Rap Your Way To French Fluency With French Hip Hop

23 July 2022
By Sarah Angela Almaden
Les sages


Claude Debussy once said that “Music is the expression of the movement of the waters, the play of curves described by the changing breezes.” Sounds beautiful doesn’t it?

The thing about music is that it can really transport you to a place you’ve never been before. It has the power to make you feel happy, sad, angry, annoyed, and many more emotions. Additionally, listening to music reduces stress by helping regulate your cortisol levels. If you want, you can even sing along like no one’s watching. Who cares, you’re only having fun?

There are many musical genres out there, and one of them is Hip hop. Hip hop music is a genre that was created among the Black, Latino, and Caribbean communities of New York in the 1970s. And there is also French Hip hop – a subgenre of Hip hop that originated in countries that speak French. Quick fact: France is actually the second-largest hip hop market in the world.

The history of French Hip hop goes back to the 70s and the 80s, with MC Solaar emerging as its first major artist. Later, two major subgenres came out in the French Hip hop scene: one that is more laid-back and the other that is more hardcore. Throughout the 90s, Hip hop grew throughout France and it became one of the most popular genres in the country, and it even received international attention.

Now, French Hip hop can be defined by two main subcategories: Hip hop from the north and Hip hop from the south. The two subcategories are very distinct from each other and their differences can be heard in its lyrics. For example, Hip hop from the north often talks a lot about drug trade and ghetto life. Whereas, Hip hop from the south emphasizes the fight against discrimination. Truly, French Hip hop is defined by the stories of the artists and their experiences in life, love, and loss.

There is more to French Hip hop than its punchy rhythms. So if you’ve got 5 minutes to spare, learn French by immersing yourself in this world of French culture. You really won’t regret it. *wink* Here's a list of 6 stracks to get you started.

Mode Avion by Favé

Are you on airplane mode? Because Favé’s snappy song is really about being on airplane mode or mode avion in French, which is another way of saying that he cannot be reached. The tea is: the girl keeps messaging him, but he wants nothing from her anymore. What happened between them? Who knows.

Pour moi, c'est mort, j'ai plus d'amour
(For me it's dead, I have no more love)

Elle m'dit qu'elle veut plus avec moi mais c'est mort
(She tells me that she wants more with me but it's dead)

By by Gaël Faye

“By” is one of Gaël Faye’s songs in his 2018 EP entitled Des Fleurs. In this rap, Faye talks about how people are living and suffering in an ongoing oppressive system. He also references important figures like Malick Sidibé who is a noted Malian photographer and Baye Fall who is a 5-star Senegalese high school basketball player in Colorado.

Mais vu d'ici je ne sens qu'un système oppressant
(But from here I only feel an oppressive system)

On est tous à zoner, assommés
(We're all zoned out, knocked out)

Comme une étoile by Booba

This song by Booba will make you shine like an étoile that you are! Many people want to become the brightest star ever, maybe even brighter than the sun? Oh no, that would not be ideal… but it is never wrong to go for your dreams. Think like Booba. Be like Booba. Take control of your life and by tomorrow, your étoile will be a shining, shimmering, splendid!

Je veux juste briller, comme une étoile
(I just wanna shine like a star)

J'ai toujours dû, su me débrouiller, la vie n'est qu'une escale
(I always had to, knew how to manage, life is only a stopover)

Thé à la menthe by La Caution

If you’ve seen Ocean’s Twelve, then you must have heard of this banger. Thé à la menthe means mint tea in English. The song is about growing up as an Arab in the suburbs of Paris, dealing with difficulties like racism, drugs, and other things, at the same time finding comfort in their parents' love and a cup of mint tea.

A l'école nous vautours contre l'Albatros de Baudelaire
(At school we vultures against Baudelaire's Albatross)

On s'est retrouvés dans le rap contre toute réelle attente
(We ended up in rap against all real odds)

La recette : sampler, stylo et thé à la menthe
The recipe: sampler, pen and mint tea

Qu'est-ce qui fait marcher les sages ? by Les Sages Poètes de la Rue

“Qu'est-ce qui fait marcher les sages?” is a song and the title of the first album of the French rap Hip-hop group called Les Sages Poètes de la Rue. This head bobbing track is so catchy, you won't be able to stop singing from the beginning to end.

Qu'est-ce qui fait marcher les sages, même sous l’orage
À part la rage, qui nous rend de plus en plus sauvages ?

(What makes the wise work, even in the storm,
Apart from rage, that makes us wilder and wilder?)

Pas besoin d’apparaître dur by Les Sages Poètes de la Rue

This earworm by Les Sages Poètes de la Rue will have you spitting out beats the old-school way. “Pas besoin d’apparaître dur” serves as a reminder of the group's jazzy-flair-infused French Hip-hop style. If you are interested in getting into classic French rap, this beat is for you. You can even try beatboxing in the end.

Pas besoin d'apparaître dur sur le funk
(No need to appear hard on funk )

Pas besoin d'apparaître hardcore
(No need to appear hardcore )

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