and drugs must’ve caught your attention, so let me enlighten you with an interesting fact about the progressive side of hip-hop (which mainstream media won’t tell you):

Did you know that break dancing gained popularity when Afrika Bambaataa’s Zulu Nation began using break dance battles as a substitute for gang-on-gang violence?

Note: I don’t like this dude one bit, but credit where credit is due.

Anyway, hip-hop artists have always tried to provide answers to society’s rampant problems.

They tried to change mindsets and make people visualize the change they wanted in their lives and the world.

I consider hip-hop artists to be teachers, mentors, change-makers.

Some of them used their platform to spread violence and bad behavior, but we can’t let a few bad apples spoil the bunch.

The likes of RZA (artist turned philosopher, vegan), KRS (teacher, activist), Mos Def (activist, actor), Talib Kweli and Jay-Z have done more for our culture than artists of all other genres combined.

They elevate communities and give them hope.

They paved the way for future generations, gave us the blueprint.

These legends are the reason for so much positive change and wealth in the black and latino communities, something easily dismissed by the media and folks who know very little about hip-hop culture.

Hip-hop ain’t about breakdancing, fashionable clothing and dope beats anymore. It’s about business, wealth building and minority empowerment.

Last but not least, hip-hop is one of the cornerstones for so much black wealth and minority entrepreneurs.

It is the foundation of several self-made moguls and multi-million dollar businesses in minority communities.

Ye, Jay-Z, Dre, Diddy, Eminem, Birdman, Akon, 50 Cent, Rick Ross and the late Nipsey Hussle fall directly into the those categories.

  • Global influence

Hip-hop is one of the few genres that you can hear everywhere you go.

Africa, South America, Asia, Europe..it’s global !

What makes hip-hop such a powerful phenomenon is the way it changed the way people dress, what they consume and the way they carry themselves in everyday life.

I look at hip-hop as a powerful tool for change, a global positive influence.

Hip-hop empowers and guides, which is the very essence of this culture. It also ignites conversations and exposes our modern society for what it really is.

Police brutality, social inequality, racism, discrimination, poverty and power are all common topics in hip-hop songs and among hip-hop heads.

Many hip-hop artists are activists themselves. They often come together during tough times to support new systems, empower communities and give back.

Hip-hop is an enlightenment for those seeking knowledge. It’s an enlightenment for people yearning for positive change.

Hip-hop ain’t “urban” culture anymore.

Hip-hop is culture, PERIODT.

Seeing the likes of DR, Snoop, Fif and Em on stage at the Super Bowl LVI brought things full circle.

It’s been a long fight but hip-hop is now undeniably one of the most important music genres in history.

International vegan dishes we love (with pictures)

I’ve only been vegan for 4 years.

I wasn’t born vegan, nor was I a chef in another life.

Quite the opposite, actually.

For several reasons, I only learned how to cook 3 years ago..

Yeah..

Going vegan is one of the main reasons for the switch.

Living in one of the least vegan-friendly cities in France (and Europe), I had no other choice but to learn how to “veganize” my favorite dishes, drinks and snacks.

And so I did.

But first, I called mom.

Mom used to be a chef. She gave me the best tips to get the ball rollin’, but it wasn’t enough.

So I did what anyone trying to learn anything would do: I opened YouTube, and then Instagram.

But first, let me tell you something about me (that I haven’t shared on this blog yet).

  • Blah-blah about me (that you can skip)

You see, my family and I are extremely different.

I love them to death, but we were brought up in different cultures, environments and have different characters and standards. That said, we share the same values.

My parents and siblings are somewhat conformists. They love being “normal”, fitting in, which was never my thing.

(Btw, conformism is NOT a bad thing, I’m just stating our differences ^^)

After leaving the family nest at the age of 18, I deconstructed what I was taught and took on the heavy – but necessary – task to relearn everything on my own.

It’s one of the things I’m most proud of, tbh.

I’ve always dreamed and hoped for a life that fits me and my standards, not that of my family, certainly not that of society.

It was a long, tiring process. Conforming and acting in accordance to what you were told would’ve been much easier, but costly.

  • Authenticity is priceless

Deconstructing your beliefs and rebuilding your character are the most rewarding things you can do for yourself.

