Collage by Oluwalana Ajayi
Are you curious about French underground music but don't know where to start? Have you always been eager to learn more about the new French artists slowly taking over the nation? Well, look no further because we possibly have the best list to get you started and hopefully, soon enough, we’ll catch you at one of this year's Parisian festivals singing along to all of the lyrics.
Arguably the most consistent French artist on this list, Congolese born Parisian based Captaine Roshi is probably your best shot in French music to start with. Known for his grandma-like vocals, nicknamed as Le serpent de Pigalle (“The snake of Pigalle” in French) and bringing out bangers after bangers such as ‘Rage’, ‘Mailler’, ‘Appel’ and more, you would want to get into his music before he becomes too big and you can no longer claim to have known about him from the very beginning.
Unlike what many people would assume, Captaine Roshi (or Larosh) grew up never really listening to French music and therefore, it came as a surprise for him as well when he decided to embark into a rap career. What was the reason he got started in the first place, you may ask? Well, his friends thought his unique scratchy voice would bring something new to the table, and it did. Started in the now dismembered group Ultimate Boyz, Larosh stood out for his clever punchlines and memorable freestyles accompanied by low-budget music videos. When the group officially went down their solo paths, Roshi’s freestyles began to take a life of its own and was interpreted both as the freestyle SSD series and the official countdown until his first full-lengthed project.
After signing to Caroline Records, Larosh released his first body of work ‘Attaque’ in 2019. This was followed by ‘Contre Attaque’, ‘W.A.R’ and later on, ‘Attaque II’ in 2020, ‘Road to Larosh’ in 2021, ‘Larosh’ in 2022 and lastly, the deluxe version ‘Larosh 1er’ this year. A defining moment in his journey is when he performed the song ‘Pigalle’ at the COLORS SHOW, becoming one of the first French artists to be featured in their series. At this point, you must think to yourself; “This artist just never rests!” and you’re absolutely right. As I mentioned before, Captaine Roshi is one of the hardest working French artists out right now.
Another question you may ask yourself is; “Why isn’t he the number one French artist yet?” Well, there are many rumours strolling around that perhaps he signed a bad contract or maybe he does not have aspirations to take it further and therefore, sticks to what he knows best. Regardless, Captaine Roshi is undeniably talented and carries the most unique sound in the French scene as of late. From his comical ad-libs to the storytelling, constant manga references and simply, his way of delivery, Captaine Roshi has had the greatest potential of becoming the new Hip-Hop face of France. Whereas, some would argue that the next artist on the list has far more in him...
Next on the list and perhaps one of Captaine Roshi’s biggest rivals is Lyonzon (City of Lyon in French slang) based artist Bu$hi. Born on a small island near South Africa before relocating to the East of France, Bu$hi’s approach quickly stood out from the crowd. Similar to Larosh, Bu$hi began in a group named Saturn Citizen, before they started releasing music separately however, kept their group name and turned it into an independent record label. To this day, not much is known about this decision making but, from listening to their biggest single together ‘Entrax’, and Bu$hi’s music now such as ‘Mistral’ and ‘Booska Mysterio’, one could assume that the lyonzon (or lz in short) artist wanted to move away from cloud rap altogether and focus on developing his own unique sound. In fact, it took him a year after the 2019 group release to drop solo music under the Saturn Citizen label.
It is important to state that Bu$hi is also part of the Lyonzon music collective, carrying the nickname Bushi_lz wherever he goes. In France, the underground collective is equivalent to Wu Tang Clan in the States, having a dozen members representing the brand as often as they can. Moreover, his official start in music was actually in 2017, but he really took off in 2019 as he was gradually dropping more songs. In a recent interview with American media outlet Our Generations, Bu$hi claims not to listen to French music at all and his inspiration comes from a range of sounds. This would explain his style that can be hardly described, besides a sombre mood with catchy rhymes and a laid-back vocal performance. Perhaps the key factor to Bu$hi’s success is his eccentric choice of beats.
In 2020, Bu$hi released his first self-titled mixtape ‘Bushi’ and then, ‘Bushi 1.5’ in the same year. This was followed by ‘Bushi Tape 2’, another mixtape and his debut album ‘Interlude’ both in 2022. With just a few releases, Bu$hi has managed to keep himself relevant. Alongside a flourishing music career while operating under his own label, Bu$hi also has a successful streetwear brand Wiremymoney in partnership with close friend and business partner Bryan Countach. In summer 2022 during Paris Fashion Week, Bu$hi and his partners organized a pop-up which later on turned into one of the most exciting outdoor performances in the streets of Paris.
The reason Bu$hi is believed to have the most potential and you should hop on his wave before it is too late is because he already has connections with international acts and it is only a question of time until he collaborates with one of your favourite artists. Furthermore, Bu$hi is constantly on the lookout to widen his overall reach, linking up abroad such as in Los Angeles and London. Most importantly, he has plans of placing French music into the world map.
