Tags Posts tagged with "Hip Hop"

Hip Hop

by -
Djebali pulling a b-boy pose
Djebali pulling a b-boy pose

Over in Paris one of the city’s recent breakout stars is an artist by the name of Djebali. We’ve followed his music for quite a while now and have seen him grow in stature over the last few years, bringing a touch of class to everything he does. His penchant for classic house grooves is present throughout his musical output, whether he’s locked away in the studio, A&Ring for his record labels or on the decks. But before house music came into his life, Djebali was deep into French hip hop. Captivated by the music his older brother was bringing home, the young Djebali listened to all of the greatest French hip hop acts throughout his formative years, getting into the music at just 8 years old. For this ‘Sound of Our Youth’ edition of Don’t Lose The Magic we spoke to Djebali about his love for French hip hop and what influence it had on him as a youngster. He has also kindly prepared a mixtape, featuring two and a half hours of his favourite joints! Hit the play button below while you read all about it…

We begin by taking Djebali right back to the roots, “I started listening to rap music when I was about 8, quite young because I have an older brother – he’s 4 years older than me and he brought that stuff home,” he says, his mind seemingly going straight back to those early days. “In our neighbourhood everyone was listening to rap, though I was also into a lot of funk and soul, as well, at that time.”

Finding the US hip hop difficult to understand, since English was not his first language, Djebali immersed himself in the rap that was being made in his home nation. Nowadays he is renowned for his crisp beats and sultry grooves, a young master of instrumentals dropping tracks on his own ( djebali ) imprint, as well as labels like 2020Vision, Popcorn and NoFitState, but back in his youth he was more concerned with lyrics. Even attempting to write some of his own. “I was more into the lyrics in the beginning,” he told us. “Even though the beats were cool and certainly had an influence, I was really into the lyrical element of the music. It was only a bit later on when I got into the instrumentals and the samples, and how they were made – when I started producing it changed the way I listened to the music and I became a lot more aware of the beats.”

Djebali DJing at home in the nineties
Djebali DJing at home in the nineties

“I love American rap music, but I wasn’t as deep into it as I was with French rap because I was focused on the lyrics and I didn’t understand much of what the Americans were saying back then. I never tried to rap myself, especially not in public but I did try to write lyrics. However I was definitely not good at that, it was terrible!”

Djebali got into a wide range of hip hop, discovering acts like Ideal Junior (later Ideal J), Fabe, Scred Connexion and Ministère AMER among others. As a baby-faced youngster he’d swap tapes with friends at school, bumping the music on his headphones whenever possible. Along with funk and soul (and a bit of Michael Jackson), his entire world was soundtracked by French hip hop and it opened up his mind to a world of information and opinions. “I was listening to music all the time, the only time I couldn’t was when I was at school but outside of that I was always always listening to music. I think the music gave me the opportunity to open myself up to a lot of influences. I was into lots of different groups who all had different styles; gangster stuff, as well as conscious rap and people who were talking about deeper subjects. It gave me the ability to be more open and tolerant, and more aware of what was happening around me,” he says, speaking about the importance of the music and what it gave him as a young man.

'La Vie Est Brutal' by Ideal Junior and '95200' by Ministère Amer
‘La Vie Est Brutal’ by Ideal Junior and ‘95200’ by Ministère Amer

Djebali then tells us about those highly influential groups and artists, most of whom we’re learning about for the first time. “I was really into Ideal J, DJ Mehdi was part of the group and the main rapper was Kery James. They were originally called Ideal Junior as they started out really young, like 13 or 14 years old. Kery James is still going, still doing a lot of stuff and I’m still a big fan I always buy his new albums when they come out,” he told us. “I loved Ministère AMER. There was another guy called Fabe, he was another favourite, he was from an area close to mine actually, called Barbès. Fabe was a rapper in a crew called Scred Connexion and the stuff he did was very cerebral rap, the total opposite of gangster rap. They spoke about deep interesting stuff, not just ‘I’m the best, look at me’ and that kind of posturing.”

Voice Of The Ghetto

Around the world we’ve witnessed the power of hip hop. It has the ability to inspire and empower people from all backgrounds, particularly the lower classes. The birth of hip hop is attributed to marginalised Afro-Americans and Latinos who lived in The Bronx in New York, its proliferation around the world has given a voice to countless people who previously were powerless and would never have had an opportunity to be heard on a global scale. However, hip hop events and artists are often seen as antagonisers by the authorities, and subsequently get shut down or blamed for the problems they’re bringing attention to. Djebali witnessed this happening in France, and he explains, “In France it was more to do with ignorance, they totally ignored this movement. Rap music spoke a lot about the failings of the Government, about the rappers’ lives and about what was wrong with society but the media didn’t even talk about them.”

