Album: Ceci N’est Pas Un Disque
Label: Big Dada
Rating: 7.5 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
Ok, this is certainly going to be a little weird. My experience of French Hiphop is limited to the cheesy (but incredibly addictive) ‘Je Danse Le Mia’ by one time Wu-Tang collaborators IAM, a few hyperactive freestyles by the Saian Super Crew, and the classic ‘Bouge De La’ by MC Solaar, so this release by Parisian clique TTC (Teki, Tido, Cuizinier) will certainly be an enlightening experience if nothing else.
The press blurb that accompanied my review copy, did an incredible job of talking up the group, instantly throwing up comparisons in my mind as some kind of Gallic cross between the Def Jam-era Beasties and Ugly Duckling. Why? Well, consider the fact that their first single ‘Leguman’, was a tale of superhero vegetables and a detailed description of the Paris metro system. Or the fact that one of the emcees, Teki, claims an obsession with lesbianism. Or the fact that their stage shows are less about actually emceeing, and more about chatting to the crowd in a drunken stupour about their love lives. Nice, crazy image, right?
Obviously the language barrier will be a sizeable obstacle when listening to this album. My own personal opinion that an emcee with a French accent always sounds a little um… limp wristed, no matter how big and mean he or she may actually look, may also figure, but for the time being lets see what TTC have come up with, with “Ceci N’est Pas Un Disque” (“This Is Not A Record”)
(One last note before we get started – the other good thing about the little press kit is the fact that there’s a little page that features English translations of all the song titles from the original French, with a short paragraph by Teki explaining what each cut is about. Not sure if this is gonna be a feature of the final release though.)
‘Nonscience’ the first track, doesn’t really need a translation – its a mesh of Flash Gordon samples, computer themes and strange vocal noises, layered over a stop/start uptempo guitar lick. The zany style promised in the earlier-mentioned blurb is definitely on display here – the three emcees sound absolutely FUCKED UP, and the on/off effect of the beat just adds to the craziness. I like this a lot.
The next couple of tracks are a world away from the high octane opener. ‘Je N’arrive Pas a Danser’ (‘I Can’t Manage To Dance’) is a slow paced track with little more than a simplistic beat and an echoing horn sample running throughout. As the name suggests, its not something that encourages dancing – well not in a club, anyway. In fact, the monotone sing-song chorus suggests that the only dancing these cats may need to do is a foxtrot into a straitjacket, followed by a tango around a padded cell. ‘De Pauvres Riches’ (‘The Poor Rich’) is even more off the wall (if that was possible). Its a DJ Vadim produced slice of weirdness, featuring a sample straight from seventies kids’ TV at its base, whilst the trio spit game about wealthly people who think its “hip” to live a hard life and rich kids dreaming of the ghetto. True fans of Hiphop will know their targets here, but the beat is what does it for me – just bananas. Too much acid, perhaps?
‘Teste Ta Comprehension’ (‘Test Your Understanding’) brings things back to on a straight up Hiphop tip… well beats-wise anyway. An extremely hard beat with a funk edge, and a Jame Brown refrain, sets the scene for TTC to use the three letters of their name in as many ways as possible, with Tony Danza and the Terminator both getting namechecked.
‘Pas D’armure’ (‘No Armour’) features Doseone from cLOUDDEAD doing a passable impression of a smoked-too-many-cigarettes French cabaret singer. From here though, the song slips into Timbaland influenced territory – a hard drum’n’bass styled beat with the trio rhyming in that double-paced style that Tim has become famous for introducing to the world of Hiphop. The choruses are still on point, but I haven’t ever really felt this style of rhyming, despite the appearance of a verse in ENGLISH on here!
As the album continues, the inital burst of zanyness is carried on, although it IS tempered with a few more serious cuts – the anthemic ‘Pollutions’ features La Caution on the mic helpout, and features a simple beatbox layered over an (almost cheesy) 80’s styled synth, while the emcees talk on global pollution, pollution of the mind, and basically, how putting things in places where they don’t belong can destroy lives. Also worth checking out is ‘Toi-Meme’ (‘Yourself’) – a bouncy DJ Fab produced track, heavy in bass, but with a middle Eastern influence, which features the three amigos explaining their dislike of wack emcees. OK, maybe not as serious as the ‘Pollutions’ cut, but still much more grown up than… ‘Reconstitution’ (‘Reconstruction’) – a homage to crazy, all over the place movies like “Mulholland Drive” and “Memento”, which features a dope bass guitar, rumbling over a snappy snare.
You want more bugged behaviour? Check out ‘Subway’ – a synth and funk driven track which would sound right at home on a Roots Manuva album, but which features Teki as the rail, Tido as the train, and Cuzinier as the underground gallery. Hmmm…. Or how about ‘Elementaire’ (‘Elemental’) where the trio rewrite the history of rap, making the four elements of Hiphop water, air, earth and fire, over a superbly crafted beat, that’s almost Dr Dre-ish in sound?
Conclusion? Dope is dope, in any language. I’ll certainly be spinning this a few more times. Just remind me to dig out my old French schoolbooks first – I’d love to know what they are saying. Don’t let any preconceptions change your mind – if you see this, then grab it.