French The Kid is not actually French, but the Essex-born rapper switches between the two languages seamlessly on his heart-felt raps, having learnt the language after spending some time in the country during his childhood. Contrasting ethereal melodies with classic 808 beats, notably on his latest track Single Player, French The Kid finds solace through the art of music making. The rapper has distinguished himself not only through his bilingual takes that landed him a collaboration with French rapper Jul, but also due to his unapologetic, layered takes and constant determination in creating a unique sound. Today, we caught up with the rapper to speak about his childhood in France, his song-writing process and his sense of multi-cultural identity.
Hey French ! I’m guessing this isn’t your birth name so how did you come up with French The Kid?
Literally, when I moved back over from France, all my boys just started calling me French, and it stuck. I forgot who it was – someone popped up to me in my messages, I think my name was something to do with French, but someone popped up in my messages, and was like ‘French the kid’? And I was like, “Yeah, that’s kind of cold”. That’s it. There’s not really much behind it.
Let’s take it back to the beginning. So you started your music career by posting videos of you freestyling on Instagram. Did you ever imagine any of these would blow up or was this something you were literally just doing for fun?
I mean, I was doing it for fun, but at the same time I needed a career, and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I just loved music, so I was doing freestyles at school. Then literally one day one of them popped off differently, and we started from there. I didn’t have a clue, I’ll be honest. I knew I believed in myself on a different level. So if we’re talking like that, then yeah, I knew in that regard there was something there. But when I was first recording the freestyles, I didn’t really know.
What pushed you to record and release your first official track Bella Latina?
My boys mainly. I kind of thought, let me just give it a go. Let me just release something and see what happens. You know what? Actually, for Bella Latina, my expectations were actually a bit higher than they should have been. I thought there’s two languages in this and that is going to pop off – and then it didn’t at the start. Then I stopped doing music for a bit, but that was pretty much it. It was more of just “let me try, let me put something out just to see what happens” kind of thing.
Your brand new track Single Player sees you tap into emotions of loneliness to create a much more melodic sound with raw and vulnerable lyricism. Do you view music as a way to process your feelings and life experiences?
Yeah, 100%. That’s kind of where I started off with music. It was like a remedy to things. When you’re writing, you know, you’re kind of in your own little bubble, I don’t really know how to explain it. Things that I can rap, I can’t speak on, do you get what I’m saying? I kind of feel more comfortable rapping and singing about certain things than talking to people about them. That’s the beauty of music to me anyway. That’s how I feel. Single Player is definitely that.
Tell me a bit about your creative process. Where do you find inspiration and how do you translate that into your music?
It’s just how I wake up. I might not write for weeks, and then I might wake up, or something might happen. I might wake up feeling a type of way and then I’ll write. It’s all just about how I feel on the day, to be honest.
In 2020 you released Première League with Jul, one of France’s biggest rappers. What was that experience like? Did Jul share any wisdom with you?
It’s just mad because when I was in France, everyone used to bang his tunes out. He was the biggest artist, where I was anyway, down south, he was like the guy innit. When I was there not in a million years, I would have thought I’d be a rapper. Not only a rapper but also on a track with Jul. I mean, it’s fucking mad really. I learnt from him in a reflective sense because I never actually got to get in the studio with him unfortunately. We only spoke through the phone but yeah, he had his ideas for the tune, and straight away he delivered. You could tell he’s been in this for a while.
So your mom is Irish, you were born in Essex and lived a big part of your life in France.
Yeah, that’s it.
How does this all come into play with the sense of your identity and your home? Out of all these places is there any particular one that you really consider like your place?
I’d probably say here in the UK, but now that I’m here, I want to get away from here. It’s weird but home wise I’d definitely say the UK. Being in the UK near my family, I suppose near some of them anyway, is always good. I feel like with me I’ll find a home in one of these mad little countries like Finland, or something, just them countries where there’s just nothing there and loads of land. I feel like home is wherever I go.
So when it comes to writing lyrics and your freestyles, of the two languages, which comes more naturally to you, French or English?
English. English now. But, you know, the funny thing is, that’s only because I’ve been out of France for so long. Obviously, my mother tongue is English, but when I lived in France for so long, I got to the point where I started thinking in that language. So if I started writing bars while I was in France, it would have actually probably been easier to write in French, which is what I did. I think English just comes a bit more naturally now I’m here.
How would you say the French rap scene compares to the UK rap scene?
The French rap scene is more, I know it sounds stupid, but it’s way more European. So it’s more like the more tied in with like the Italians, or the Germans. Their videos are all quite similar across the board. I think they’ve started to get more UK influence now, but only just recently. It’s difficult to explain. It’s just very European, the sound is very European. They’re ahead of their time with things they’re doing and they do big numbers as well in France. It’s crazy. They do crazy numbers.
If you could link up with one particular rapper, French, or British or whoever, who would you pick?
This is a hard question as I don’t strictly listen to rap. I listen to everything. I listen to every kind of music. Well, if I could work with anyone then probably Kid Cudi or 50 Cent. Growing up, I always listened to them. They’re the only two I could really say that I’ve listened to since I was young.
So music’s been with you since you were born, with your family constantly playing tunes around the house when you were growing up. What kind of music were being played?
It was every minute my mum used to play music. She’s just a cool woman, kind of hippie in a way, and she just loves music. She would play anything from Jimi Hendrix to Gorillaz, Motown to just anything like house music. She played everything like that. I do give her credit. I do think part of why I’ve got to where I am is just the ear that she’s given me for music. When I have kids, they’re going to be listening to literally everything.
How would you describe your music to someone who’s never heard it? Like aliens just landed in the UK, and you’re the first person they see.
I would say, ambient, reflective. It makes you think. It’s perfect for when you’re in a certain mood, I’d say.
So what’s next for French The Kid? Any big goals you want to achieve?
I don’t know yet. I have to get to the end of my career to know when I’ve done it. I think while you’re in this game, everything’s a bit like a fairyland. I need to be at the end of my career to be like, “Alright, shit, this is what I’ve done and this is how far I got”. My end goal, I don’t think I’ll know until I’ve ended. I know a lot of people probably want awards, and that’s fair enough. They probably say I want this, I want that, I want to be at the top of the charts, which is great. That is a brilliant end goal to have. But I’m not too sure I’m one of them.
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