“Sometimes when there were events, but it was difficult for people to organise them,” he continues. “There was almost a total media blackout, they were ignored. The music came from the ‘hood. The Government put all the immigrants in the ghettos, away from the rest of the city, to ignore them. It’s definitely connected.”

Djebali hanging out with a couple of friends back in the nineties
Djebali hanging out with a couple of friends back in the nineties

Infamous French rap group NTM were targeted by the authorities, who shut them down and banned them from the radio after they launched a verbal attack against the police on their 1993 track ‘Police’. They were also threatened with jail and banned from performing for six months in 1996 for launching a tirade against the French police during an appearance at a concert in the south of France. Almost 10 years later in the aftermath of riots in Paris’ ghettos, MP Francois Grosdidier managed to get 200 politicians to back his petition calling for legal action against 7 French who he claimed were responsible for inciting the riots through their ‘violent lyrics. The artists were Monsieur R, Smala, Fabe and Salif and bands Ministere Amer, 113 and Lunatic. In 2005, Mr Grosdider told France-Info: “When people hear this all day long and when these words swirl round in their heads, it is no surprise that they then see red as soon as they walk past policemen or simply people who are different from them.”

Growing up in one of those hoods himself, in the north of Paris, in District 18 close to Porte de la Chapelle, Djebali’s life as a youngster was all about schoolwork, having fun with friends and listening to music. “I grew up in a tough neighbourhood but everything was cool,” he explains. “My parents were really supportive; they would tell me to make sure I came home after school and got on with my work and then I could do what I wanted. They were really strict about that so it had a positive effect on me. There was no struggle for us, it was a lot of fun growing up in that neighbourhood, I had a lot of good times with my friends but I was also focused on my schoolwork.”

From Hip Hop To House

With hip hop present through his life from the age of 8 right up into his teens, Djebali became an avid music consumer, not just picking up tapes and CDs to play at home but eventually buying decks and getting into collecting vinyl. His ambition was to become a DJ and he practiced constantly with a friend from college. Funnily enough, it was their different tastes in music that led to Djebali getting into house music, “It’s quite funny actually, when I started DJing it was with a friend of mine – I was at college and I was buying rap music and funk on vinyl. My friend loved super super hard stuff, like hardcore and all that kind of thing. So, when we met up to practice it was quite complicated as you can imagine with both our different styles of music!,” he laughs.

A young Djebali getting some practice in on the ones and twos
A young Djebali getting some practice in on the ones and twos

He continues, “In the end we met somewhere in the middle and compromised, and that compromise was house music. At the time we were a lot more open to experimenting, nowadays I pretty much know what I like and will make a beeline for that – of course I still do a lot of digging and listening to other stuff, but back then I guess we were a lot more willing to buy stuff that wasn’t necessarily what we were into.”

As we come to the end of our time with Djebali, we take him further down memory lane. Having just spent over two hours compiling a mixtape full of his favourite French hip hop jams, we asked him if putting it together stirred up any particular memories. As expected, the process takes him right back to a very particular moment in his youth and he tells us, “I remember one thing in particular, there’s a song by Ministère AMER, it’s not actually on the mixtape I made but there are a few of their tracks on there. Anyway, I was at my grandparents house with my older brother and my cousin – my brother had just bought a CD by Ministère AMER and the lyrics are pretty raw. He played the CD to my cousin but he was telling me, ‘You can’t listen to this because the lyrics are too hard for you’, I was 9 at the time so fair enough. They locked the door on me so I couldn’t listen to it at all. A few days later I managed to get hold of it though and he was right, there was a lot of swearing and insults!”

And that same level of determination remains with Djebali to this day, digging for records on a regular basis and seeking out fresh new samples. His debut album is due very soon and with so much musical history behind him, we’re sure it’s going to be a killer…

by -
Kojey Radical on stage with his band at Cargo in Shoreditch, east London
Kojey Radical on stage with his band at Cargo in Shoreditch, east London

DLTM passed through Cargo in Shoreditch earlier this week to catch a young British lyricist who is coming through strong at the moment. Kojey Radical is his name and he powered through his appearance at the east London venue, captivating the audience with his energetic presence and lyrical prowess.

