Last week Tuesday I was part of a really dope Clubhouse session on France’s hip-hop scene. I’ve read a bunch of good articles on French rap over the years, but I wanted to learn from the folks who make that culture what it is.
This chat was hosted by Ouafa Mameche at Face Cachées, Sébastien Darvin at Abcdr du Son, and Shereen Dbouk (who was kind enough to translate for English listeners), and several more speakers. They invited a bunch of speakers who work in streaming, record labels, management, media, and more. Here are some big takeaways:
The independent route is more popular. In the U.S., we’ve yet to see unsigned artists reach Taylor Swift or Travis Scott levels of stardom. This is why U.S. record labels still command attention from unsigned artists. But in France, it’s (relatively) easier for unsigned artists to get to where Niska and PNL are at. It’s still hard as hell to get there. But the relative difference from the U.S. makes the French indie alternative even more attractive.
Also, French major labels often offer advances at $10,000 – $15,000! That’s low compared to the top-tier superstars, which makes the indie route even more attractive.
Streaming playlist placement matters more too. Getting on the biggest playlists can make or break an artist’s career, even at the smallest stages. Especially in France, where the streaming, media, and curation economy is more concentrated. It’s no surprise. U.S. centric-playlists like RapCaviar have been covered extensively for their influence. But in the U.S. that influence has become even more fragmented in the past few years.
The superstar culture is different. Many hip-hop markets outside the U.S. have “broken through” thanks to co-signs from U.S. artists. I have mixed feelings about this.
On one hand, I get it. Hip-hop is one of America’s biggest cultural export. If a Drake co-sign is a rising tide that can lift all boats, why not let Mr. Houstatlantavegas himself rap-sing a few bars in a different language?
But relying on U.S. culture for breakout success is a never-ending cycle. The biggest artists in France have built their careers from the ground up. They haven’t had that Bad Bunny type of rise, but I’m not sure they want that either. If it happens, dope. But if not, the artists will be fine without it.
Thanks again to Ouafa, Shereen, and Seb for making this event happen! If you want to learn more about France’s hip-hop scene, read this DJBooth article.