It’s undeniable, the fast-flowing rhythm of 90’s hip-hop is now just a long gone memory. I swallow my pride each time a new song paints the picture of this new wave of rap and I try to accept this stark reality as best as I can : this art is evolving and it’s for the best. The old fart in me that feels an urge to listen to the song “Mauvais Oeil” every time Jul comes out with a new atrocity, has been obliged to make one big confession: there’s some cool stuff in the new school. In order to bridge the gap allowing me enjoy this new style, I needed someone who could lead me in slowly and with diplomacy. Jazzy Bazz was my saviour. In his first album, he was able to combine modern trends and an old school style, boom bap and trap, with amazing coherence and sure-fire technique. I drank up his words like a Pastis on the rocks, rediscovered Paris and reconnected with this generation of French hip-hop that I was so disappointed with.
J / I’m one of those people who argue that an artist’s first album is often their best because they fill it with everything they’ve accumulated since they began. Am I wrong about this ?
Jazzy Bazz / There are a lot of artists whose first album is their best, it’s true, I agree with you on that point. However, there are exceptions of course, many of them actually. It’s true that for the second album there’s a risk of it being botched, it’s happened. To be honest, who cares what people think ? The important thing is for the change that you instil in the second album to be understood. In France, your fan base generally wants you to keep doing what they liked about you in the first place, so it gets tricky. In my case, I’ll mainly try to keep myself entertained but I think I’ve gotten to a point where my audience trusts me a lot. I wouldn’t make something that’s completely different, but different enough that I can have fun showing it off.
J / There’s a sense that you really want to bring back a certain old-school vibe by modernising and mixing it with more current trends. Is this a way for you to bridge the old and the new ? To find some common ground between the two ?
JB / I don’t particularly want to bring back Boom Bap (laughs) but it just comes naturally since it’s this kind of style that made us want get into rap music... No point in denying that those influences have forged us. The albums that I tend to like most are old school, but they were new at the time so we’re not going to rewrite history, it’s not our goal nor what we want. I believe an artist is the combination of all his influences. In my case there’s modern and older stuff. I’m the first one to be annoyed by music that tries too hard to be old school. So we try to mix influences that go beyond hip-hop in any case.
J / What’s your stance on this evolution, auto-tune, lyrical parts... Don’t you think rap is slowly becoming more radio-friendly ? Is it threatening for its authenticity ?
JB / From the very beginning there were rappers trying to make their music as mainstream as possible. This can be found in all musical styles. That being said, certain trends encapsulate everything in hip-hop, from the tempo, to the rhythm, how you sample or the instruments or VST used... All these trends don’t apply only to those who want radio-play but to all of hip-hop. Even in the underground most people make trap using auto-tune but with harsher sounds, darker stuff and more subversive lyrics. I follow this evolution and I think that’s what’s interesting and allowed this music to stay alive. If we had stuck only with an 80’s to 90’s style, I think hip-hop would have died like a lot of other musical styles.
J / The song ‘’Trompes de Fallope’’ (Fallopian Tube) really stands out, mostly because you’re singing from beginning to end. Can you tell us more about this song ?
JB / I was getting to the end of the creation process of that album, it was one of the last tracks I made and wanted to change : make a song with only melodic singing, since I had done a few choruses singing but found there was actually not enough of it. I don’t overdo it, it’s just a different flow. Just a little more melody. This is nothing new, I was inspired by Doc Gynéco in this case, so I must say it’s rather old school. I thought to myself: “I’d like to do something in this vein, because it’s really timeless”. It’s pretty cool. You tell a story which makes people smile and at the same time it’s relatively deep. It’s a George Brassens song that made me want to write this song. There’s this line that goes “she’s tasted all mous- taches” or something. So I told myself it wasn’t something I could give the Rap/Hip Hop treatment because you can’t really rap George Brassens in terms of flow. So yeah, the idea comes from Brassens and the singing-style from Doc Gynéco and I mixed the two with a good dose of Jazzy Bazz.