Doing so is one of the main reasons I hardly ever feel “lost” in life, the other reason being my faith.

That said, my parents and I share the same Polaris, that being our love of God, his prophets (PBUT) and religion.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand

  • Topic at hand

Having traveled so much wasn’t just a treat on the cultural, educational and spiritual level, it’s a privilege because we got to taste and cook foods from all over the world.

Travel is a powerful thing, fam. It introduces you to people from distinct backgrounds, cultures and habits.

The cool (and maybe my favorite) thing about people is that they all have this one thing in common: they cook, and they eat.

Inevitably, travel introduced me to foreign cuisine.

The list below serves as a reminder that veganized, international cuisine is where it’s at. These are some of my favorite mouth-watering dishes, desserts and drinks, most of which can easily be made at home.

Enjoy !

Africa:

🇩🇿 Algerian boureks and bricks (north african samoussa), rechta (local noodles with a veggie sauce), couscous, dolma (stuffed veggies with vegan mince or plant-based meat), karantika (aka garantita, calentica and karantita, chickpea thick pancake) khobz el bey (cake made from almond meal and breadcrumbs, soaked in a syrup flavored with orange blossom water)

🇪🇹 Ethiopian teff and spinach lasagna, teff injera (Ethiopian crepe), zucchini wot, spinach lasagna with local teff (cereal)

🇲🇱 Malian and Western Saharan tea (the best I’ve ever had!)

🇲🇿 Mozambique pao (fresh, local bread), mucapata (mung beans, coconut milk and rice)

🇹🇬 Togolese Nougbagba with rice

🇸🇨 Seychelles plantain chips (aka chips bannann, a creole delicacy)

West African maafé with rice and veggies

West and east african Karkadi (aka Bissap, hibiscus drink)

North and South America:

🇺🇸 American burgers, hotdogs, buffalo wings, tater tots, rainbow cake, donuts, cupcakes, layer cakes, mac n’ cheese (esp. when I was young), potato chips (yes, it’s an american invention just like ketchup), PB&J, popcorns, fried chicken similis, WHITE vegan chocolate-chip cookies, blueberry cobbler, nachos..

🇦🇷 Argentinian empanadas, bombas de papa, vegan choripan (hotdogs), chimichurri (some sort of local pesto), alfajores (heavenly stuff), medialunas (argentine croissants), argentine style pizza (triple-layered with so much vegan mozzarella and a thick crust), humita (corn and plant milk with spices and onions) and of course yerba mate

🇧🇷 Brazilian bolas de papas, pao de queijo and vegan feijoada

🇨🇴 Colombian arepas, lulada (local, fruity drink), obleas, cocadas (coconut sugar cookies), empanadas (you’ll find those in many south american countries tbh) and cholao (a sort of frappe, fruit salad, and dessert all in one)

Hawaiian toasts and bowls, as well as hawaiian pizza (yes, with pineapples on top)

🇲🇽 Mexican burritos, tacos, tostadas, tamale breakfast bowls and jackfruit tamales, 4-layer enchilada cakes and guacamole, of course

🇻🇪 Venezuelan empanadas and arepas

Asia:

Asian noodles (of all sorts!)

🇮🇳 Indian naan and curries (veggies, curry, coconut cream and rice)

🇯🇵 Japanese: sushi rolls, mochis, crispy rolls, udon, tofu (fried) with gluey rice, veggie tempura, ramen, kashipan, miso soup (my personal fave), onigiri (rice balls with a filling), gyoza, edamame, wagashi (desserts)

🇰🇷 Korean bibimbap, Jjajangmyeon (korean thick noodles) and kimchi (I LUHV kimchi !!)

🇲🇾 Malaysian apam balik, teh tarik (pulled tea, with oat milk), barley juice, water chestnut juice, longan juice, and lychee juice (street vendors make the best litchi juice btw) – needless to say, malaysians make some of the best juices out there !

🇻🇳Vietnamese spring rolls, cauliflower and rice, soy balls

Europe:

🇧🇪 Belgian waffles and fries

🇫🇷 French tacos, baguette, crêpes, macarons, croissants (too good !), joie gras (vegan and cruelty-free foie gras), vegan rillettes, raclette, pain perdu

🇮🇹 Italian: pizza (alla napolitana), lasagna, panini, pasta, pesto alla Genovese, ravioli, focaccia, panzerotto fritto..

