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these rappers who refresh French rap

La Fève, Khali, J9ueve, Sonbest, 99 or even DMS: they all make up this avant-garde French rap scene often nicknamed the “new wave”. But here, there is no question of making movies: with glaring spontaneity, these young rappers build music specific to their personal inspirations, and together build an artistic dynamic full of precious experiments for French rap.

With its many now unavoidable headliners, rap in France has never offered so much diversity. Rich in its incalculable sub-genres, from sung trap to drill, passing through club sounds that are squatting at the top of the charts, the most listened to musical style on the planet offers in France something to delight all its listeners. Or almost. Through tweets, chronicles and speeches on social networks, several voices are raised to underline a rather pained feeling: that of a breathlessness of “mainstream” rap. With music judged to be repetitive and risk-free, the headliners who have carried and breathed new life into French rap would have a hard time reinventing it. As if in response to this lack of inventiveness, the so-called “alternative” scenes have been experiencing an inspired creative momentum for several months, at the crossroads of numerous influences and pushing further this search for new sounds. And with these scenes, new promising headliners have also appeared.

Build new music

In 2018, two young rappers, barely 18 years old, published their first songs on Soundcloud. Their names are Khali and La Fève. One comes from Palmer, a near Bordeaux suburb, and the other from Fontenay-sous-bois, on the outskirts of Paris. From their first publications, the two artists continue to share new titles and acquire, week after week, an increasingly demanding audience. If these first titles hinted at a certain potential, they have now managed to turn this potential into rich music supported by a marked musical identity.. With his first album released last May, Laïla, Khali unveiled his music to a wider audience: more and more listeners discovered the artist’s high-pitched voice, crazy energy and precise and incisive writing. . In addition to offering an interpretation far from that of the standards, he was able to support his identity even more by surrounding himself with very talented producers: Kosei, Odd Kyla, Yeeshy, Bloody or even 99. With melodies as catchy as distorted, sharp percussions and deep bass, the project’s instrumentals give Khali’s music the necessary momentum for his leap into the exploration of the new sounds of Trap, and participate in building his music as what is approaching more of the avant-garde of French rap.

Because the importance given to productions is what makes the strength of their music. In an interview with Inrocks, La Fève declared in May 2021 “ I want to bring together a lot of beatmakers on a big tape and I can’t wait. I think about it everyday “. With ERRR, his latest mixtape released on December 17, it’s now done. On 18 high-flying tracks, the rapper has called on more than 13 beatmakers, and the result is a real tour de force: on hard-hitting productions with almost uneven melodies, La Fève, strong in its influences, comes in good all- land bring an interpretation full of confidence, soaring melodies and a very accurate writing between refinement and brutality. Between the spatialized basses of Freakey!, the Machiavellian hats of Kosei and the deep textures of Lyele Gwapo, it doesn’t matter what moods the productions give off: he knows how to leave them the necessary space to create an almost natural alchemy with them, and that’s this controlled mix between musicality and strong identity that makes their music fresh and inspiring, moving away from the standards of “mainstream” French rap.

We’re trying to have our own musical identity and I think that’s what people are looking for now. They are a bit fed up with classic sounds and they are looking for strong identities. La Fève, interview with Inrocks, 2021.

But in this search for new sounds, La Fève and Khali are far from alone. Driven by a nebula of very talented artists, the keys to their musical success are also hidden in their solid surroundings.

The sound of a new generation

What would the music of La Fève and Khali be without 99? A true architect of the new generation, the so-called Ninety Nine officiates on all fronts: as talented in beatmaking as in interpretation, the artist also wears the cap of a technician very well when he mixes or records songs. And he has a decisive role. It is in his 99 Studio, in the suburbs of Paris, that La Fève and Khali meet to record together, in a workplace where connections are constantly made. In the studio, many of the artists of this emerging scene met to record under the wise advice of Ninety, including a certain Chanceko. It is thanks to this creative dynamic initiated by 99 that these rappers come together, driven by the same passion and this desire to make things happen. So when he presents his “Grand Casino” project in collaboration with Wolfkid in the summer of 2021, 99 keeps this same desire to bring people together. On the tape, La Fève, Slimka, Wit. , Lala &ce, Khali, J9ueve and Sonbest sublimate the choruses and productions of 99 with their strong identity and unique musicality: as a demonstration of the potential of the new generation, “Grand Casino” is a gem of the alternative scene. For two years now, collaborations between rappers and beatmakers of this movement have fused, and in this approach of mutual aid and sharing, the musical colors mingle to give emblematic pieces acclaimed by listeners. By dint of relentlessness, the new wave touches more and more, challenges by its productivity, and ended up finding a solid public.

Converted essay

Another figurehead of this generation, the rapper from Soundcloud J9ueve now has more than 120,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, a significant figure for an artist who has only released 2 EPs there. With his vaporous voice and his aerial prods, J9 embodies more haunting music, with nocturnal themes, between illegal substances and human relations. With his track “All my states”, J9 has teamed up with La Fève to sign a high-flying track among the most streamed by the artist: the million mark has also been crossed, an important step for artists that one could judge of still in development. But beyond the figures, their strength is that they have also been able to mobilize a very active fanbase: with each release, listeners mobilize and allow their favorite artists to reach more and more people, as if grateful to see reinvented French rap reach their ears. From now on, the ranks of the new generation are constantly expanding, and behind La Fève, Khali, J9ueve and 99, there is a whole nebula that strives to produce and offer new sounds in turn. We can particularly salute Sonbest and its very good Arcane, DMS and its EP Rideaux Bleus released last December, but also the ever more interesting work of composers, such as that of beatmaker Meel B, Unfamous Louie or Myth Syzer, who has also participated in the gathering of this scene, in particular through the mixtapes of his label Try 2 Live.

A real movement, the wave carried by these dozens of artists has tried to offer spontaneous music, wanting to get as close as possible to what they wanted to do: pushing the boundaries of French rap. With the dozens of projects released, the talents that emerge every day from this swell only enrich a movement already rich in its proposals. So while waiting to see what the new wave will have to offer us for 2022, let’s already continue to surf it by exploring its inexhaustible rollers.

Tim Levache

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