Before the World Cup Final in 2018, a huge mural overlooked Bondy, the suburb of Paris where Kylian Mbappé kicked ball before he played the game. A picture of Mbappé was rightly accompanied with "Ville des Possibles" (City of Possibilities), a befitting message of hope that Mbappé embodied for millions watching on in the region of Paris he was born.
The rest is history. Mbappé, aged just 19, scored the first goal by a teenage player in the final since Pele, before lifting the Coupe de Monde, cementing his status as a global megastar and one of the most exciting players in world football.
COPA90’s new film – ‘93 Famille‘ – made in partnership with Kylian Mbappé and FIFA 21, explores the spirit and togetherness of the baller’s home district of Bondy and the surrounding Paris suburbs, known as “the 93”. The banlieues are not only associated with France’s biggest ballers like Mbappé, but with an array of emerging talents in football, music and culture.
The camaraderie and diversity of life inside the 93 have not only aided Mbappe’s development as a player, but as a human being – with his style, taste, beliefs and attitudes all coming from a mentality moulded by the region he grew up in. In the film, Mbappé opens up on the responsibility he feels on representing his region to the fullest: “I left Bondy when I was 14, so I stayed most of my life there. So I have a lot of memories. A lot of people helped me build myself as a player, of course, but also as a teenager. I was starting to build my life, to build the man I was going to become.”
To put it into a more UK-centric perspective, the banlieues – or “street” – mentality he fostered in Bondy is comparable to South London’s own thriving football and rap scenes.
Both areas are two of the most densely populated and diverse regions in Europe, condensing a striking mixture of widespread global influences and fierce competition into just a few square miles. It’s an understatement to say that standing out from the crowd is incremental for success.
As VERSUS readers will know, Dave and Jadon Sancho took on the world side by side in 2020, solidifying their positions as two of the biggest role models for this generation. Both growing up just miles away from one another in South London, the influence they’ve had on their respective art forms has been unprecedented in 2020: Sancho ended the 19/20 season as the top assist-maker in European football, Dave ended the year with the Mercury Music Award and 2020 Brit Award for Album of the Year.
With Sancho and Dave both barely out of their teens, you can feel the duo’s chart-topping and world-beating ability having a tangible impact on the next generation of UK talent. Both Dave and Sancho grew up kicking ball in small-sided games on concrete courts, and that fast-paced, overtly-tekky environment had a long-lasting impact on their ability as top level performers.
This mentality mirrors the swathe of ballers and barsmen across the channel, who have made it out of the Île-de-France banileues and are well on their way to achieving global recognition.
Mbappé’s eternal influence in Bondy mirrors Paul Pogba in Lagny-Sur-Marne and Roissy-en-Brie, N’Golo Kanté in Suresnes, Blaise Matuidi in Fontenay-sous-Bois, Benjamin Mendy in Longjumeau. Riyad Mahrez — a Premier League champion in 2016 – grew up in Sarcelles, one of Paris’s toughest suburbs. Those players made it out of the banlieues to become champions, and naturally serve as a big inspiration for the area’s flourishing rap scene.
Just like the UK, there are French rappers who kick ball while touching millions of views on their tracks – just ask Topas, MHD’s multi-talented protege currently playing for Valenciennes FC in Ligue 2.
You can easily find a wave of tracks from the French scene inspired by Mbappé, N’Golo Kante, Blaise Matiuidi and even former World Champion and banlieues-boy-turned-footballing-behemoth, Zinedine Zidane, solidifying the synergy between the worlds of rap and football in the country.
French rap is now firmly established as one of the most important, influential and far-reaching sounds of 2020, with artists like PNL and Vegedream opening up the genre to more ears and eyes than ever before.
We’ve selected a list of 20 French Rap bangers with NTS DJ and French Rap aficionado Thierry Phung (ONY) that have not only soundtracked the rise of street football in Bondy and the rest of Paris, but have been integral to the genre becoming a global phenomenon in the last five years.