🇬🇷 Greek tzatziki (soy yogurt, cucumber, garlic powder, chive and lemon) and mushrooms (stifado)

🇵🇹 Portuguese bolas de berlim (not a big fan of portuguese cuisine)

🇮🇹 Sicilian pizza and arancini 

🇪🇸 Spanish vegan croquetas, tortillas, gazpacho, patatas bravas and tapas 

🇸🇪 Swedish vegan cinnamon rolls

Middle-east:

Hummus, falafel and dolma (stuffed vine leaves) can be found in many middle-eastern countries

🇵🇸 Jordanian and palestinian Maqluba (aka Makloubeh: spiced rice dish that is mix with fried cauliflower, eggplant, potatoes, and veggie meat)

🇱🇧 Lebanese baba ganoush (aka moutabal: roasted eggplant dip, heavenly stuff) and tabbouleh

🇹🇷 Turkish lahmacun (turkish-style pizza), kebabs, vegan döner (turkish sub or sandwich), corba (red soup), pide (patty), Yaprak Sarma (steamed vine leaves wrapped around a filling of rice and onion flavored with mint, currant, pepper and cinnamon), Imam Bayildi (aubergine entree, filled with rice, bulgur and other veggies and stuffed with a tomato, onion and garlic mixture, baked in an oven), borek (spinach puffs), Kumpir (made of jacket potato with a crisp outer skin and soft inside, available with a variety of toppings – veggie cheese, sausage, pickles..), Mercimek Köftesi (vegetarian meatballs) Simit (turkish pretzels), baklavas (pastries), lokum (jellies), halva (tahini and sugar)..turkish cuisine is CLEARLY one my my all-time favorites bruh ^^

__

It’s quite obvious that I couldn’t fit everything I’ve ever eaten into this list, but you get the idea.

The more you travel, the more you’ll want to know about the world and all it has to offer.

“The best of mankind is a farmer, the best of food is fruit” – Ethiopian saying

Below are photos of our favorite vegan foods, snacks and desserts. All pictures were taken by me.

Find out more on VeganBordeaux 🙂

Much more than a desert: my trip to the Sahara

The Sahara Desert is the world’s largest hot desert and the third largest desert behind Antarctica and the Arctic.

Located in North Africa, it covers 9,200,000 square kilometers (3.6 million square miles), nearly a third of Africa.

My journey through a fraction of this majestic place was nothing short of sensational.

Trip route
Trip route

The sand dunes, beautiful wild camels, excruciating heat, vastness, hospitable nomads and their stories..the magical spirits..a once in a lifetime experience.

Speaking of, here’s a fun fact about camels: a camel can drink 200 liters (53 gallons) of water in three minutes !

That’s insane !

A bunch of camels chillin’ in a Canyon (Oasis), Chad

Anyway, I don’t know about y’all, but I love stories about supernatural creatures, angels and jinns.

  • What are jinns, exactly?

Jinns are usually known as genies (yeah, like the one in Aladdin) in western literature.

Jinns are magical spirits who may appear in the form of a human or an animal and can take control of a person.

They’re said to inhabit caves, graveyards, deserted places and darkness. The Sahara Desert, like the ocean, is where many Jinns actually live. And believe me, it’s feelable (spooky!).

Jinns lead similar lives to us humans. While they’re believed to be invisible (mostly), jinns have the ability to eat, drink, sleep, breed and produce offspring that resemble their parents.

They also have free will to choose between good and evil. Therefor, jinns can be Muslim, Jewish, Christian, etc.

But unlike us, jinns have numerous powers that are exclusively theirs.

For instance, jinns are capable of moving extremely heavy objects with relative ease.

There’s always been some sort of air of mystery and mystique around the topic of jinns, and rightfully so.

Fun fact: Jinn means “hidden” or “concealed” in Arabic.

As per a hadith narrated by Ibn e Masood, there are 3 main types of jinn: those who fly, those who appear in the form of dogs and snakes, and those that stay in travel.

Jinns live much longer than us. It is said that they can live up to thousands of years.

