Last weekend, a hologram of late rapper Pop Smoke went viral. Captured in a video, taken at the three-floor club La Machine du Moulin Rouge in Paris, the eight-foot image was beamed over a hyped up moshpit, as tracks from the musician’s latest mixtape, Meet The Woo 2, bounced off the walls.
The night’s headliner Tiffany Calver, a respected tastemaker and BBC 1Xtra Rap Show host, summed it up best: “@yard always has the 🔥 nights”.
A Paris-based, self-described “youthquake”, Yard has been steadily building a reputation since 2014 for throwing the city’s best rap parties.
“Went to this party called Yard last night in Paris and it’s hands down maybe the best club night for rap I’ve ever been to,” tweeted a pre-performance Calver back in January. “Yeah, I DJ’d there a few years ago it was nuts,” Leytonstone-born MC Murkage Dave replied.
Even Grammy-nominated rapper Travis Scott has co-signed their party credentials, captioning a 2015 video of his first Paris headline show there as “very very very wild”.
Whether it’s by producing hour long YouTube documentaries on niche underground scenes or hosting raucous, “anti-fashion party” knees-ups, the collective’s raison d’être (it’s French!) is to “serve and provide a channel for the energy of Paris youth,” says managing director Caroline Travers.
“Paris is currently the second market for rap in the world,” explains the community’s head honcho Traver, “and the planet is only just starting to take note of how relevant and powerful the rap scene is here.”
Although the Yard team grew up with a strong pull towards US hip-hop, Travers believes, “the youth today, regardless of social background, is deeply entrenched in the urban French rap scene”.
True, French teens lose their shit over Pop Smoke’s Brooklyn flavoured drill, but local MCs are championed just as proudly. With the likes of chart-topping, trap duo PNL and Skepta-approved rapper Niska provoking just equal frenzy to their UK and US counterparts.
Read on for Yard’s full list of rappers topping this burgeoning scene. It won’t be long till you’re hearing slick french lyricism on transatlantic airways.
“13 Block is without a doubt one of the most interesting music-group in France. The productions are marvelled by the French language mixed with the slang of their hood. Every song is a symphony.”
“After MHD’s famous afro-trap recipe, Chily came up with a unique sound and made himself a star in a year. What’s his music? A perfect mix between Congolese rumba, trap, rap, singing and a high-kick dance move.”
“At times when French rap crumbled under young folks making trap music for seven minutes without a single chorus, Hamza came up with his own sauce. As a producer, singer, writer and rapper, the ‘new Michael Jackson’ created music at the crossroads of R&B toplines, mumble-rap techniques, and Afro-Caribbean beats.”
“Today, Niska is loved not only by millions of French people but also Europeans who are influenced by his ability to make music without barriers nor frontiers. Nothing seems calculated, but everything is always a major success. It’s logical, his music is a call for dancing, a hymn of joy and complete freedom.”
“Meryl was the industry’s best kept secret. She helped create the hits of French rap stars as a topliner before finally deciding to join the party with Jour Avant Caviar, a first mixtape which makes the young West Indian girl an important part of the revival of Antilles music. With the support of every big artist in the French game, she has everything to become the next woman on top.”
“If we had to keep only one thing from the last decade, it must be PNL. The two brothers from the Tarterêts came in 2015 with the mesmerizing hit song Le Monde Ou Rien and, within four years, mounted on top of the Eiffel Tower with drugs, man-buns, an exclusive off-white collab and the new anthem of the French youth. Both of them symbolise the history and evolution of rap music in France.”