Kojey Radical was a name unfamiliar to us until very recently, but we’re very glad he’s popped up on our radar. He recently supported last year’s Mercury Prize Winners Young Fathers on tour, he’s got an infectious energy and lyrics for days… his delivery too exudes an air of authority though it’s not preachy. He’s like that friend who speaks his mind, no fluff, no bullshit, and means every word he says.

At Cargo he was on the bill alongside Vince Staples, the US rapper who’s recently been touring with A$AP Rocky and Tyler The Creator, and he commanded the stage from the off. Accompanied by a very stylish backing band comprised a guitarist, drummer and keyboard player, Kojey kicked off his show with a friend of DLTM, a performer named Zulu. Zulu is also a member of The Ancient Moons with Damian Lazarus, who was featured on the site recently. Performing ‘Preacher, Preacher’ the two artists were a joy to watch and listen to, setting things off with a vibrant atmosphere.

Kojey Radical on stage with his band at Cargo
The lyricist commanded the stage throughout his performance

From then on in it was all about Kojey and his band, his powerful voice dominated the room as he worked his way through a series of insightful, well constructed vocal performances, singing and rapping, dancing with joy and holding his space on stage like a true pro. Our personal favourites included ‘Can I Speak To Em?’, a rousing set of verses with a call and response chrous – all done acapella style to really engage everyone. ‘Open Hand’ also caught our attention, as Kojey told Fader “The revolution is not in the closed fist, it’s in the open hand, because an open hand represents acceptance.”. Truth. The closing composition, a brand new joint called’Kwame Nkrumah’, was also flawless – and really brought home the strength of spoken-word poetry.

Vince Staples performing on stage at Cargo in Shoreditch, east London
Vince brought the heat with a great performance
Vince Staples performing on stage at Cargo in Shoreditch, east London
Vince Staples packed out the main room at Cargo

With all the fluff and posturing often associated with hip-hop these days it can sometimes be easy to forget just how powerful an artform it really is. Despite the commercialisation of the culture, there is still a potency in raw, inspirational lyrics, delivered in such a manner as Kojey’s. Much respect to the man, we hope he reaches bigger and bigger audiences with his insights and observations.

Vince Staples was up next, packing out the room with heads eager to catch him rocking the gritty, exposed brick arches inside Cargo. His performance was enjoyable, quite different to Kojey Radical – maybe more straight-forward, certainly with instrumentals that were more bass-orientated. The crowd lapped up, bouncing up and down, throwing their hands up in the air and generally having a bloody great time throughout.

A double thumbs-up from us, and keep your eyes and ears open for Kojey Radical’s next steps…

by -

So, last week there were not one, but two Pharcyde gigs in London. In case you don’t know who the Pharcyde are, they’re a hip-hop group who found fame in the nineties thanks to their irreverent, often comical take on the genre and their now infamous video for ‘Drop’, which was shot backwards (see below).

It’s not unusual for an act to perform twice in the same city, we all know that, but what was odd about this one was that a message went out on The Pharcyde’s Twitter page on Monday (when the first gig took place) saying: “To my folks in #Europe .. #Pharcyde will not be in Europe til 9th.. Catch us @brooklynbowl in London..”. The Brooklyn Bowl performance happened on the Thursday of last week. After seeing this, and not being totally up to speed on my hip-hop politics, I was baffled.

A quick bit of Googling offered some insight into why the group denied they were in Europe until Thursday, even though they were billed to play The Jazz Cafe on Monday. The Pharcyde split and there are now two separate factions, one named The Pharcyde (Uncle Imani and Bootie Brown) and one named ‘Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde’ (Fatlip, Slimkid3, J. Sw!ft, K-Natural and LA Jay), using the title of their famous album. The story behind the split is probably best left for you readers to discover yourselves – there are a few interviews online, so go check those.

Bearing that in mind, we were determined to hit both gigs to compare the two, so off I went for Round One at The Jazz Cafe…


The Jazz Cafe is renowned for hosting some of the world’s most famous hip hop acts, as well as reggae legends past and present and a variety of credible artists. It’s a popular spot with a strong reputation. The place was rammed, unsurprisingly, with a very eclectic group of people gathered to catch ‘Bizarre Ride…’ do their thing (minus Fatlip, who had visa issues). After a nice little warm up by MC Index, with his conscious rap, accompanied by DJ Fingerfood, Bizarre Ride made their way on stage at the time they were scheduled to. None of this making the fans wait diva-style, they were straight on to the stage and got straight to business.