  • Preferences

Jinns delight in punishing humans, intentionally or unintentionally, and are said to be responsible for many diseases and all kinds of accidents

It’s been said that jinns eat like humans, but instead of fresh food, they prefer rotten flesh and bones. Yuk!

Fun fact: King Solomon PBUH, one of God’s beloved prophets, was bestowed with many God-given gifts, including the ability to speak to animals and jinn.

While many people are aware of the existence of Jinns, Hinns, on the other hand, are barely ever talked about.

Here are a few interesting theories about the Hinn.

  • Theories

In early Islam, a common belief held that mankind is actually the successor of other intelligent creatures such as Jinn and Hinn. Medieval Muslim traditions referred to the Jinn as pre-Adamites, depicted as human-like in various ways.

According to Ibn Kathir, the hinn belongs (together with the jinn) to those creatures who shed blood on earth before humankind, causing the angels to question God’s command to place Adam PBUH as a vicegerent.

In his work Al-Bidāya wa-n-Nihāya (The Beginning and the End), Ibn Kathir relates that the Hinn (and binn) were exterminated by the jinn so that they could dwell on the earth.

Even more interestingly, Muhammad Al-Tahir ibn Ashur states in his work at-Tahreer wa’t-Tanweer that the hinn (and binn) may be a reference to Persian mythology or the ancient Greek Titans, who were driven away by their deities.

Worth looking into !

Smartphones are our generation’s cigarettes

Nicotine is addictive, everyone knows that, but so are phones, too.

Although lots people still smoke today, cigarette culture back in the 50s and 60s was mad different from cigarette culture today.

Similarities:

Everyone smoked back then. From grandma, to blue collar workers, business people, pregnant women, even preachers smoked ! It was ubiquitous. 

Besides, cigarette ads were outrageous !

(Btw, I think 50 years from now, kids will look at meat, fish and dairy ads the way we look at crazy nicotine ads today.

Meat, fish and dairy are so toxic that it’s quite mind-boggling to see these industries thrive so much on misinformation. Beside being extremely harmful to the animals and the planet, they’re literally destroying our health, in total impunity.)

Anyway, not the point ^^

Similarly to nicotine addiction in the 50s, it seems as though everyone is addicted to their smartphone today.

In 2019, in a pre-pandemic environment, NBC reported that teens average over 7 hours of smartphone use a day.

That number is now higher for both teens and adults, as teens now spend up to 9 HOURS a day on their phones !

Madness !

Cigarettes take years off your life by just killing you (cancer). Social media takes years of your life by making you endlessly scroll, and lose your sense of purpose and time.

Cellphones can also cause cancer and sharply increase tumor risk (souce: UC Berkeley)

The observation:

It’s sad to see what has become of interpersonal relationships, and activities in the ‘real world’ altogether.

I’ve decided to write this post to remind myself and my readers of the harms of excessive cellphone use and social media exposure. I also believe we need to push back and raise awareness against what’s happening in this realm.

It ain’t just about phones though, it’s what’s in them.

Social Networks, gaming apps, dating apps, and so on are driving us away from the things that really matter. We’re losing our very humanity because of such things.

Instant gratification and FOMO are this generations worst diseases, as discussed on this episode of my podcast with Deborah Cooper, columnist, author and relationships expert.

I believe we need to rethink the place of smartphones in our modern societies and the way we interact with both technology and each other, bridge some gaps.

I also think we need to push for less addictive designs. To push technology companies to make functional, utilitarian platforms as opposed to addictive ones.

We need to be aware of how technology is affecting our brains and society as a whole.

It’s like we have billions and billions of people zonked out, consuming hours and hours on their phones without realizing that they’re wasting years of their life. Something needs to be done there.

From a behavioral standpoint, the smartphone is the cue, craving, response, and reward. It’s designed to be addictive because you’re a swipe away from a dopamine hit.

We need awareness of this.

Internet addiction is a problem that nobody wants to admit . It’s also a problem that’s beyond individual control.

It’s almost unreasonable to think it’s someone’s fault for developing the addiction in this day and age. Our society enables it.

How many kids do you see glued to an iPad at ages that seem ridiculous?

Remember just a couple years ago when big tech pretended to care about this problem with some half-baked features like screen time & limits on the platforms? It was laughable.

