Every month, “Les Inrocks” invite you to discover a group or an artist that you do not know (yet). Today, Jwles, the new spearhead of a French rap adept at decompartmentalising genres.
After a dozen singles distilled since June 2020, the dubbing of Rim’K from 113 in October and a happy new year tweet signed Léa Salamé taking a punchline from her piece produced by Thxnk, Kipling (“She doesn’t let me talk like Léa Salamé”), to complete the whole thing, it is an understatement to say that the name of Jwles now attracts attention. If some informed and fond of SoundCloud listeners had already fallen in love with the atypical style of the rapper who has been active for eight years already, it will have been necessary to wait Joe Da Zincollaboration with producer and DJ Mad Rey released last year, for Jwles to land his first hit.
But more than just a marriage between the filtered house of one of Ed Banger’s latest signings and the syncopated rap of Jwles, Joe Da Zin is a true profession of faith by an artist who does not shrink from any influence. Coffee in hand, he outbids: “We all have a position. I’m not Rim’K, I’m not Koba la D, I’m not Freeze Corleone, I’m not Quavo. It’s a whole thing that you have to deconstruct to find your identity.
Since then, the rapper from Saint-Denis, who grew up between New York and Grasse, has made it a point of honor to show his openness to the world with his LTR Worldwide and musical collective in a series of songs that draw as well in southern trap, Detroit rap and the French touch: “When I arrived in rap, I wanted to find my samples, my color. If you only listen to rap it will limit you, your brain is burnt out. It’s borderline dangerous (smile). Rap is a fusion music that’s why you have to stay open. Before bidding: “A French rapper who samples soul or country there is less logic than for an American rapper. This is where 113 and DJ Mehdi were strong to say to each other ‘We sample sounds that come from Algeria’. When you ask yourself these questions about your music, it becomes interesting.”
The one who concedes having dressed like Lil Wayne as a teenager while screwing up at 113, Wu-Tang and the terrible children of Odd Future seems to have been educated in the right school for the decompartmentalization of genres: “The first guy I worked with in Paris was a guy who did minimal, when he was younger he had a bossa-nova band and, at that time, he wanted to do hip-hop beats. poof. I realized that often it was better to make music with guys like that. Blasé (producer and member of Haute, editor’s note) and Mad Rey, if I make them listen to an artist like 645AR, they will at least be intrigued.
In eight years, Jwles has therefore had time to refine the formula. Bilingual from the cradle, he naturally started rapping in English before beginning a transition to French: “I think anyone who is fluent in English is going to be more comfortable rapping in English. It’s a reflex, the language is 1000 times more melodic. French… there is no melody in this language, it’s hard to sing in French. Gainsbourg, he does not sing, Brassens, he does not sing. Somehow they are closer to French rap than American singers to US rap.”
But since a pair of singles and his collaborative EP with American rapper and producer Nutso Thugn, Jwles has turned to a subgenre of American rap: the DMV, which consists of recording by phrase rather than by verse. . A style that “paradoxically sticks quite well to French” even if it earned its share of misunderstandings for him and his peers (Le Lij, Bob Marlich…) in the rap public. “When Alpha Wann does a feature with Rowjay, it’s interesting to see the reaction of people who don’t understand. Here, we do not necessarily have the references yet. We were used to Auto-Tune, the trap because the education was done. In our genre, there is not yet a mainstream artist who has farted with this flow”. For Jwles, this flow he has known since Hoodrich Pablo Juan’s first mixtapes is a godsend: “I hit bars with my friend Timothée Joly. We rapped nonsense and it allowed me to reevaluate my songwriting. Knowing where the limit of parody and square provocation was. Now people are making puns like me outright (laughs).”
To this nonchalant and syncopated flow (“it’s math” he will explain) there is therefore a myriad of references to Dadju and Gims (Le Lij, brother of Jwles is also a rapper), Al Gore, Vanessa Paradis or James Dean who are trying out ever more adventurous productions (Tennesse (Remix), Almost, Offside…). With the instrumental mastery of Wu-Tang in mind, he defends rap as a “luxury music” in the face of the French mainstream, which is increasingly sclerotic by copying and pre-chewed formulas before asserting, unpretentious but inflated with ambition: “I want to make great music. Even if I am very small, you have to aim as high as possible. Like Dalí. From one day to the next, he said to himself: ‘I am a genius’, and this is where he begins to become one. Me, if one day I want to make sounds with Erykah Badu or people like that, I’m going to have to do some heavy lifting. What place the horizon of expectation very far.