French rap entered autumn in the same ascendant fashion, defining the most successful year in its history. In October, domestic superstars Gims and Soprano headlined monumental stadium shows in Paris and Marseille, while jocular Parisian Vald released his third album Ce monde est cruel, selling more in its first week than every US hip-hop album released in the month, combined.
From trap to trillwave, horrorcore to pop-rap, French rappers currently occupy 36 places in France’s Top 50 singles charts.
Here, for your discovery, are the five choice cuts from a stellar October in rap francais.
Alpha Wann — “PISTOLET ROSE 2”
A Paris native of Guyanese origin, Alpha Wann began his career over a decade ago. Alongside French rap celebutante Nekfeu, he’s one of the founding members of the collective 1995. The hexadic group’s first and only album, Paris Sud Minute, claimed the Best Urban Album at the 2014 Victoires de la Musique (France’s equivalent of the GRAMMY Award) before turning their efforts to solo careers. After a trinity of self-released EPs, the Americophile—who counts Friends among his land-of-liberty passions—released his critically acclaimed debut album, Une main lave l’autre, in 2018. Bar-for-bar, the 30-year-old inarguably ranks among the finest of France’s rap technicians.
“PISTOLET ROSE 2” is one-third of Alpha’s surprise three-track project, PPP. The track, a minute and a half of unadulterated lyrical fury over a celestial riddim, is produced by longtime collaborator JayJay. The freestyle—premiered in a scintillating Colors performance—showcased Philly Flingue at his freewheeling best, capering over the chordophone heavy arrangement and unhanding piquant bars at will.
Ikaz Boi — “BAD DAYS” (feat. Hamza)
A Dr. Dre disciple from France’s own West Coast, Ikaz Boi is a leading figure in the new generation of French producers. With a transatlantic resume boasting some of the most prominent names in both the American and French scenes, the 29-year-old of Moroccan origin secured his first US collaboration with a pre-Acid Rap Chance The Rapper, following a Twitter conversation in 2012. Since then, he’s been behind the boards for Vic Mensa, Quavo, and Travis Scott while burnishing his reputation in France for his work with Belgian rappers Damso and Hamza. Debuting his first solo project Brutal in 2018, its superior follow up Brutal 2 is an eminent demonstration of Ikaz Boi’s ambient ilk of trap sonics.
The second single from Brutal 2, “BAD DAYS” is a joint effort with popular rap-singer Hamza. A mellifluous ode to the problems that money only enhances, “BAD DAYS” is a nimbus showcase of seamless chemistry. Driven by Ikaz Boi’s ethereal arrangement, Hamza waxes lyrical on how fame and success have only complicated his agenda. One of rap francais’ most bankable assets, the Belgian’s musicality steers the song into predictably singalong territory, showcasing why the pair are respectively two of the most sought out artists in French hip-hop.
Siboy — “TWAPPLIFE”
Arguably rap francais’ most versatile artist, Brazzaville-born Siboy is a rapper, singer, and beatmaker—all under one ski mask. Preferring the anonymity of life in the border town of Mulhouse to national celebrity, the 28-year-old fell into hip-hop when experimenting with production equipment left at his home by a friend. Catching the attention of rap superstar Booba with his “Mailler” freestyle, he was signed to the rapper’s Capitol imprint in 2015. A debut album, Special, followed in 2017, firmly implanting the horrorcore rapper as one of the most compelling new artists in France. Equally adept at crooning Afropop floor fillers as he is dispensing riotous trap 16s, the Lil’ Jon fan’s highly anticipated sophomore album, TWAPPLIFE, is expected on November 9.
“TWAPPLIFE” is the title track from the impending project: A murderous ditty, set to air raid sirens and radioactive snares. Over an abridged Canchee production, Siboy discharges kill-at-will bars (“I caress my gun, thinking about murder, even if nobody’s done anything’”) devoted to disorder (“If you want peace, go find Mandela”). A powerful testament to his standing as the future of hardcore French rap, “TWAPPLIFE” is Siboy at his menacing best.
Dinos — “XNXX”
A certifiable battle rap name-taker, Dinos was chalking up a capella triumphs over older adversaries before the age of 18. Earning a reputation for his acerbic wit, the charismatic Cameroon-born emcee, raised in France’s infamous 4000 city projects, transitioned from battle league notoriety in 2013 with his L’alchimiste EP. Following drawn out label wrangling, Dinos put his punchlines behind him and revamped his reputation as a sensitive troubadour, by way of an acclaimed 2018 debut album, Imany. With his second album, Taciturne, set to be released in November, the 25-year-old appears ordained for a position among France’s most revered emcees.
“XNXX” is the forerunner to Taciturne, a hazy rap ballad gracefully capturing the genius loci of Dino’s musical universe. Elegantly orchestrated by Wav Maker, “XNXX” subtly erupts with one of the year’s most vivid refrains (“The Champs Elysées shines with the light of Africa”). Letting his guard down and embracing his anguish (“Tears on the floor, blood on the walls, if you ask me who I am, I’ll tell you I’m lost”), Dinos transforms his melancholy into a delicate serenade, packed with doleful one-liners: “I don’t trust anyone, I’ve seen The Wire three times.”
Luv Resval — “Judas”
One of a prodigious group of young emcees signed to prolific Algerian-French producer Kore’s new AWA (Arab with Attitude) music group, 21-year-old Luv Resval is a can’t-miss prospect for 2020. Raised in the same Parisian suburbs as PNL and Niska, French rap came second to teenage Luv, who instead found rhyming inspiration in Lil Boosie and Young Thug. Luv displays an innate knack for both cadence and melody in a series of freestyle videos. His first official project, a 2018-released Mariah Carey inspired EP in collaboration with veteran emcee Alkpote, preceded a steady series of singles this summer, setting the scene for his impending first solo project.
“Judas” is an atmospheric exposition of Luv Resval’s musical sensibilities. Cavorting over Kore and Aurélien Mazin’s percussive mise-en-scène, Luv drops win-at-all-cost bars (“I’m like Judas in the middle of the apostles”) before switching into an angelic euphony. Charmingly making an anti-hero of Judas Iscariot (“I’ll drag them down in my fall, like Jesus and Judas”), young Resval might not make for the best comrade-in-arms, but he’s ten to one the future of French rap.