Hip-hop and rap have been heavily represented at this year’s Paléo Festival. Moreover, if previous editions have seen rappers from around the world come and play, this year nearly all of them were French-speaking. If a few years ago the idea of having French-speaking rappers coming from anywhere else than France would have seemed strange, the incredible vitality of both the Belgian and Swiss hip-hop scene has changed that. On Thursday, Romeo Elvis delivered one of the best concerts of the festival. Thanking the crowd for enjoying the concert instead of filming it on their phones and for being so enthusiastic, he declared his love for Switzerland and to his Swiss fans.
The same evening saw the rising stars of the local hip-hop scene give what was probably the concert with the craziest public of the week. XTRM tour brings together three MCs who are definitely going places with their art. They owned the stage and kept the fire burning for the whole show.
The linguistic divide tends to apply to music the same Swiss-German rap is not very popular or well-known on this side of the Röstigraben, the linguistic border (metaphorically made of Rösti, the quintessentially Swiss-German fried potato dish) that separates Switzerland between the French and German speakers. S.O.S are set to change this. The Bernese collective who rap on tracks heavily inspired by trap and other very heavy beat gave Paléo a chance to realise that you don’t necessarily have to understand the lyrics to enjoy their music. Their Swiss-German dialect went really well with their very fast flow and the very electronic tracks they rapped to. Speaking a mix of French and English to the crowd, they seemed really happy with the way the crowd was reacting to their show.
Most of the rappers and crews who played this week come from the new generations of artists, redefining the genre and taking it in many different directions. The important number of rappers is obviously a sign of a very healthy and creative scene. But celebrating the new and the hip doesn’t mean you have to forget where it all started. The main concert of the night was French hip-hop legends (and whose name you wouldn’t want to tell your mum about) Supreme NTM. I’ll let you figure out what the acronym means, considering the last word is French for mother and the N would be translated by an F in English… The bad boys (probably better sons than their name suggests) of French rap, JoeyStarr and Kool Shen, boast 30 years of career and are still going strong.
Their tracks have accompanied generation after generation of teenagers, from the dancy Ma Benz to the rap-manifesto of My people. After a week of rather disappointing concerts on the main stage when it came to the famous, older bands like Depeche Mode and The Killers, whose concerts were rather boring and uninspired, NTM finally showed us that you can have nothing left to prove and still give it everything you’ve got. They have obviously calmed down a bit and are probably slightly less rebellious than they were thirty years ago: after playing their song Police, which is probably the French equivalent to NWA’s Fuck the police, JoeyStarr concluded by saying that the police were just like public transport: we wouldn’t go very far without them. That song and its sample of KRS One’s Sound of da Police is a great example of an auditive hallucination: for most French-speaking people, “it’s the sound of the police” is understood as “assassin de la police” (cop killer), making it a big hit in the French hip-hop scene. It’s a rather interesting anecdote about the weird ways our brains work!