Do you remember when I mentioned the breakup of the Parisian group Ultimate Boyz? Well, that is perhaps the best way I could describe it because it was nothing pretty and divided them all into two, where some members like Captaine Roshi and melodic R&B singer Squidji went a solo route, while others formed another crew called Dirtyiceboyz. This is where our next artist on the list, Reims based ThaHomey falls in the picture. First appearing on the scene under his own independent label Propulsion Music Family with ‘Avant La Vague’ (2018) and ‘Rarefiles’ (2019), ThaHomey sparked much later, becoming a staple in the Parisian music scene after joining the crew.
Dirtyiceboyz was short-lived due to rumours of scamming fans and unhealthy relationships with their artists however, it introduced French listeners to their new favourite underground rappers including ThaHomey, who at the time was not even seen as the face of the group, but made enough of an impression that fans followed him after their departure.
Dirtyiceboyz was arguably not as iconic as their previous clan, but it birthed important careers and formed the classic era of #trillistik. The joint project ‘TRILLISTIK’ dropped in 2021 and made proof of promising new voices in the French music scene. After their fallout, ThaHomey went on to release ‘HEAT’ in 2022, a collaboration project with Skuna which was well-received by the general public. ThaHomey is expected to release his first album ‘RARISSIME’ this year, making it his debut solo project since the group dismemebered.
What makes ThaHomey stand out from a lot of underground artists is not necessarily his signature sound because technically, he makes cloud rap without really pushing boundaries and trying to overdo himself. However, ThaHomey makes use of American elements such as Michigan flows, Jersey-type beat rhythms and Atlanta slang to keep your interest. This allowed him to have an upper hand in songs such as ‘DROP OUT’, ‘WORK’ and lately, ‘BLVD, HAUSSMAN’. Some may argue that ThaHomey could potentially cross borders just for his sound alone because it is much more similar to your favourite American pop stars that he could collaborate with easily. We believe his next project will offer clarity into what Thahomey is planning to do next.
Model-turned-artist, does it sound similar? Well, I promise you that there’s nothing that compares our next French artist on the list with British Tik Tok artist Jnr Choi, and if you feel as though you still haven’t found your French jam this far, then Congolese rooted Parisian based singer-rapper Rozzy may just be the one. Arriving in the French music scene around the same time as his peer ThaHomey, Rozzy first made noise under the pretence of a cloud rapper with collaborative EP ‘DIRTY ANGELZ’. Like I mentioned before, there were a lot of promising french artists that came out of the Dirtyiceboyz era, including close associates such as Rozzy who back then was still trying to find his sound. It is important to recognize that Rozzy also claims to have been part of the Ultimate Boyz before leaving the group on his own terms early on.
It was not until 2022 that Rozzy began following a different path both sonically and aesthetically, reminiscent of Playboi Carti’s Whole Lotta Red. To be honest, this is the best way I could possibly describe his sound; imagine Carti had a French baby who he doesn’t know about (Even sharing a few of the same tattoos). Best known for his modelling work with YEEZY, Rozzy’s music at the time felt temporal and was really solidified when he announced the official launch of his newly-formed label Angel Rekords.
In 2022, Rozzy unveiled his debut album ‘VIRGÖ!’, featuring equally important French artists Bitsu and So La Lune, while reaching abroad with features like American rappers Sickboyrari and Black Kray. I think it is safe to say that at this point and time, no other French underground artists of the Banlieues of Paris had taken it this far sonically and Rozzy’s album opened a lot of debate and conversations amongst French listeners.
Without a doubt in mind, Rozzy is your best option to start with as he will always push the envelope. In songs like ‘Jacquemüs’, ‘Chewing*Gum’, you get a true depiction of his versatility. And although this is only something he has tried recently, this could be the perfect opportunity to ride along while he is still growing as an artist.
Last but not least on our list is R&B French singer Jäde. Originally from the city of Lyon, we first became aware of her music through the infamous platform SoundCloud. At the time of her first release in 2020 with ‘Première Fois’, Jäde was already a household staple, mesmerising French listeners with her love tales. In 2021, she released her second EP ‘Romance’, proving the world to have a lot more to offer. Her final project ‘Météo’ (2022) gave her fans a new perspective into her love life and allowed those who dare to fall into her musical universe.
Although a great portion of her SoundCloud days are still available under her profile, it would make sense to start with ‘Diddy’, a song that still speaks to most of her French supporters. Unsurprisingly, Jäde also has a great list of features up her sleeves, joining forces with Lala &ce on ‘Bulles’ and ‘Étoiles’, while giving fans a refreshing trajectory with Squidji on ‘Noir et Blanc’. Moreover, Jäde worked on several occasions with underground Legend Gouap RTTCLAN.
The best way to describe what Jäde represents is simply a gasp of fresh air. In an industry where it can often be intense and male-dominated, Jäde finds a way to shine through the cracks and everyone has come to like her ever since. Her music is one that speaks to the soul and might as well be the perfect French artist you wish to begin with.