Their vibe was original hip hop style; energetic, fun-loving party music with plenty of call and response, some covers and a hell of a lot of their most famous material, mixed up with some fresher joints. It was a really enjoyable night, hosted by a group who are still clearly in love with what they’re doing.


Three days later DLTM headed to the O2 in Greenwich to catch the other Pharcyde faction put on their show. It took place at a venue called Brooklyn Bowl, inside the O2 arena. This was a spot we’d never been to before, or even heard of. Arriving around 45 minutes before the show was due to start, we enter the venue and grab a drink. This show already feels quite different, Brooklyn Bowl definitely doesn’t have the prestige of The Jazz Cafe. The crowd feels more student-orientated and there are visuals being projected on to a curtain covering the stage showing various ‘You’ve Been Framed’-style filmed accidents.

The duo who call themselves The Pharcyde step up on stage with their DJ Mike Relm cutting and scratching his way through a medley of well-known hip hop jams to get the crowd hyped up. Uncle Imani and Bootie Brown then got up and threw down for the 70 or so people gathered in front of them. Musically speaking and energy-wise, they were good but we felt the venue and the crowd took away from the experience. The Pharcyde would have faired much better in somewhere most prestigious and perhaps if the other side of the group weren’t in London during the same week.

After the gig we had a quick chat with Imani and asked what the deal was with Bizarre Ride being in London at the same time as them. He claimed, “They check our schedule and follow us around the world, man”.

The Pharcyde (from left to right, Tre "SlimKid3" Hardson, Romye Robinson, Emandu "Imani" Wilcox and Derrick "Fatlip" Stewart) in 1993
The Pharcyde (from left to right, Tre “SlimKid3” Hardson, Romye Robinson, Emandu “Imani” Wilcox and Derrick “Fatlip” Stewart) in 1993

We then interviewed Slimkid3 a few days later and pressed him on what Imani had said. Of course, it’s not our job to stir things up, but we thought it was important to speak to both sides and find out what they both had to say. Asked simply how the two groups ended up being in London at the same time, Slimkid3, who has been working on new material with DJ Nu-Mark called ‘TRDMRK’ (trademark), told us (without any aggression or animosity might we add), “When our tours get booked, I have no idea what’s happening with the other two guys. I don’t pay attention to what they do, I just focus on what we’re doing as Bizarre Ride. It’s really a mystery how that could happen. I think it was supposed to happen. There is a difference, we are two separate entities. We do our thing and they obviously do theirs. It’s the universe’s way of making sure everyone gets to see the collective. I’m not trying to block them at all, and I’m definitely going to do my thing”.

Funnily enough we hadn’t even told him what Imani said before he made that statement. We did repeat what Imani said and, of course, Tre was very humble and mature in his response, “We’re not thinking about them at all. There were times that I would think the same thing as them, it happens to us as much as it happens to them. It’s not me and it’s probably not them, this is what goes in our minds because we’re all trying to make a living. What’s really silly is all the fighting that goes, we’re fighting over who can say ‘Oh shit’ or ‘Your mama’. I’m not thinking about them at all, but I can understand,” he said.

As for the future, Slimkid filled us in on his next moves, “We’ve got a lot of cool shit going on, we’ve got a lot of new music right now as far as Bizarre Ride is concerned. I DJ as well, so when I’m in Portland that’s what I do out here – we do these parties called ‘Live & Direct’. I’m producing an artist called Moonbeam Kelly as well. Keeping it busy, staying happy, keeping my mind off the negative,” he revealed.

His last word was this, “The energy has been calling for itself, the fans don’t want to see the two people alone anymore, they want to see the original four members rocking or don’t be The Pharcyde. It’s like going to the store to buy a Milky Way and you open it and it’s just the nougat. No chocolate, no caramel, just the wrapper and the nougat. That’s just not what’s up. The next thing people probably want to see is all four members together when you put up the name The Pharcyde, anywhere, and rightfully so. They deserve what they ask for.”

Damn right they do.


Steffie Timanti looks back over a year of growth

Steffie Timanti embodies the notion of independence, stepping away from the music industry and its norms to create her own small, but perfectly formed movement...