Check out our ’93 ’til Infinity’ playlist below, and scroll further to find out why these bangers made the cut.
1. Ikaz Boi (ft. Leto) – Si Tu Savais
Infamous French producer Ikaz Boi collaborated with Saint-Ouen rapper Leto on a banger that could easily replace the Champions League anthem.
2. LRK – Red (Feat. Kalash Criminel)
LRK are the biggest Liverpool fan club in Paris’ suburbs, with “Red” showcasing the Bondy barsmen in the sort of form that would see them win both the Uber Eats and Premier League simultaneously.
3. 13 Block – Vide
“The gas canister is empty, we have to charge it back!” This is probably the song that Kimpembe was playing in the locker room during Les Bleus’ semi-final against Argentina to hype up the squad.
4. Lala &ce – WET (Drippin’)
Paris-based artist Lala &ce would win the Ballon d’Or when it comes to female French rap. In a heavily male-dominated genre, &ce stands out with her wavey sonics and slick lyricism.
5. Niska – Matuidi Charo (PSG)
One of the best tribute songs for a football player ever produced, “Matuidi Charo” is so celebratory it could easily replace ‘La Marseillaise’.
6. Lasoosh – N’Golo Kante
“Never tired like N’Golo Kante, it’s 3am and I’m still drifting” – Lasoosh pays homage to the relentless work rate of low-key legend with this low-key rap banger.
7. 13Block – Griezmann
Sevran superstars 13Block dedicate this hard track to Antoine Griezmann, on a beat more solid than Simeone’s low block when the Frenchman used to play in Madrid.
8. Diddi Trix – La Cité
Another classic song from Bondy native Diddi Trix, featuring an unreal accompanying visual which spotlights the area’s blocks and youthful energy.
9. Koba LaD – RR 9.1 (feat. Niska)
Two of the most popular French rappers Koba LaD and Niska repping the ’91’ (Evry) combine for a classic hit.
10. Nixo – N’Golo Kante
The humble French defensive midfielder has more songs dedicated to him than many other players – this is yet another heater to add to the list.
11. Kaaris – Charge
Sevran’s most famous rapper Kaaris is tackling his enemies harder than Serge Aurier (also born in Sevran) on this track.
12. PNL – 91’s
You can’t do a playlist without France’s rap kings PNL, who hail from Corbeil-Essones.
13. Vegedream – Ramenez La Coupe a La Maison
A truly unforgettable song that will forever be associated with the Les Bleus’ 23-man squad – who individually get shouted out one by one on the 2018 World Cup’s unofficial anthem.
14. 13 Block – Zidane
French rap titans pay tribute to French football legend and Real Madrid gaffer Zinedine Zidane.
15. Topas – En Brrr
MHD’s multi-talented protegee Topas is as good on the field as he is off it – he just signed a new professional football contract for Valenciennes (Ligue 2) after playing for a year for Paris real football club Red Star FC.
16. Jimkay – Afro Drill 1 (Af’Rill)
“Afro Drill 1” was a nationwide sensation this summer, with the track heard ringing out at every BBQ in Paris last summer in between the two lockdowns.
17. Ichon – Serie B
French rapper and member of Bon Gamin collective, Ichon is another Parisian with a ‘Just Do It’ mindset akin to Kylian Mbappé’s – so much so that he named a whole album: “Il suffit de le faire,” which directly translates to Nike’s iconic slogan.
18. Negrito – Mbappé
Mbappé gets yet another shout out on the French Rap banger on a UK-style Drill beat. Very, very hard.
19. Gambi – POPOPOP
Fontenay-sous-Bois’ (where Matuidi was born) Gambi is part of the new French generation of rappers who are not afraid of trying new unusual things in their music, with this track featuring a special Mbappé version.
20. N’Seven7 – OTT #1
Vaires-Sur-Marnes collective N’Seven7went viral on twitter for having the craziest film set in the French rap history – a great song to get hyped to before any game.