“Are there hip-hop daughters and sons here?” His face browned under the late afternoon sun, Gäel Faye asks the question but knows the answer: the festival-goers of this fifth evening of Paléo came in large part for his urban trio on the Main Stage – Gaël Faye, the slam poet , Ninho, the young MC and new heavyweight of the rap game (second place of the best sales of the genre in France in 2021), Orelsan (first place), which we would no longer dream of presenting. A winning trio – although the jackpot is not necessarily hidden where you think.
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Gaël Faye, a beautiful novel on stage
In 2016, his name was making headlines and dreaming far and wide. When Gaël Faye publishes his first novel, Little country, and won with him a skewer of prizes. The story – his story – of a childhood in Burundi in the 1990s, dislocated by the civil war and the horrors perpetrated in neighboring Rwanda. Before becoming a book, Little country was music, a piece expressing exile as the unbreakable link to its origins. Because the pen of this uprooted man, from a Rwandan mother and a French father, is as powerful as his groove is tender and mixed – French chanson, Congolese rumba, semba, rap, soul…
And listening to him, on the plain of Asse where the crowd is already massing, one thinks that all his titles could have inspired a 300-page novel, so much do they tell about life, the real one, both intimate and universal. In a trouser-jacket set (we sweat for him) in autumn color, Gaël Faye, 39, sings love at first sight (Love story) like paralyzing insomnia (Breathe). But where he could have left words alone, disappearing behind his prose, the writer-musician overflows with crazy energy. Her long figure paces the stage, springy steps and a delighted smile, descends in front of the audience and, like a marathon runner crossing the finish line, runs to clap the hands of the front row. Before sketching a dance step with the security guard. To the singer who accompanies him, he promises: “We will drink a beer in Kigali remembering that moment.”
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Gaël Faye is on fire and it’s contagious. Just like that swing of the hips, irrepressible on her aptly named sway. But it’s from his hip-hop repertoire that he’ll draw most generously, rocking those beats to blow up crowds and “boom the boomers” (both loudspeakers and sixty-something reacs, got it?). This rap to which he pays homage in Son of Hip-Hop: “There are deaths, oxymorons, verbal bullets / Grammatical breaks on snare drums and cymbals.” His are sharp but luminous, inviting hope. Even those who did not know Gäel Faye leave with one certainty: that of having attended one of the best concerts of the week.
Ninho, the melancholy of the city
An hour later, another atmosphere, that of the street – gloomy prefab decor and dilapidated building bar. It’s the universe street by Ninho. With his melancholy rhymes and melodic refrains, evoking the hassle of the cities, the latter has established himself, in three albums, billions of streams and prestigious featurings, as one of the meteors of French rap – particularly among the under 25s. . They came in large numbers for William Nzobazola, barely older than them. Here he arrives, hood pulled down over his head, all in white except for his sunglasses, which he won’t take off even if night has long since fallen.
Between two pipes (Jeff, The life we lead), picked up by a host of telephones, Ninho tirelessly harangues his “family”. For the rest, he leaves the task of room driver to the bob rapper who accompanies him – about whom we don’t know much, except that he kept his bag slung over his shoulder and that he carries the concert at the end of his rope. arm, inviting the audience to a pogo session. “What a mess”, is content to let go of Ninho. Set back for a good part of the show, he shakes himself up a bit for a duet with Orelsan, who came as a guest for the time of their title. million – money, one of Ninho’s favorite themes. Besides, tickets are raining down on the screen, when it’s not sneakers or sports cars. The eternal paraphernalia of the good rapper, we understand – a little less the sirens and the sound of gunshots which drown out 90% of the songs. In the background, the building flames or draws silhouettes at the windows, a clever visual plunge into the neighborhoods depicted by Ninho. But for a rapper on top of the world, the “jefe” seems a far cry from the thrill.
Orelsan in video game game
One could fear the same detachment for the third act: the highlight of the evening, Orelsan is nonetheless one of the regulars of the festival. The one who released a long-awaited fourth album last November was he going to reproduce the electric miracle of his passage in 2018, or would he return, after a concert in Geneva this spring, looking jaded? The answer comes in the first seconds: a rumble shakes the plain while on the half-moon screen, bionic flamingos frolic in an apocalyptic world. This is Civilization, manifesto of a guy stuck in a broken world – “They say everything will collapse / We will pass there in three degrees”. Checked jacket and cap on his white locks, Orelsan declaims the emergency. He looks like the last man, looks like a legend.
The new titles will make up the bulk of the set – Clean, “magic sauce” of frenetic beats, BabyboaUFO funk on an easy drinking girlfriend, Athena, declaration to his companion – carried by a team of musicians which includes his lifelong friends, Ablaye and Skread. And beginnings, it will also be a question. Orelsan launches on the fly: “Have you seen the docu?” With reference to, a documentary series produced by his brother Clément which traces the rise of the rapper from his first compositions in his post-teen bedroom – released on Amazon Prime in November. The opportunity to talk about his first concert, in the small hall of the Boule Noire in Paris. And to offer a delicious mashup of old sounds that have since become legendary (Change, jimmy punchline, Missed evening).
Orelsan is nostalgic and pushes the vice: “to recreate this time when we were losers”, and where he proposed to the public, in full concert, to play street fighter. But the ambition and the budget have changed: it is to a part of a bespoke video game, “Civilization Fighter”, that the rapper invites two members of the public. Characters? In the image of the group. The setting for the fight? The streets of Caen… The concert will be woven with these winks. During Family party, the camera captures Uncle’s movie-style concert. Elsewhere, the screen looks like a cathode-ray TV, while The quest is accompanied by excerpts from the clip, replaying his youth in modeling clay.
The concert is like its rapper, interspersing cozy pieces (Note for laterwhich imposes silence on the Asse, Together, where the beats unfortunately cover the voice) and restless. We find the Orelsan of social commentary, disenchanted and sharp, in The smell of gasoline, relentless flow against the backdrop of the stage which glows then bursts into flames. No time to catch your breath, it’s the end of the world. And it is Asse that explodes.
We then think back to this concert of the Black Ball, in 2008, the first real Orelsan. In the documentary, we see him learning to hold his microphone, to do something with his left arm which he persists in swinging tense, his back arched, awkward. This moment when, during the first notes of the instrument, Aurélien realizes that said microphone is not connected, while all the turners have come to see what he has in his stomach. A lot, in this case. And we say to ourselves that the path traveled is immense.