Top 15 French Rap Songs to Add to Your Playlist Today
Rap music is a genre that has transcended borders and captivated audiences with its unique blend of rhythm, poetry and cultural expression.
While it started out in New York, the genre has spread far and wide—including to the many French-speaking parts of the world.
French rap has born some classic hits and modern chart-toppers that everyone can enjoy, even if you’re not fluent in French.
In fact, they provide a great immersive French lesson for those trying to build their language skills.
Check out these 15 popular French rap songs that have struck a chord with music lovers around the globe.
- 1. “Le monde de demain” (The world of tomorrow) by Suprême NTM
- 2. “Les princes de la ville” (Princes of the city) by 113
- 3. “J’me barre” (I’m running away) by Keny Arkana
- 4. “Cherche pas à comprendre” (Don’t try to understand) by Fonky Family
- 5. “Solaar pleure” (Solaar cries) by MC Solaar
- 6. “Esclave de votre société” (Slave of your company) by Assassin
- 7. “Sacrifice de poulets” (Chicken sacrifice) by Minstère A.M.E.R
- 8. “365 jours” (365 days) by Oxmo Puccino
- 9. “La vraie vie” (The real life) by DA Uzi
- 10. “Petit frère” (Little brother) by IAM
- 11. “Casanova” by Soolking ft. Gazo
- 12. “Le crime paie” (Crime pays) by Lunatic
- 13. “Freeze Raël” by Freeze Corleone
- 14. “Crystal” by Kaaris ft. Future
- 15. “Au DD” by PNL
- Why Listen to French Rap Songs
- How to Incorporate French Rap into Your Life
1. “Le monde de demain” (The world of tomorrow) by Suprême NTM
Joey Starr (Didier Morville) and Kool Shen (Bruno Lopes) make up the hardcore rap duo that is Suprême NTM. Hailing from the banlieue parisienne (Parisian suburb) of Seine Saint-Denis, the two expressed themselves through graffiti before they made their radio debut in 1989.
Racism, class inequality and politics are themes that permeate their lyrics, often in direct opposition to political figures.
2. “Les princes de la ville” (Princes of the city) by 113
The rap trio 113 formed in the Parisian suburb of Vitry-sur-Seine. Its members boast Malian, Guadeloupian and Algerian origins. Their name is a homage to the address of their habitations à loyer modéré or HLM (subsidized housing) and a reference to the American R&B group 112.
Their song “Les princes de la ville” paints a vivid picture of the challenges and aspirations of urban life.
3. “J’me barre” (I’m running away) by Keny Arkana
Of Franco-Argentinian origin, Keny Arkana has been rapping since she was a young girl. Nowadays, she’s both a rapper and an activist, particularly in the alter-mondialisation (alter-globalization) and civil disobedience movements. In 2004, she founded a music collective called La Rage du peuple (The Rage of the People).
Her song “J’me barre” expresses a desire to escape from the challenges and pressures of life.
4. “Cherche pas à comprendre” (Don’t try to understand) by Fonky Family
Fonky Family was one of the most popular rap groups from Marseille, paving the way for others from the region. In 1998 the group collaborated with French rapper Akhenaton, also from Marseille, on the soundtrack to the Luc Besson Film “Taxi.”
Their song “Cherche pas à comprendre” features intricate wordplay and vibrant beats that reflects the group’s distinct style and narrative prowess.
5. “Solaar pleure” (Solaar cries) by MC Solaar
MC Solaar is the stage name of Claude M’Barali who’s of Chadian and Senegalese origin. A graffiti artist during his adolescence, he later earned a postgraduate degree in philosophy and began rapping in 1990.
He’s found success in the Anglophone world through a variety of collaborations with Missy Elliot and Guru, to name a few, and is one of the most influential rappers in France.
6. “Esclave de votre société” (Slave of your company) by Assassin
Formed in 1985, Assassin is a pioneering hardcore rap group that hails from Paris’s 18th arrondissement. Since the group’s inception, their mission has been to raise the social and political consciousness of marginalized people. Indeed, much of their work foregrounds the ills of consumerism and social inequality.
The thought-provoking lyrics of their song “Esclave de votre société” offer a powerful critique of societal oppression and inequality.
7. “Sacrifice de poulets” (Chicken sacrifice) by Minstère A.M.E.R
Often billed as Public Enemy’s French counterpart, Minstère A.M.E.R means “ministry of action, music and (et) rap.” Amer also means “bitter.” How’s that for some wordplay?
Their song “Sacrifice de Poulets” is featured on the soundtrack of the film “La Haine” (hate). It’s a provocative anthem that challenges societal norms, sparking dialogue and reflecting the raw spirit of French rap’s socio-political commentary.
8. “365 jours” (365 days) by Oxmo Puccino
Born in Mali and inspired by The Notorious B.I. G., Oxmo Puccino’s verses portray life in Paris as a marginalized member of society. “365 jours” is a soulful and introspective French rap song that delves into the complexities of life, love and time.