J / Paris holds a special place in this album, beyond just the title. Did you have this theme in mind from the very start or did it come as you worked through the tracks ?
JB / It happened little by little. I knew I wanted to name the album that way but I thought only the title would be about Paris. After writing “Ultra Parisien”, “Fluctua Nec Mergitur” or “Le Syndrome”, we realised it was a common thread to the whole album which I liked.
J / Let’s talk about your music videos. Six videos on one album is a lot. Is this a way to compensate for your independent production and publishing ? Added to the fact that it can be hard for this music to get radio play.
JB / Whether you work independently or with a label, you’ll notice that everyone makes more videos nowadays. In the model, before piracy that is, artists would make a video for two or three songs per album at most. Now everything takes place on the web, whether it be listening to music or watching a clip. I don’t do this only to be seen. I regretted not having done more videos for “Sur la Route du 3.14”. It’s also because I know a lot of great directors who have sick ideas.
J / More and more rappers put their entire albums on YouTube. I noticed all your songs can be found there too. Do views count more than digital sales ?
JB / This is not about views actually. It’s only so that my music can be found easily. Let’s not kid ourselves, people are going to listen to it without buying it. I’d rather have it on my channel and tell people they can purchase it by clicking a button. Nowadays, somebody who buys music does it out of support for the artist. We have ten times more followers on social media than actual buyers. At a certain point, people make a conscious decision to support you fully and truly help you rise, and that’s when they buy your music. When I’m looking for music myself, I spontaneously go to YouTube. I don’t have a Spotify account or anything like that. YouTube is the most popular streaming platform : even though it’s made for videos, music is first listened to on YouTube. So I’d rather my music be on it because I don’t think anyone would make an extra effort at a party : if he or she doesn’t find my tunes on YouTube, he’ll skip to another artist. I prefer people to find my music.
J / Let’s talk about your background. Your father is a saxophone player, he even plays the bridge in one of your songs, correct ? You were brought up on music weren’t you ?
JB / Yes, he plays on “Le Syndrome” and he had already made an appearance on “Hommes de l’Est”. I would always get woken up by him singing or playing the saxophone. It would drive me crazy but yeah I grew up on music. It allowed me to be exposed to a lot influences I wouldn’t have had otherwise, but I think I would have done rap regardless. It broadens your horizons and it’s always good to have varied influences. It helps you avoid plagiarising, which is a common tendency.
J / So how did you start rapping ?
JB / I was in junior high-school with Eso and a few others. We would rap for fun, like a lot of kids, except, at the time, it wasn’t as popular. Nowadays a lot of young people rap because it’s fashionable. Back in the day, there were crews: rockers, rappers and a lot of others who didn’t give a shit because they would listen to Skyrock (French youth-oriented radio station) more for Difool than for the music. Now you can find thousands of crews in high-schools. I’m happy that this trend has made a come back.
J / Then there was Cool Connexion, L’Entourage and many open-mics...
JB / My first band I made with some friends and Eso. We had a few bands in junior high then we made Cool Connexion with Eso. We started getting some attention and a DJ played one of our songs on Generations. It was the first time friends from high school called me up saying: “we heard you on the radio, we’re stoked”. Later, there were the Rap Contenders which really shone a light on what I was doing.
J / When did L’Entourage come about ?
JB / Actually L’Entourage came to be right about when Cool Connexion became known. We spent all our time together, as soon as there was a hip hop event; we kept each other informed and held meetings in empty lots. We did that regularly and we had a crew that remained nameless but consisted of about 30 guys. You can hear some of this on a track called “Les 37 Fantastiques” on the “Lyricalchimie” mixtape. This is part of the mythology of L’Entourage at the time. It was nothing more than kids getting together out of love of rapping. There’s something beautiful about it too because no one ever thought any of us would ever make it. It’s crazy that everyone managed to make it at least a little bit in the music business, it’s fun to think about those times.