learn-french-rap

8 Fresh French Rap Songs for Language Learners Who Love a Good Beat

You’ve probably heard the same song and dance over and over.

Say it with me: Music is a great way to learn the language of love.

And it’s true. I’m not here to deny this.

But if you really want to up your French game, you’ve got to include rap music in the mix.

That’s right.

This vocal technique that started out in New York has struck a chord with music lovers around the globe.

Maybe you don’t typically listen to rap.

Maybe the only thing you might know about rap right now is that “words are spoken really fast.”

Even if that was all you know about rap, imagine how much better your listening comprehension could become by just exposing yourself to fast-paced lyrics.

But rap can give you so much more.

Let’s find out what French rap can do for you and then bop to some beats, shall we?
 


 
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Why Learning French Rap Needs to Be Part of Your French Game

Rap à la française (in the French manner) is a genre every French learner needs to dabble in. Not only will it add some flavor to your study routine, you’ll also hear language in a way only a true wordsmith and artist can emit.

Still with me? Cool. Here are some other reasons you should consider spicing up your playlist with French rap.

Open the door to another side of Francophone culture

Francophone culture isn’t only the Eiffel Tower, baguettes and red wine.

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 transform your spoken French from regular to the bomb.com. 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 notice a major improvement in your spoken French, and French spoken by native speakers won’t seem so fast anymore.

Up your slang game

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 (word play) and expressions.

How to Incorporate French Rap into Your Life

Before we get to the jams, let’s talk about how you can make rap a part of your French learning adventure.

  • Day to day vibes — Listening to French rap 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).
  • 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.

8 Fresh French Rap Songs to Up Your Language Game

And without further ado, it’s time to move on to the beats. I’ve made a French rap playlist that’s sure to boost your French game.

I’ve also included the 411 on the artists, as well as some of the lyrics to give you a general sense of each song’s thematic vibe.

 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.

A sneak peek at the lyrics:

C’est que depuis trop longtemps 

(It’s that, for far too long)

Les gens tournent le dos 

(People turn their backs)

Aux problèmes cruciaux

(On crucial problems)

Aux problèmes sociaux 

(On social problems)

Qui asphyxient la jeunesse 

(That suffocate the youth)

Qui résident aux abords 

(Who live on the outskirts)

Tourner le dos (v): literally “to turn one’s back,” to ignore

2. “Les Princes de la Ville” (Princes of the city) by 113

The members of the rap trio 113, formed in the Parisian suburb of Vitry-sur-Seine, boast Malian, Guadeloupian and Algerian origins. Their name isn’t only a homage to the address of their HLM (stands for “habitations à loyer modéré,” which is to say social or subsidized housing), but a reference to the American R&B group 112.

A sneak peek at the lyrics:

On vit en HLM les uns les autres 

(We live in public housing, one another)

Les lits superposés, j’ai rien connu d’autre 

(Bunk beds, I didn’t know anything else)

On a la rage mais comment rester sage? 

(We have rage but how to remain calm?)

On vit en marge, en gros on est tous barges 

(We live on the margins; in short, we are all crazy)

Souvent les huissiers à ta porte font éruption 

(Often the bailiffs at your door make an outburst)

Si tu payes pas ton loyer c’est l’expulsion 

(If you don’t pay your rent, it’s eviction)

Val de Marne haut pourcentage d’immigration 

(Val de Marne, high percentage of immigration)

Être barge (v): to be crazy

3. “Je me Barre” (I’m running away) by Keny Arkana

Keny Arkana, of Franco-Argentinian origin and raised in Marseille, has been rapping since she was a young girl. Nowadays, she’s both a rapper and an activist, particularly in relation to the alter-mondialisation (alter-globalization) and civil disobedience movements. In 2004, Arkana founded a music collective called La Rage du peuple (The Rage of the People).

A sneak peek at the lyrics:

Libre, ça m’suffit, c’est impec! 

(Free, that enough for me, it’s perfect)

Moi j’suis bien quand j’ai rien, car pour être libre faut 

(Me, I’m good when I have nothing, because to be free one must)

avoir rien à perdre

(Have nothing to lose)

Ma liberté, a rendu vert les hommes en bleu 

(My freedom made the police furious)

Cage d’escalier comme logis, j’change de maison quand j’veux 

(Staircase as home, I move house when I want)

J’change de ville quand j’veux, élue sans domicile 

(I change city when I want, electively homeless)

J’vagabonde les yeux ouverts, l’enfant des rues est en visite 

(I wander with open eyes, the kid of the streets is visiting)

Impec‘ (adj): short for impeccable, which means “perfect”

Se barrer (v): is slang for “to run away.” Se casser is a synonym.

Vert (adj): furious, fuming

Les hommes en bleu (n. pl): literally “the men in blue” refers to the police

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.” 

A sneak peek at the lyrics:

Y a pas que la mauvaise volonté qui t’écarte de la bonne voie 

(There isn’t only bad faith that distances you from the right path)

Dieu sait qu’ici bas on n’a pas toujours le choix 

(God knows that we don’t always have a choice down here)

Dans ma tête c’est l’orage même si la pluie ne tombe pas 

(In my head, it’s a storm even if it’s not raining)

J’ai suivi un droit chemin j’ai pas besoin qu’on me félicite pour ça 

(I followed the straight path, I don’t need to be congratulated for that)

Le malheur ne reste jamais loin 

(Hardship never stays far)

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, his tag or signature was “SOAR” and “SOLAAR.” Armed with a postgraduate degree in philosophy, MC Solaar has been rapping since 1990 and is one of the most influential rappers in France, known for his intricate and complex lyricism.

He’s found success in the Anglophone world through a variety of collaborations with Missy Elliot and Guru, to name a few.

A sneak peek at the lyrics:

J’ai été mercenaire, plutôt que missionnaire 

(I was a mercenary rather than a missionary)

Je regrette, et pour être honnête je souhaite que Dieu me fouette 

(I regret and for that I wish that God whips me)

Dieu, Tu es la lettre, il faut que l’on Te respecte 

(God, you are the letter [of the law], one must respect you)

Archange, comprends-moi au nom du père 

(Archangel, understand me in the name of the father)

Certains me trouvent exceptionnel mais j’ai pas fait l’élémentaire 

(Some find me exceptional but I havent done the basics)

Le mic’ pleure, la feuille pleure, le bic pleure 

(The mic cries, the sheet [of paper] cries, the Bic [pen] cries)

Et sous le saule pleureur: Solaar pleure 

(And under the weeping willow: Solaar cries)

(Note: A quick warning that the content of this video may be inappropriate for some viewers.)

6. “Esclave de Votre Société” (Slave of your company) by Assassin

Assassin, formed in 1985, is a pioneering hardcore rap group that hails from Paris’s 18th arrondissement. Since their inception, their mission has been to raise social and political consciousness of marginalized people. Indeed, much of their work foregrounds the ills of consumerism and social inequality.

A sneak peek at the lyrics:

Tu rentres dans la vie active, bienvenue dans le monde des requins

(You enter the professional life, welcome to the world of sharks)

L’Etat est pire qu’un gang, il nous vole dans la main 

(The State is worse than a gang, it steals from our hands)

Il n’y a rien à faire 

(There is nothing to be done)

Accepte ou pars en guerre 

(Accept or go to war)

Les magouilles dans mon adolescence ont géré mes affaires 

(Scheming in my adolescence managed my business)

La magouille (n.f): scheming, skullduggery

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 word play? Their song “Sacrifice de Poulets” is featured on the soundtrack of the film “La Haine” (hate).

A sneak peek at the lyrics:

Cette fois encore la police est l’ennemie 

(This time again, the police is the enemy)

Je zieute la meute, personne ne pieute 

(I see the pack, no one is sleeping)

Ca sent l’émeute, ça commence, la foule crie vengeance 

(It feels like a riot, it begins, the crowd screams vengeance)

Par tous les moyens nécessaires, réparer l’offense 

(By all the means necessary, repair the offense)

La ville est quadrillée, les rues sont barrées

(The city is locked-down, the streets are closed)

Zieuter (v): take a look at something

Pieuter (v): crash, bunk, sleep

8. “365 Jours” (365 days) by Oxmo Puccino

Born in Mali and inspired by The Notorious B.I. G., portrays of life in Paris as a marginalized member of society permeate Oxmo Puccino’s verses.

A sneak peek at the lyrics:

Vivre c’est des chiffres et des lettres

(Living is numbers and letters)

Des chutes et des litres 

(Loss and liters)

Des chèques et des contrats 

(Checks and contracts)

Tout ce que tu pourras 

(All that you will be able)

Et lorsque tu pourras plus, tout va ralentir 

(And as soon as you won’t be able to, everything will slow down)

Signe que l’avenir devient repentir 

(Sign that the future is becoming remorse)

A chaque marche passée, l’escalier s’effondre 

(At each step taken, the stairs melt)

Alors je saute en chantant chaque seconde 

(So I jump while singing every second)

 

So there you have it. The ball is your court.

Put on some headphones and get ready to t’amuser (have fun)!

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