I’m obviously not against social media, dating and gaming apps, not one bit.

I’ve actually met the dearest person to my heart on one of these apps.

With that being said, wisdom lies in moderation.

There are many studies that link depression and a low life-satisfaction to social media use and online dating apps.

Furthermore, Social Networks are becoming increasingly invasive, and are a pervasive part of modern culture, which greatly affects our global mental health.

"Human beings find purpose in their responsibilities. Responsibilities aren't a burden, they're a gift and they give our lives meaning."

So what can we do, collectively, to save people from becoming zombies ?

So, this is my favorite part and the reason I wrote this post.

There are dozens of activities that you could and probably should be doing right now if you weren’t on your phone.

Here’s a quick list of things that you must look into and that could potentially break your addiction and increase life satisfaction and connectedness with the world:

  • Hiking and trekking: hiking doesn’t require any training, gear (besides decent shoes) or entry fees
  • Picnics: with friends, your partner, family, your dog, picnics are fun and great way to meet like minded people in the real world
  • Ramble the town you live in, there are always some lovely hidden gems that are defo worth exploring
  • Chat in person with no schedule in mind, about anything, chill with your partner or your best friends, go for tea
  • Biking: not just to work or to run errands, but just for the sake of it
  • Do something whimsical like find handfuls of acorns to paint with cute smiley faces
  • Workout with friends
  • Go to your local shooting stand and learn how to handle weapons
  • Take up a new hobby: Yoga, Tai Chi, Knitting, Guitar playing, language learning, coding, drawing, blogging, writing, woodworking
  • Invest your time in charity work and/or teaching/mentoring
  • Dog/cat keeping whenever you’re free and don’t know what to do. Animals are a great way to fight stress and anxiety
  • Visit your local parks and cemeteries, go for a stroll there, use that time to reflect on your own life and how to improve your life and that of those around you
  • Play sports with your buddies, or join new groups with whom you can also hoop/play football
  • Explore your local libraries and their books
  • Write your own book
  • Learn how to cook and dabble with your diet. Learn more about what you’re putting in your body on a daily basis
  • Practice conscious breathing
  • But most importantly, make sure you always have something going on in your life to keep you pumped.

One of my podcast guests once told me “humans find purpose in their responsibilities. Responsibilities aren’t a burden, they’re a gift and they give our lives meaning“.

No truer words have ever been spoken.

There are so many useful ways to spend your free time, so don’t waste it scrolling endlessly.

Who would've thought "Cyber Cafes" or Internet Cafes would fit into our pockets someday ?

Millennial nostalgia:

Back in ye olden days (late 90s, early 2000s), my friends and I used to spend hours outside. Riding our bikes around town, playing football in the street, listening to music together, freestyling, telling jokes, climbing trees, running or “working out”..

Then, whenever our finances matched our desires, which wasn’t that often, we’d grab a bite together and just .. talk.

No one was distracted while talking, because smartphones didn’t exist yet.

At the risk of sounding old, those were definitely “the days bro!”

P.S.: who would’ve thought “Cyber Cafes” or Internet Cafes would fit into our pockets someday ? It’s insane come to think of it. I grew up in Cyber Cafe era, we used to hang out in cybers all the time, mostly playing video games (essentially Counter-Strike and Red Alert)

Here’s what Red Alert looked like ^^

Shit was mad dope, I ain’t gonna lie !

So why the sudden change ?

Tech companies leveraged smartphone ecosystems by using gamification and behavioral economics as their tactics to trick our brains into consuming more and more on our phones.

This is common knowledge but such strategies were inspired by casinos, the devil’s ground and masters of addiction.

Psychologists like Dan Ariely and Daniel Kahneman have had a major influence on how tech apps have been constructed to have addicting rewards systems.

In closing:

I genuinely hope that people realize social media isn’t a substitute for real connection.

I think as a species we need to have a better understanding of ourselves if we want to keep evolving and find genuine happiness. It may not seem like it but we’re still as primitive as a man from the first century AD, only with more gadgets around us.

It’s funny how slow death never gets a bad rep.

Life in Lyon, mostly pros and some cons

Lyon is one of the biggest and most diverse cities in France. 

Size and culture-wise:

It offers a wide range of cultural activities, sporting events and festivals.

