Marseille is for french rappers, one of the most influential cities and the place where legends of the movement born. The Mediterranean landscape and the beautiful beaches are only a small aspect of the region, even if it is the most depicted picture internationally.
Of course, when you are a tourist, you are not going to Marseille to visit popular places such as “Le Panier” in the center or the suburb, “Felix Pyat” and the “Parc Kalliste” often in the news for criminal cases and some of the poorest hood of France. But Marseille is not only a place of violence and drug as it is depicted in the news. Art and especially street-art is highly important in the city and is literally shaping the downtown life.
In popular areas of the town, the artistic expression of inhabitants is growing everywhere. A very particular atmosphere is coming out of these tiny streets. Some of this expression takes its roots during the early ’90s and the beginning of the hip-hop movement.
The ‘Samurais’ of the French Rap
IAM is born in the 1980s with the name “Lively Crew”, the group was composed of Akhenaton, DJ Kheops, Nasty Mister Bollocks, MCP One and Sudio. The 5 fellows will first produce in 1986 with other rappers of the South. Dj Kheops and Akhenaton will continue to work together and after a trip in New-York, the place of birth of the hip-hop movement, they are back in town with inspirations and lyrics that are about to change the French History forever.
With more than 300 hundreds pieces of vinyl in the pocket, Kheops and Akhenaton are now alone versus the rest of the world. The only two who stayed in the group will work on their music to make it perfect. After a few years of collaboration and little projects, they meet Kephren and Freeman and changed their name for IAM. They published their first album the same year thanks to the connection Akhenaton had in the business. Two years after, in 1991,”… de la planète Mars” is released and put the group at the top of the French rappers of the time, along with NTM, Mc Solaar or Oxmo Puccino. At the moment, they are the only rappers not coming from Paris having so much success.
Their diversity and spirit of the group was maybe the recipe of their success. The years after the first two projects IAM was walking on the rap-game, the title “Je danse le Mia” stayed for months in the billboard and touched people who were not listening to rap music. Thanks to their success and their ability to make underground music accessible they obtain a place of choice in french people’s ears. “Petit Frére” and its legendary sample from Gary Sandeur, “Demain c’est Loin” and more are still classics in France, as well for 90s teenagers or their children.
After years of calm and month of celebrating their 20 years of existence, the group realized on the 22nd of November their 10th album. The project was as well waited by a nostalgic fan of old-school that is now 40 past years old or his son. IAM is a journey across times and cultures giving an idea of what South of France really looks like.
This song is in collaboration with another emblematic group, Psy4 De La Rime.
Between Arabic influences and Japanese sounds, the DJ’s (not beatmakers) are giving to the soundtrack of the album the touch that is so well representing the rappers and their city, with a universal and very open-minded approach. Between society’s problem, nostalgy and dancing sounds, this album is perfect for those who want to be introduced to a new aspect of France, a more realistic one, far away from the Eiffel Tower and The Champs-Elysée. Closer to the warm little streets of Marseille and its hoods, Akhenaton and his fellows are rapping the “real-life” but are also questioning their first projects.
“Les bad-boys de Marseille”
While IAM was revolutionizing the French rap, in the center of Marseille, another group was growing up. Between graffitis, dance, and obviously rap music. Two groups of young graffers and rappers composed by DJ Djel, Sat et l’autre gars de la ville rose, Don Choa (313), Menzo, and Le Rat Luciano (Black and White Zulus) decided to create the group ‘Fonky Family’ together just before their first live show.
This impulsive collective of artists, mixed to Dj Djel productions, started to make their voice louder downtown. Between the “Panier” quarter and “La Friche” little streets, they obtain a reputation. Akhenaton (IAM) decided to offer them a contract in his label. The group started to collaborate with IAM and other french rappers and their success started really fast around the country.
In 1998, “Si Dieu Veut” was released and became an instant classic, and it is still one of the most emblematic project of French rap. The songs “Sans rémisions” or “Cherche pas à comprendre” impressed all the music sphere in French-speaking countries. Their ability to rap “the street” as they said, was really refreshing and affects many young people living in poverty in the hoods and countryside of France. Their video clips were home-made, in their neighborhood with their friends, giving a new impression of ghettos in France. This style is still present in many clips today but was very new at the moment.
Marseille as always been a place of art and sharing between communities giving birth to a variety of artists incredibly successful through the styles and period of music. Nowadays, a good part of the most known french rappers are coming from Marseille. Beating records with their discs they are here to remember to every French rapper that Marseille-made rap is incomparable to any other kind of music
Here some artist from Marseille for some who would like to discover a part of the French rap music:
Of course, this is a non-exhaustive list.
More old school selection: