This week, I decided to make the list of the best French rappers of all time. To establish this ranking, I relied on three criteria:
- Talent: voice, lyrics and flow
- Commercial Success: though it is not synonymous with quality, I think it is important to reward those who are able to generate money through their music. (It’s not easy, I know What am I talking about!) Unfortunately, this criterion was detrimental for super talented rappers such as Black Kent , R.E.D.K. and Jarod.
- Longevity: To be included in this ranking, you must have been in the game for at least five years. By this barometer, uber-talented rookies like MHD couldn’t make the cut.
Even though I went to great lengths to be as objective as possible, I must confess that there is a big dose of subjectivity in my choices. Without further ado, here are the ten best French rappers of all time:
- La Fouine
Fouiny Baby is one of the more talented artists in this list, but his tame lyrics have dented his claim for the throne. If his pen game was more refined, then he would surely be in the top five of the best French rappers of all time.
Lino is the antithesis of La Fouine. Melodies are not his forte, but his pen is undoubtedly the best in the French rap game! Do you not agree with me? Never mind! I prefer to die misunderstood than to spend all my life explaining myself.
Sexion d’Assaut is one of the best French rap groups of all time. And Lefa is clearly the best rapper in this potent squad.
- MC Solaar
As disappointing as his new song “Sonotone” may be, I cannot forget that MC Solaar is the first rapper to have shown me that it is possible to make great rap using the proper French locution. His first two albums Qui sème le vent récolte le tempo and Prose combat are in the pantheon of French rap albums.
I noticed her when she was still rapping with the Mafia Trece . Then, I witnessed her steadfast ascension towards the greats. Thanks to her talent and determination, she eventually landed in the top tier by the mid-2000s. Truly, Diam’s deserves to be much higher in this ranking, but I punished her because she decided to retire and thus deprive us of good music. I resent her for that.
Withoutt a doubt, Rohff is a legend in French rap. The Minister of War will certainly not be happy to learn that he is in fifth position, but I have thought about it long enough: Rohff doesn’t outclass the four rappers I put ahead of him.
- Kery James
One of the rare rappers whose music is family friendly — at a time when vulgarity has become commonplace — I thank the Heavens for sending us Alix Mathurin. Kery James has gained my admiration because he probably proved to be the only one able to make a timeless album by just rapping over xylophones. When he converted to Islam, he recorded Si c’était à refaire and did away with woodwinds and strings. Despite this restriction he imposed on himself, he managed to craft one of the best French rap albums of all time. Kudos!
Soprano is a complete rapper: he raps well and is just as capable when it comes to singing. Sure, his standing within the hip hop community took a hit since he decided to make pop music, but I’d like to recall that Soprano is an extraordinary rapper. Fickle minds should be compelled to watch his last performance at the Hip Hop Awards . In 40 seconds he showed the Americans (and the World) that he’s of rare ilk However, he loses valuable points for his voice, the twangy nature of whic can irritate at times.
I’ve been listening to Youssoupha for about ten years and his verses always range from good to great. They are never bad! Youssoupha is a bit like the Jay-Z of French rap: Naysayers might decry his physical appearance, but they can never question its talent.
Lunatic (2010) is the last Booba album that I thoroughly enjoyed. In spite of that, I have to give the crown to the Duke of Boulogne because he’s led French rap with an iron fist for the past 15 years.
What about you? Do you agree with me? Write your top 10 in the comments section. Thank you!
The original opinion piece can be found on ‘Un lion parmi les hommes‘