Growing up in the south of France in the 90s I was caught in French hip hop’s wave of popularity which saw the ‘genre’ appropriated by artists across the country and turned into one of the most vibrant and popular local versions of what was by then already a global culture. While it’s true that Paris was the central nerve of French hip hop for much of the 80s, alongside Marseilles in the south, it wasn’t really until the 90s that French hip hop really exploded countrywide leading to even more localised versions, with dudes rapping in local slang and dialects among other things.
I think I really started to listen to hip hop properly sometime around my 11th birthday but it didn’t become a serious addiction until a few years later and for most of my teens I devoured tapes from Paris’ Radio Nova, rips of US albums my friends and I would circulate between us, albums of crews from the South of France, primarily based around the Marseille scene that IAM helped start and grow, and most importantly tapes from Cut Killer and HH DJ Crew (which included at various times Crazy B, Pone and other legendary French DJs). Those last ones were for me instrumental in spreading the sound and style of French hip hop as Cut Killer would invite rap crews to guest on his tape, freestyling over US beats and dropping their own, often unreleased at the time, tracks. I used to have a box filled with those tapes which unfortunately got robbed after I moved to London in 98 – out to the crackheads in Essex who either had good taste in music or not a fucking clue the gems they were grabbing.
After moving to England in 97/98 I stopped keeping up with French hip hop and within a few years I’d started discovering UK hip hop and re-learning my US classics, many of which I knew by heart but with French lyrics instead of the original American ones.
About 6 or so years ago, while I was still deep in the scratch thing I remember a guy called Ahmet, a DJ from Switzerland, posting two mixes on a French scratch forum which were basically home made best of French hip hop classics from the mid to late 90s – a time many agree was the golden era of French hip hop. It all started going downhill around 98 following the passing of a law that forced radio stations to have a minimum of 40% French music on the airwaves. And despite what many outside of France saw as a great move this instead turned out to be the death kneel for the ‘scene’ as bigger labels and radio stations went fishing amid the very healthy underground rap scene and turned local rappers into ‘stars’.
Anyways back to the point, this kid Ahmet posted these two mixes and it totally blew my mind – not only did it send me back on a total memory lane trip, he also obviously had very similar tastes to me as his mixes included a majority of the groups I’d been a huge fan of as a teenager from Parisian mainstays like NTM, X-Men and 113 Clan to smaller crews from the south, north, east and west of the country. I remember bumping these mixes for ages back then, and since then always going back to them whenever I feel the need to revisit what was a fundamental part of my musical education and make up.
I ended up digging those mixes out again for someone last week, and considering they’re on my server and I can’t find any info about Ahmet or the mixes anywhere I thought I’d share them with the world wide web. There’s no tracklist, the mixes are rather rough round the edges but as I said absolutely packed with classics for 3 or so hours.
If anyone has any info on where Ahmet is these days do let me know and I might summon the energy to do a tracklist one day, for now though it’s a straight up trip down memory lane for those like me who grew up on this and for those who haven’t here’s an introduction to why 90s French hip hop was the freshest shit around bar none.
Download Ahmet – Rap Francais vol 1 (right click and save as)
Download Ahmet – Rap Francois vol 2 (right click and save as)
One thing though: the mixes definitely lack a lot of the Marseille classics from that era. Here’s one of the all time classics for me from that time, IAM and all their Marseille affiliates rhyming about smoking hashish. Those were the days.