One of the most popular rap bands in the 1990s, NTM is comprised of rappers JoeyStarr and Kool Shen.
The name, which stands for Nique ta mère (which translates to “go fuck your mother”) says it all. Originating from Marseille, one of the most ethnically diverse and sensitive cities in France, the band long embodied the French gangsta rap, with songs targeting cops, authority, and racism.
Official site: Suprême NTM
Albums sold: 2.5 million
Largest concert: Bercy, Paris in September 2008 (75,000 people)Bercy, Paris in September 2008 (75,000 people)
Awards: Nominated for “Best rap or groove album of the year” in 1999 to the Victoires de la Musique
Controversies: During a concert organized by SOS Racisme, France’s leading anti-racism NGO, JoeyStarr heavily criticized the Police before the group performed their song “Police”. He was condemned to 3 months in jail.
The leading (and most controversial) singer of NTM, JoeyStarr eventually went solo and started a successful career as a rapper and an actor.
Official site: JoeyStarr
Albums sold: 1 million
Largest concert: Parc des Princes, Paris in June 2010 (35,000 people)
Awards: Nominated for two Cesars for Best Supporting Actor
Controversies: Joey Starr spent 2 months in prison for assaulting a stewardess in flight and was condemned for animal brutality after beating up a monkey on camera!
Faf la Rage
This Marseille-based rapper is known for his contributions to several blockbusters and TV soundtracks, including the original soundtracks of ‘L’Américain’, ‘Neuilly Sa Mère!’ and the French songs for Prison Break and The Croods.
Twitter: Faf la Rage
Albums sold: 600,000
Concert facts: Has played in all of France’s top concert venues, including Olympia, Bercy, Zénith, and Stade Vélodromme
Awards: 2 NRJ music awards (the French equivalent to the MTV music awards in the US)
Controversies: Not much to report. Maybe a self-confessed problem with… spelling?
Perhaps one of the most erudite French rappers, the Senegal-born singer-songwriter MC Solaar is nothing less than a rap prodigy.
Famous for his poetic style, complex lyrics, and upbeat beats, MC Solaar is credited for bringing rap to the masses and being an alternative to the French and American gangsta rap two decades ago.
Albums sold: 2.7 million
Concert facts: MC Solaar has been touring every year since 2001 with Les Enfoirés, an NGO that provides meals for the homeless. The association is known for its yearly performances realized by France’s most iconic French singers.
Awards: Won two Victoires de la musique; four NRJ Musique Awards; 2 MTV Europe Awards
Controversies: He sued his label, Polydor, in 1997 for splitting a double-album into two separate albums, and won.
This rapper is actually a spoof created by French stand-up comedian and actor Michaël Youn and his two acolytes, Vincent Desagnat and Benjamin Morgaine.
Youn is ‘Fatal’ himself, a ridiculous, angry, muscular white rapper. Youn and his crew scored some impressive hits with this parody, with such groovy songs as “Fous ta cagoule” (throw your hoodie) and “J’aime trop ton boule” (I love your bootie so much) topping the charts for weeks several years ago.
Twitter: Michael Youn
Albums sold: 600,000
Concert facts: Things got ugly for one of his security guards during one of his concerts in Beauvais. Fatal decided to meet and greet the fans, who pushed the guards, causing him to fall and hurt his back.
Awards: Won one NRJ music awards
Controversies: Fatal Bazooka doesn’t exist, but according to his fictious biography, he came drunk to a “Musique Awards of Music”, another fictitious music awards ceremony, which led to a nasty divorce from his wife and caused him to retreat into exile into his native Savoy region.
The impressive career of rapper-producer La Fouine (‘the Weasel’) proves to parents that choosing music over school can be a smart move sometimes.
A middle school drop-out from Moroccan origin, La Fouine left school at age 14 to devote his life to music. Today, he is one of the most well-respected artists and entrepreneurs in France, with popular hits like ‘Quand je partirai’ or ‘Ma meilleure’ topping the charts for weeks.
Official site: La Fouine
Albums sold: 1 million
Concert facts: Currently on a worldwide tour to promote his album “Nouveau Monde”
Awards: Named Best French artist at the 2011 MTV Europe Awards
Controversies: Algerians are upset at him for voluntarily portraying the country in shambles in the “Capitale du crime volume 4” video.
The only female rapper to make the list, Diam’s was one of the most celebrated artists in France until she terminated her career.
The polar opposite of a girly girl, Diam’s was closer to a tomboy than a Nikki Minaj. Known for her loud mouth, she voiced her opposition to the Front National party, and even penned a song against its party leader, Marine Le Pen.
Albums sold: 1.1 million
Concert facts: She left a concert in Belgium after spectators started throwing tin cans, plastic containers, and dirt at her
Awards: Won three NRJ music awards and one MTV Europe music award
Controversies: She became a very conservative Muslim, which is not controvertisal in itself, but many public arguments have arisen as a result.
Formed in Marseille in 1989, IAM is a band of five rappers, including Akhenaton and Shurik’n, Faf la Rage’s brother. Originally, the group performed under the name Lively Crew.
Highly successful in France, the group also has a long history of collaboration with the Wu Tang Clan, who partnered with them for a series of Star Wars and Sci-fi inspired video clips, La Saga.
Albums sold: 1.8 million
Concert facts: Their first concert dates back to 1986 under the moniker Lively Cre
Awards: 2 Victoires de la Musique
Controversies: The name IAM marks their opposition against the integration movement that removes all cultural differences. According to Akhenaton, the name stands for “history, time passing.”
The highest earning rapper in France in 2015, Booba is one of the few artists to have risen to international fame. Friends with 2Chainz, Tony Parker, and Diddy, this former boxer is also a savvy entrepreneur and the owner of a successful fashion line, Unkut, which caters to boxing athletes. In his songs, he denounces racism, the importance of community and the vainness of the glitz.
Official site: Booba
Albums sold: 1 million
Concert facts: A 2008 concert turned sour after, Booba booed on stage and bombarded with objects thrown at him by the public, retaliated by spitting at the spectators and throwing a bottle of Jack Daniels at them.
Awards: 3 World Music Awards and 1 MTV Europe Award
Controversies: His mother and brother were kidnapped in 2006 and he was asked to pay a €500,000 ransom to get them back. They were saved after police intervention.
Also known as ‘L’Assassin’ (‘The Assassin’) or ‘Malsain’ (‘Morbid’), Sinik has collaborated with James Blunt and Booba. He considers Diam’s his little sister.
Official site: Sinik
Albums sold: 800,000
Concert facts: Over 300 performances in 3 years
Awards: Won a Dégaine ton style award as an MC
Controversies: He spent over a year in jail for drug trafficking, possession of firearms, and burglary. He often has problems with the Justice system for being an outspoken critique of the French prison system.