Beyoncé and JAY-Z might've shot a video at the Louvre, but French cloud rappers PNL did them one better: In the clip for Deux frères’ opening track, “Au DD,” they turned the top of the Eiffel Tower into a drug den. Since the duo debuted in 2014, they’ve been perfecting that vibe: a mix of gritty, street-level realism and warped, fever-dream surrealism. But while rhymes about dope, sex, and just trying to get by have been MCs N.O.S and Ademo's stock-in-trade, it’s their vulnerability that’s made the French Algerian brothers one of the country's biggest-selling acts—and one of its most promising exports to the English-speaking world. (They were set to play Coachella in 2017 until Ademo was refused a visa.)
PNL's fourth album keeps in that lane, with syrupy, melodic atmospheres buffeting their lyrically (and vocally) complex tracks. On “Blanka," they rap about fear, regret, and existential angst over airy synths and a slo-mo trap beat. The title track (which translates to "two brothers”) is both an expression of their fraternal solidarity and a reminiscence of their humble beginnings; in a world beyond comprehension, only they can understand one another. And on “Celsius,” as N.O.S examines a life of pain, money, and solitude, Ademo ponders staring into the abyss like Anakin Skywalker, his voice heavily tweaked with Auto-Tune. Somewhere in that cognitive leap between street life and Star Wars lies the beauty of PNL—it’s hip-hop for intense head trips.