What place does the discourse of love occupy in French-speaking rap?

“We said the worst, but also the best. Now you sigh, there is less better (…) You went angry. Because I changed, you will punish me. I do not intend to take revenge, I just want to remember we were sublime, sublime. ” On March 18, after a four-year absence, Disiz unveiled Love – an album entirely dedicated to the feeling of love – which opens with this piece, Wonderful. In full promotion, the rapper does not hesitate to reveal his sentimental side and to evoke the way in which love has influenced his life.

Disiz is not alone in moving in this direction. Songs that evoke love actually seem to have multiplied in recent years, until they have become a sort of obligatory passage for all French-language rap albums. A trend found among rappers as diverse as Lomepal, Orelsan, Nekfeu, Ninho, Laylow, Dinos or even Christmas. But is this amorous discourse ubiquitous such a new phenomenon?

More ways to rap love

The journalist and host of the show Urban legends on RFI and France 24 Juliette Fievet does not believe that love is more present than before in rappers’ lyrics. She rather thinks that feeling is essential now “in another form”. “20 years ago, rap should have been conscious. At the time of Kery James, Oxmo Puccino, MC Solaar, he asked for consistent specifications with a dissertation, an antithesis, a synthesis and wanted to make each song a theme. This is no longer the case today “she develops.

Joy, despair, failures, regrets … What do rappers say about love? “In rap, no one has problems talking about love, but you have to find an angle to do it in an interesting way. And that is often the guilt. It is more sincere, honest and fragile, contrary to what one might think.continues the journalist, inviting us to distinguish rapeseed subgenres. “Every stream speaks of love in its own way, whether it is positive or negative, often also with great modesty when it comes to women who have inspired them. On the contrary, it would be more crude to talk about a sex plan », analyzes Juliette Fievet. According to her, the “love” turn in rap took place around 2010, when rap began to reach an ever larger audience, and became “entertainment that replaces the French variety”.

Every weekend, Juliette Fievet receives rappers and rappers on her show Urban legends.

Far from these subtle distinctions, it is often the violent and frontal image that takes precedence when it comes to connecting rap and love. But that does not surprise the journalist, who is used to asking rappers about the problem in her show: “There may be a gang side to the rap that is unique to the alpha male. There are obviously many rappers who do not develop their heartache, more out of modesty than misogyny. Sometimes they also do not hesitate to break down very masculine codes and say that they have been preoccupied with a woman. »

To illustrate her point, Juliette Fievet lists the references – of which there are dozens! -, by Kalash Criminal “Who is aware of, swearing, talking about geopolitics, a chicken thigh, a woman, the respect he has for his mother, and all that in one piece”to Gradur and its pipes Rosapassing through Gazo, “who says love is cool but he does not have time because he has to make money”. Booba is an unsurpassed master of love punchlines, and comes first on his list, especially with his title Sand grainsfrom the album Ultra (2021). Ten years earlier, the rapper from Hauts-de-Seine was already engaged in fell for herwhich has since become his love song par excellence: “I love her, I only have eyes for her. The only one that suits me, I fell for her. »

A necessity?

French-speaking rappers of the new generation are constantly using amorous discourses, even if it means they are immediately connected to their sentimental lyrics. In 2017, for example, Lomepal had instant success with its first album Vend and his piece says the eyeswhich tells of the harsh reality of the relationship between pessimism and lack of investment.

IN Jeannine (2018), carried by Too beautifulAntoine Valentinelli of his real name this time told an old destructive story: “Our story could never have ended in peace and tenderness. I hate you like the phrase that said it was too good to be true. »

Nekfeu, who is almost the same age as Lomepal, has also changed his way of talking about emotions between his albums. In the play ridiculous loveson the album Fire (2015) he uses several sexual metaphors, whereas in Galatea on Cyborg (2016) he addresses a former lover he neglected in favor of his music. As for his real Love song on The Wandering Stars: Expansion (2019), he concludes it explicitly with “You are my first love song with a happy ending”.

As soon as his first album was released in 2016, the Belgian Damso admitted when he spoke to Radio Nova that he was “a great romantic”. On QALF Infinity (2021), he devotes more and more pieces to the feeling of love. It’s also a matter of one “gangster dropped love” in 911 how hard it is to talk about feelings about Sentimentalor a painful fracture in crumbled heart.

Among the most eloquent pieces in recent years are also helsinki (2018) by Dinos, where he talks about the brutality of a breakup: “Hard to tell me this story is distant, if you knew how much I hate you, you would know how much I love you. And when I wake up, I remember my lips will no longer touch yours.”

In early 2021, the rapper of Strasbourg origin Ashh – formerly known as Ashkidd – unveiled the album Love and violencecarried by eloquent love songs like You and me. Above, he offered himself a duet with MC Solaar (Red), still hailed today for his unforgettable love song carolina (1991).

The artist, who has since presented his new opus, Opiumwhere it’s always about emotions, constantly told us to be inspired by love: “Since writing, I feel comfortable with this topic because it has many facets. But it’s still hard to talk about it. » After a shy laugh, he justifies himself: “I am not a professional in the field, I have many questions. I’ve been in love and I will be again. There are many doors to open because love remains a mystery. »

And he is not the only one for whom the theme is still difficult to work with: “When I interviewed Vald, he told me that he would love to dedicate an album to love, but that it is very difficult that it requires a lot of maturity.”supports Juliette Fievet.

Emotions are therefore inevitably an integral part of favorite rape songs, so much so that in recent years some artists have transcribed their love stories in the form of a new chapter presented on each new album.

A gender issue?

What about female rappers? “Rappers will often have a tendency to show their share of masculinityanalyzes Juliette Fievet. And on the other hand, they will not hesitate to say that they are crushed. » Interviewed by Konbini on the occasion of the release of her song You my love (2021), recognized Chilla: “I want to play the bad girl, but I’m a serious romantic.”

Another female character in French rap, Shay has been talking about love since her first album beautiful bitch (2016). Her lyrics develop according to her view of the couple: “I believe in love, but I have a problem with the couple and the woman’s position in the couple (…) I do not care about being with a guy because I do not think I have a need” she explained to 20 minutes after leavingAntidote (2019).

Some female rappers thus acquire the discourse of love by also in their words anchoring inequalities between the sexes and the need to get taken over in their relationship.

Take inspiration away from rap

To tell the story of love, Ashh admits that he is inspired by many other artists and not necessarily by rappers. “I think of the Italian Ermal Meta and his play A million things to eat which I listen to with my grandmother ”, shares Strasbourg residents. On the other hand, according to him, it is obvious to tell love in rap, thank you “to its sounds and its freedom”.

In his latest album, Civilization (2021), presented Orelsan Athenapiece where he first personifies a declaration of love, three years after the success of Paradise : “Because I like it better when you’re nearby.” You protect me and guide my steps, Athena (…) And believe me, I know why I love you. Ten years reminds me of that. » The guest of the show Title to title at France Inter, in November last year, he called her one “love song, without other degree, without any shame, no modesty” and said he was inspired by “lover’s music, piano voice” he listens to, and in particular the singer Adele.

No more than before, but perhaps in a freer and more inspired way, rap therefore makes love one of its driving forces, but always in its own way. Juliette Fievet concludes: “In rap, there is this awareness that the exercise is difficult. I feel that rappers are often more honest when it comes to love than in other musical styles. »

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