FRUKT Global Scenes #2 - French Rap taking on the world!
France, with its vibrant and diverse musical offerings, has long held prominence in the global music arena (being the sixth largest music market in the world, one which according to the IFPI Global Music Report 2023 grew 7.7% in 2022 - more than the UK or Germany) especially when it comes to electronic sounds and pop. French rap traditionally hasn’t crossed borders in quite the same way despite being the dominant genre in its homeland, but its ability to shake up the global dominance by US artists is becoming increasingly evident.
In the ever-evolving landscape of global music culture, it's not uncommon for unexpected shifts to occur and recently, eyes have been on this new wave of French rap acts, and for good reason. One of the UK’s biggest artists Dave has recently teamed up with rising French rapper Tiakola (pictured above) for single ‘Meridian’ which has already been a major hit around Europe nearing 20m Spotify streams, as well as receiving praise from NME and Complex.
This collaboration follows a pattern of recent years, with the UK and French rap scenes cultivating a close kinship. Since the pandemic, we’ve seen UK artists like Digga D (working with Timal), Headie One (with Gazo), and Central Cee (with Freeze Corleone) crossing the Channel, collaborating with French artists and creating a musical exchange that's bridging linguistic and cultural gaps. This synergy of the two scenes has breathed new life into the music industry and signifies a shift away from the insular mindset that once dominated the English-speaking music scene.
We often perceive the US (and increasingly the UK and Latin America) to be the epicentre of global rap culture, with English being the most spoken language in the world, but the reality is far more complex. Firstly, the genre’s dominance within France is indisputable; looking at the top 50 most-streamed songs on Spotify in France this week, 37 fall under rap, compared to just 12 in the same list for the US. Filing this down to the top 25 reveals an even more stark difference; just 5 of the US’s most streamed songs are rap, compared to 23 in France.
Linguistically, French artists possess a unique ability to connect with diverse and often unrepresented demographics across the globe, particularly within Africa. In fact, French is the dominant language of almost 30 countries across the continent, a list which doesn’t even include Algeria, Tunisia or other former-French colonies where it’s widely spoken. Looking at the aforementioned Tiakola, his two biggest audience markets after France are Ivory Coast and the DRC, demonstrating a growing young African music audience tuning in.
Tiakola’s two biggest two audience markets after France are Ivory Coast and the DRC, demonstrating a growing young African music audience tuning in.
In addition, France’s marginalised communities have led to a wave of new voices expressing their anger through their music, creating art detailing an immediate struggle relatable to millions around the world. Racism and social inequality are prominent themes in the music emerging from France - ‘Le monde au rien’, a phrase coined by French rap duo PNL, became the rallying cry that took over the streets of Paris in 2015 during protests and riots triggered by a range of social issues, and four years later their album ‘Deux frères’ went on to outsell every artist in Atlanta combined.
Another intriguing aspect of the French music landscape is its radio quota laws dating back to the 90s, which mandate that 40% of songs played on each station must be sung in the French language. The primary aim of these laws is to safeguard French culture and maintain its reverence and while this policy feels restrictive with underlying motivations that pose interesting social questions (who exactly has the right to say they are French, for instance, and what then is French culture?) it’s had a profound impact on the local music industry. Radio stations are forced to diversify their playlists and often turn to French rap, the genre they know to be most popular among younger listeners. This unintentional consequence has provided a significant boost to marginalised music scenes and the rap artists themselves.
As we witness French rap artists' continued ascent and its increasing impact on the global stage, one cannot help but wonder: could it one day overtake the US scene? While it may seem like a distant possibility, the fluidity of the music industry suggests that anything is possible. With its diverse influences, global resonance, and willingness to tackle important societal issues head-on, French rap is undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with in the world of music culture.
With its diverse influences, global resonance, and willingness to tackle important societal issues head-on, French rap is undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with in the world of music culture.
FRUKT has worked with numerous artists in this exciting scene so please check out our specially curated FRUKT French Rap playlist here, and if you want to learn more about the artists then see below:
FRUKT worked with Josman when he was just a buzzy new name breaking in 2017. Since then he’s risen up the ranks and is now one of France’s hottest rappers, headlining the huge Accor Arena in Paris in February 2024.
French-Ivorian rapper Lala &ce brings a blend of smooth and hard, trap rap and r’n’b with a level of elegance that’s unmatched. Born in Bron, France and now residing in Lisbon, her music explores sexuality, discussing social issues surrounding queerness and race.
Freeze Corleone is a Parisian artist and producer who resides in Dakar, Senegal. His debut studio album ‘LMF’ reached #2 on the French charts and quickly achieved gold certification in just three weeks. His hard-hitting, often controversial lyrics coupled with vicious trap instrumentation culminate in a sound that can only be described as evil itself.
Kay the Prodigy
A rising star of the Parisian scene, Kay the Prodigy has been tipped by Deezer and Rinse FM, with a stunning flow that perfectly complements the killer jazz, film soundtrack, and 80s soul-inspired productions. Check her new album ‘Triple Kay Supremacy’.
Jul, the current heavyweight of French rap, was born in Marseille's 12th arrondissement and dropped his debut album ‘Dans ma paranoïa’ in 2014. He’s since released at least two projects a year independently under his own label D'Or et de Platine, and in February 2020 he became the highest-selling artist in French rap history at just 30 years old.
Squidji, who played at our ibis MUSIC Montreux Jazz Festival stage in 2022, stands out as an incredibly promising artist from his generation, thanks to the unique blend of vulnerability and poetry in his music, delivered through sultry tones over beautiful r’n’b and afroswing-inspired beats.
Mandyspie sets herself apart from the French rap scene with an incredibly melodic flow, often swimming in reverb, that sits against ethereal, trappy production that feels inspired by the likes of Pierre Bourne and ICYTWAT. A relative newcomer to the scene, her mesmerising voice and uptempo songs show great promise in the coming months and years.
With an old skool flow that reminds of the golden era rappers, Benjamin Epps’ tracks are soulful and warmer than many of his contemporaries, and he’s collaborated with some big names already for a new artist, including Lou and the Yakuza and the aforementioned Josman.
Another artist that performed for ibis MUSIC at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2022, Jäde glides effortlessly across r’n’b-inspired production with a voice that's both haunting and angelic. Sometimes eerie, sometimes playful, her melancholic tones consistently evoke emotion, and with some epic collaborations under her belt over the span of a relatively short career so far, Jäde is tipped to make a huge impact in 2024.
S.Pri Noir rocked a Paris branch of Foot Locker back in 2017 in a FRUKT-produced show, and he’s gone on to achieve major things since then, even being nominated as Best International Act at the 2020 BET Awards. He’s collaborated with Nefkeu and both his albums have gone top five in his homeland.