It’s not too small so you get bored easily, nor too large that is gets overwhelming. 

I ain’t fond of metropolises like NYC, Paris or London. Medium-sized cities like Lyon offer access to pretty much everything you could find in bigger cities, minus the stress, dangers and exorbitant real estate prices.

Combine that with Lyon’s amazing public transport network and you have a winner.

The surroundings:

The proximity to Switzerland and Italy was a huge plus for me, with Brussels (Belgium) also being 4 hours away by train.

Besides, if you’re into hiking and/or winter sports like skiing and snowshoeing then look no further, Lyon is the place to be for you, with the Alps aka the highest and most extensive mountain range system in Europe right next to you.

The dream !

Proximity to the mountains and surrounding countries was one of my favorite things about this city. Despite the locals being somewhat unfriendly, being in the outdoors and traveling around made the whole experience well worth it.

You can find some pretty gnarly trails in Valence, Roman and Grenoble and its incredible views of the Alps.

Btw the trails were surprisingly empty in the winter, perhaps out of caution.

In immediate proximity you’ll also find the amazing cities of Annecy and Aix-Les-Bains with its thermal baths.

Student life:

I honestly couldn’t tell you much about student life in Lyon. I mean, my friends seemed to have a lotta fun going out, clubbing, going to festivals and whatnot. I wasn’t.

As an 18YO kid and fresh out the family nest, my focus was very different from that of my peers. 

I had one idea in mind: make as much money as I could, pass my classes and learn how to invest. 

I used to watch a LOT of football and geek on FIFA as well. 

The thing about my passage in Lyon was that I knew I wasn’t gonna be around for too long.

As much as this post makes it sound as though was a city I loved, it wasn’t. I’ve always looked forward to leaving, for some reason.

Besides, it seemed as though all of my friends ended up leaving as well. Go figure !

All that said, Lyon offers several entertainment options, free passes and discounts for students. You’ll also find lots of Erasmus students and expats there, which is always nice.

Birdview:

  • Cost of living: it was alright, I managed to get by quite easily. If you budget your spendings, you’ll be fine, just keep in mind that this is France and life isn’t as cheap as it is in Spain, Germany or Portugal. It’s still very affordable compared to Paris, London or some other megalopolis. 
  • Accomodation: it’s not easy to find the right place, but it’s doable. Finding accommodation is never easy in western countries, unless you’re financially very stable, in which case that won’t be an issue at all. But as a student, it wasn’t as hard as it is in Bordeaux, nor was it as easy as it was in Southeast Asia, Africa or South America. 

You can always share a flat for a few months then move out on your own. 

  • Cuisine: I’m not a big fan of French cuisine BUT Lyon is the birth place of “French tacos” (don’t ask me why they call them that, they’re nothing like tacos). French tacos are probably my favorite French dish of all. I know, I ain’t boogie enough, and I couldn’t care less 🙂

As a vegan, though, Idk if Lyon (like most French cities) is very vegan-friendly. The French love their meat and cheeses.

But if I had to go back, I’d probably start with Le Paradis du Fruit. 

Favorite spots: 

  • Fourvière Basilica 
  • Parc de la Tête d’Or (huge natural park)
  • Vieux Lyon (Old town)
  • Island of Barbe
  • The Roman Amphitheaters
  • Bellecour Square
  • Rue (street) Prunelle and its beautiful staircase
  • Place Rouville (Croix Rousse)
  • Stade de Gerland and of course Groupama Stadium for football-heads like myself 
  • Hôtel de Ville – Terreaux – Ópera
  • And of course the Quais (river banks), especially during the summer. Very lively and chill, the perfect place to go for a stroll, a bike ride or anything of that nature
  • The French “projects” or public housing in Vénissieux and Les Minguettes. I wouldn’t recommend going there alone unless you actually are from the streets. That said, I felt more at home there than I ever did where I used to live (Gambetta, which is quite central). People were just genuinely nice. 
  • Place de Terreaux
  • Café Sevilla or Casa Latina if you enjoy reggaeton. 

The festival of lights:

It usually takes place between the 8th and 11th of december each year, and summons about 3/4 million tourists.

The whole city gets lit up, which quite a sight to see.

