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What records remain in French rap?

Jul very close to Johnny Hallyday in number of platinum discs, Organized Band breaks the record for the fastest diamond single in the history of French music, Ninho becomes the first French artist to exceed 200 certified singles, Orelsan achieves the best first week since Johnny… Week after week, French rap aligns records. Having become the most popular musical genre, it is largely in the majority among the younger generations, and has gradually imposed itself on the ears of the oldest. The democratization of streaming has of course been the tipping point for the rap industry: this mode of listening is the one favored by listeners under 35, which explains why rap artists find themselves at the top of the rankings every week.

However, the accumulation of certifications testifies to profound changes in the system of accumulation of sales. Before the era of streaming, a single could only be certified by being physically published: in 45 rpm format at the time of records, or 2-track CDs afterwards. For example, it was unthinkable to seek to obtain a gold single for each track of an album, whereas today it is the case for the best-selling projects. Among Ninho’s 200 gold, platinum or diamond singles, there are several intros and several outros. Between the extreme popularity of rappers, and the sales accounting system that plays in their favour, the current headliners are therefore breaking records that until now belonged mainly to Johnny Hallyday, but also to Mylène Farmer or Céline Dion . What records can French rap still hope to grab?

The largest number of spectators for a musical performance

Current owner: Jean Michel Jarre

Record to beat: 3.5 million in Moscow in 1997, or, if we stay on French territory, 2.5 million in La Défense in 1990 (without cheating, since the account is certified by the Guinness Book).

Who to beat him? Right now, it’s hard to believe that anyone (in rap or elsewhere) could pull off such a feat. It would take not only a very big seller, but above all, someone capable of creating the event: we can bet on PNL, Orelsan or Jul. Above all, we should get out of the uncertainty linked to the pandemic. It would indeed be a shame to plan such a concert years in advance, to engage in such logistics, to finally be limited by a 25% gauge, or by an obligation to sit shows with a two-meter distance between each spectator.

The title that remained number 1 the longest

Current holders: Happy (Pharell Williams) and Shallow (Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper)

Record to beat: 22 weeks

Who to beat him? The democratization of streaming has gone hand in hand with the evolution of music consumption patterns: the lifespan of an album or a single is much shorter, and therefore, this record will be difficult to obtain. 22 weeks is huge, and it’s hard to imagine a single title staying at the top for 5 long months! Historically, French rap has very few examples to refer to. The first real piece of the genre is The tribe of Dana (which, whatever one thinks, remains a piece of rap in form) with 12 consecutive weeks, very far, therefore, from Pharell Williams or Lady Gaga. To understand what 22 weeks at the top represent: that’s exactly double what Bande Organisé achieved in 2020.

Most Music Awards

Current holders : Alain Bashung and Mathieu Chedid

Record to beat : 13 Victories

Who to beat him? We would not have bet on many people before the last ceremony, but the 3 Victories of Orelsan (Original Song, Audiovisual Creation, Male Artist) allowed him to bring his total to 9 awards. He is only one length behind Johnny Hallyday and Alain Souchon, and could, if he still wins everything at a future ceremony, go for the top of the standings. Given the historical disenchantment between the institution of Victoires and French rap, it would be quite comical for a rap artist to end up on the top step of the podium.

Most records sold abroad

Current owner: David Guetta
Record to beat: 35 million sales

Who to beat him? French rap is being exported better and better, and even if the diffusion of the genre remains limited by the language barrier, some are real hits. The figures for Gims are eloquent: his single Tell me that you love me is five times platinum in Italy; Far is platinum in Germany, Hola Senorita platinum in Spain; in 2018, half a million copies of the album My Heart Was Right were sold abroad. A great success, which however remains insufficient to hope to get the huge scores of David Guetta – who does not have the language barrier.

The best-selling album in France

Current owner: Of Them, by Celine Dion (1995)

Record to beat: 4.5 million (and this score is limited to sales made on French territory, so as not to discourage our rappers)

Who to beat him? The biggest score in the history of French rap is to the credit of IAM, with one and a half million copies of L’école du Micro d’Argent. A real feat, especially since this album does not have an eye on the mainstream, and develops without any calculation the themes dear to the Marseille group. Among the current headliners, it is difficult to exceed one million: only Gims went for a double diamond disc in 2021 for Black Belt, 3 years after its release. PNL is also very close to a million with Dans la Légende, and should eventually reach it with Deux Frères.

Achieving this symbolic score is already a historic feat. Multiplying it by 5 to get Celine Dion’s record seems unthinkable at the moment, unless there is a reform in the accounting of streams which would artificially inflate the number of sales equivalents. However, current artists have an advantage over previous generations: as long as an album is listened to on the platforms, it continues to accumulate sales. We can therefore imagine that a big scorer with a loyal fan base over many years, even decades (Orelsan, PNL) can gradually approach it.

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