With Oxmo’s signature poetic lyricism and emotive delivery, this track paints a vivid portrait of human emotions and experiences.
9. “La vraie vie” (The real life) by DA Uzi
“La vraie vie” is a standout track in French rap, showcasing the artist’s authentic style. Released in 2019, the song delves into the challenges and harsh realities of street life, addressing themes of struggle, ambition and survival.
DA Uzi’s powerful delivery and raw lyrics provide listeners with a glimpse into his personal journey, making the song a captivating and impactful musical experience.
10. “Petit frère” (Little brother) by IAM
IAM’s “Petit frère” is a classic in French rap, released in 1998 as part of their album “L’École du Micro d’Argent.” The song presents a powerful narrative about a little brother growing up too fast and getting caught up in the dangers and societal pressures of street life.
Through vivid storytelling and poignant lyrics, IAM makes this a thought-provoking and emotionally charged anthem that remains relevant to this day.
11. “Casanova” by Soolking ft. Gazo
Soolking is a French-Algerian rapper known for his melodic flow, blending French and Arabic languages. Gazo was born in Paris to a Guinean family and has recently gained recognition for his freestyles and collaborations.
This particular collaboration between the two fuses catchy melodies with energetic verses, adding a lively entry to modern French rap. The song narrates tales of romance and charisma, capturing the allure of the “Casanova” figure.
12. “Le crime paie” (Crime pays) by Lunatic
Lunatic was a pioneering French rap duo consisting of Ali and Booba. Active in the late 1990s, they’re known for their impactful lyrics, introspective themes and dark beats. Their album “Mauvais Œil” (Evil eye) left a lasting influence on the French hip-hop landscape.
Released in 1996, “Le crime paie” embodies the raw essence of the genre, delving into themes of urban struggle, crime and societal injustice.
13. “Freeze Raël” by Freeze Corleone
This slower-tempo song comes from a controversial and enigmatic figure in French rap. Known for his intricate wordplay and cryptic references, his lyrics often explore complex themes, blending conspiracy theories, pop culture and socio-political commentary.
Freeze Corleone’s unique style and unapologetic approach have garnered both fervent followers and critical scrutiny, shaping his identity in the contemporary French rap landscape.
14. “Crystal” by Kaaris ft. Future
This cross-cultural collaboration has both English lyrics rapped by Future and French from Kaaris. The 2015 track blends the artists’ distinct styles, with Kaaris’ gritty delivery merging seamlessly with Future’s trap influences.
“Crystal” pulsates with hypnotic beats, offering a bilingual fusion that captures the global appeal of contemporary rap.
15. “Au DD” by PNL
PNL, short for “Peace N’ Lovés,” is a trailblazing French rap duo known for their ethereal soundscapes and introspective lyrics. PNL’s lyrics explore personal experiences, urban life and philosophical musings. Their distinct style has propelled them to the forefront of modern French rap.
“Au DD” showcases their much-praised choices of instrumentals and fresh melodies, as well as the emotive delivery that they’re known for.
Why Listen to French Rap Songs
French rap will add some flavor to your study routine while exposing you to the language in a way only a true wordsmith and artist can emit. Here are some other reasons you should consider listening:
Explore Francophone culture
Many French rappers aren’t originally from France, but rather have their origins in Francophone West Africa, the Antilles or the Maghreb. This will let you explore other Francophone cultures.
French rap also explores controversial themes of colonialism, racism, violence, discrimination and poverty, which tend to be absent in more traditional French language pedagogical materials.
Boost your listening skills
Rhythm and speed are integral to transforming your spoken French from acceptable to exceptional. Indeed, one of the biggest obstacles when hearing native speakers is that their pace seems too fast.
Incidentally, rhythm and speed are integral to rap music. As you get used to the speed, you’ll see an improvement in your spoken French, and French spoken by native speakers won’t seem so fast anymore.
Learn French slang
French slang, or argot and verlan (a particular type of French slang) are important parts of Francophone counter-cultural expression that have managed to find their way into mainstream French (even l’Académie francaise was forced to write about it).
It’d be a bit too simplistic to say that slang is all you’ll be exposed to in French rap. It’s poetry in its own right. You’ll also be privy to complex jeu de mots (wordplay) and French expressions.
How to Incorporate French Rap into Your Life
Here are some ways you can make rap a part of your French learning process:
- Listen while doing daily tasks: Listening to French music while you go about your daily routine is a great way of immersing yourself in the language of love. So as you wash the dishes, work out at the gym and the like, put your playlist on repeat. Before you know it you’ll find yourself rapping along (and understanding the words).
- Dictée drills: Here, the slow-down feature on your music-listening device will come in handy. Here’s what you do: Play a 15-second to 30-second piece of a track and try to transcribe what you can to the best of your ability. Replay this portion several times until you’re more or less satisfied with your work.
- Translation games: Print out the lyrics and translate what you read. Keep your eyes out for new slang, double-meanings, as well as turns of phrases you’d expect in classical literature.
With these French rap songs, you have a good start to your next favorite playlist.
So put on some headphones and start listening—and rapping along!