WATCH: Great movies that explore black excellence, systemic racism and social (in)justice

Compiled is a list of more than 50 GREAT movies about black excellence, social injustice, black struggle and systemic racism.

Most movies on this list are based on real events, some are fictional.

  • Marshall – Chadwick Boseman, 2017 (based on a true story)
  • Green book – Mahershala Ali, 2018 (based on a true story)
  • Just mercy – Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, 2019 (based on a true story)
  • Race (Jesse Owens) – Stephan James, 2015 (based on a true story)
  • BlacKkKlansman – John David Washington, 2018 (based on a true story)
  • Selma – David Oyelowo, 2014 (based on a true story)
  • One night in Miami – Leslie Odom Jr., 2020
  • Fresh – Sean Nelson, Samuel L. Jackson, 1994
  • Get on up – Chadwick Boseman, 2014 (based on a true story)
  • Ray – Jamie Foxx, 2004 (based on a true story)
  • The banker – Anthony Mackie, Samuel L. Jackson, 2019 (based on a true story)
  • American gangster – Denzel Washington, 2007
  • 42 (Jackie Robinson) – Chadwich Boseman, 2013 (based on a true story)
  • Malcolm X – Denzel Washington, 1992 (based on a true story)
  • Ali – Will Smith, 2001 (based on a true story)
  • From the rough – Taraji P. Henson, 2013 (based on a true story)
  • Harriet – Cynthia Erivo, 2019 (based on a true story)
  • Coach carter – Samuel L. Jackson, 2005 (based on a true story)
  • Juice – Tupac, 1992 (based on a true story)
  • Menace II Society – Tyrin Turner, 1993 (a true-to-life portrayal of the streets in South Central Los Angeles)
  • Mudbound – Jason Mitchell, 2017 (Inspired from real-life experiences)
  • Remember the Titans – Denzel Washington, 2000 (based on a true story)
  • The express (Ernie Davis) – Rob Brown, 2008 (based on a true story)
  • Freedom writers – Hilary Swank, April Lee Hernández (based on a true story)
  • The great debaters – Denzel Washington, 2007 (based on a true story)
  • The butler – Oprah Winfrey, Forest Whitaker, 2013 (based on a true story)
  • McFarland, USA – Kevin Costner, 2015 (based on a true story)
  • Boyz N’ the hood – Cuba Gooding Jr., Ice Cube, 1991 (Inspired from real-life experiences of the director, John Singleton)
  • Mississippi burning – Willem Dafoe, 1988 (based on a true story)
  • Concussion – Will Smith, 2015 (based on a true story)
  • Fruitvale station – Michael B. Jordan, 2013 (based on a true story)
  • Hidden Figures – Taraji P. Henson, 2016 (inspired by a real-life incident)
  • Do the right thing – Spike Lee, 1989 (inspired by a real-life incident)
  • The blind side – Sandra Bullock, 2009 (inspired by a real-life incident)
  • Poetic justice – Tupac, Janet Jackson, 1993
  • Dope – Shameik Moore, Zoë Kravitz, 2015
  • Sorry to bother you – Lakeith Stanfield, 2018
  • Driving Miss Daisy – Morgan Freeman, 1989
  • Lean on me – Morgan Freeman, 1989
  • Loving – Joel Edgerton, 2016
  • Fences – Viola Davis, Denzel Washington, 2016
  • Roman J israel Esq. – Denzel Washington, 2017
  • The harder they fall – Zazie Beetz, Idris Elba, Jonathan Majors, Regina King, 2021
  • 12 years a slave
  • Dear white people
  • The help
  • American history X
  • Get out
  • Black panther
  • Django
  • Queen and Slim
  • Barbershop
  • Friday
  • If Beale street could talk
  • The hate you give

Artists are fascinating

My girl is my favorite artist of them all.

She can dance, draw, paint, she’s very handy and often makes amazing stuff out of thin air !

Some people were just born with that extra something, you know ?

I love simpin’ over her paintings and graffiti art, shit is truly mesmerizing.

Check this one out:

Echo by Mandy Rezeau-Merah, AKA Fuge

Pretty dope, innit ?

I would’ve loved to be so crafty. I mean, can you imagine being so deft that you can literally transcribe your imagination into amazing graffiti ?

Bruh !

I used to draw a lot as a kid, but then quickly grew out of it as I discovered the outdoors.

Being outdoorsy is cool but it’s hella time consuming fam !

I’ve noticed how most people from my generation know all the cartoons and series, always reminisce about their favorite shows and shit.

So, besides having always been an outsider, I’ve also never truly connected with my peers on that level. I spent most of my time outside, either climbing trees, riding bikes or kicking a ball.

The indoors was never for me, till now.

We all change I guess, don’t we ?

Here’s another one of my girl’s favorite creations:

ACAB by Fuge

Peace !

We meet people for a reason

We meet people for a reason.

Some will hurt you, others will build you up.

Some will help you grow, others will drain you.

Learn how to let go of those who don’t serve your wellbeing, don’t hold on to things and people out of sheer habit, learn how to value yourself and your time.

As a rule of thumb, I only hang out with those who recognize and understand my worth, friends who truly value my time and my presence.

It’s all about self-worth, fam.

Living in contrast 

Contrast is so important man !

Not just in photography, but in life in general.

Hear me out.

The fact that some days SUCK ASS is the reason why the good days are so cherished, don’t you think ?

I mean, it’s only normal for some days to suck, life on earth was never meant to be easy, it’s just a test.

Life is also all about change. We change, the world around us changes, nature is constantly changing. We evolve forward (and backwards), and the only constants in this life are time and love !

The contrast between our best and our worst days helps us magnify the good things that happen to us.

I think that’s beautiful !

As beautiful as our fading bad memories and our ability to forget.

Can you imagine a life where you’d remember all the bad things that’ve ever happened to you ? Bruh !

No man can handle that many memories, so be thankful for your ability to forget, it’s a true blessing !

Also, here’s a memory I never want to forget, from a trip to Kenya ❤

Trip to Kenya

I love Instagram

Instagram can and has helped so many youngsters make money, real money !

Instagram gave me a platform to express myself unlike any other platform since MySpace and Skyblog.

Although I’ve always loved blogging, Instagram gave “documenting” a whole new meaning: documenting through real life pictures.

I grew up in a family that wasn’t very artistic.

I barely have any pictures from my childhood. My parents had an old camera but only used it for special occasions.

As such, I was never really exposed to photography till my teen years.

But then shit CLICKED ! It clicked instantly !

When I got my first phone, I took pictures of everything ! I loved following my friends around with a camera at hand, I loved macro photography, printing photos and drawing over them (yeah, weird) etc.

I used to post lots of pictures on Hi5 and Skyblog. Captioning was also super fun for me back then !

Facebook also brought the best out of me. I got my first proper camera, a Nikon 7200D or something in 2010 and it was a game changer !

Instagram wasn’t around back then, but you could feel something was cooking in that sense, cause Facebook just wasn’t cutting it for photographers.

Fast forward a couple of years, I opened my IG and the rest is just wild !

At some point I was posting twice to three times a day !

Instant gratification is a crazy phenom’ dawg !

I just LOVED the feeling of sharing pictures of my travels with people. I loved the likes, the comments. I simply loved the fact something I created was appreciated by people I’ve never met in my life.

A creator’s high is addictive.

Instagram has evolved a lot throughout the years. The rise of stories and DMs was also a whole different ball game.

The ephemeral side of IG stories is what made them so special.

2016/2017 was the season in which I posted the most. I was posting 5 to 6 stories plus 1 to 2 posts A DAY ! I used to spend so many hours editing, coming up with captions and taking pictures.

It was a fun time I ain’t even gon’ front !

I enjoyed the heck out of it, but it was draining, and not just physically.

It’s mentally draining to be constantly seeking instant gratification and compliments, it fucks with your mental health HEAVY.

So I took a big break from it all in 2018.

At first it was supposed to be temporary, but then I just lost the need for validation. I learned how to enjoy life on the sidelines, how to be alone.

A friend of mine once summed up my mindset perfectly. He said “vivons bien, vivons cachés“, which roughly translates to “to lived happily requires one to keep things private”, or “secluded life is the happiest” (English proverb).

Thanks Luc !

Instagram is such a powerful tool if you know how to use it to your advantage. Don’t waste it !