Poupée Russe

Sarahmée

Poupée Russe

Sarahmée has been a force on the Quebec hip-hop scene since the late 2000s, but it wasn’t until her second album, 2019’s Irréversible, that her blend of rap and Afrobeats really came into focus and gained her a broader audience. The Senegalese-born artist’s third album, Poupée Russe (translation: Russian doll), addresses familiar topics such as sexism, racism, addiction, and love, but this time within a more personal context. “I found that the image of a Russian doll hiding inside another doll, and then another one, and so on, was well suited to the theme of this album,” the Montreal-based Sarahmée Ouellet tells Apple Music. “With each song, I reveal a little bit more about myself, about my life and my hopes. I wanted to get closer to people and open up more. I wanted to delve deeper and say things more directly, more bluntly.” Part of that direction was aided by a change in her songwriting process—by literally putting pen to paper first—and by working alongside Clément Langlois-Légaré and Adel Kazi of Clay and Friends. “This collaboration allowed me to explore new sounds,” she says. “Stepping out of my comfort zone was really motivating.” Here she reveals the story behind each nesting doll.
“Bienvenue dans ma vie” “The title of this track ['welcome to my life'] is quite evocative: I set the stage for everything that follows on the album. It’s rap at its purest; it’s straightforward and gets right to the point in terms of the message, attitude, and intent. I think the tone I rap to on this track is unequivocal: I assert myself and fully intend to take my rightful place.”
“Elle est partie” (feat. Nissa Seych) “This track was created at a cottage where Adel, Clément, and I went to stay for three or four days in November 2020 to finalize the album. I wanted a super catchy Afro beat, but one that was different from anything I’d done in the past. So we called Lucas Liberatore, a Montreal composer who works a lot with Anglophone artists. He immediately came up with this rhythm, which has a slightly Spanish sound to it. It inspired me to write a song that’s quite feminist and remonstrative.”
“Quand la route est longue” (feat. FouKi) “Once again, the music was written with Adel and Clément. What I had in mind was something that would sound like Burna Boy. I love what he contributes to Afrobeats; it’s very organic, with guitars and brass. I also knew that FouKi would be great on a track like that. And indeed, he was right in his element! I wrote and suggested it to him one morning, and at noon, he’d already sent me his verse.”
“Vilipendés” (feat. Chilla) “I started this one in 2018. It was initially supposed to be on Irréversible. At the time, even though I really liked it, I didn’t feel it belonged on the album. I decided to get it out again and realized it wasn’t outdated at all. We completed the production and I invited Chilla, a rapper and musician in France, to participate. She came on board with the project and it was amazing. Nothing pleases me more than an artist who gives of their time on this kind of collaboration.”
“Poupée russe” “The night we did this one, we were at the cottage and I was in an ‘I need to let off some steam’ mood. I told the guys to find me the biggest banger they could. And they came up with this solid beat which culminates with a giant freestyle of drums and synthesizer. It’s the perfect song for tooting your own horn, like one big ego trip.”
“De près” “Here, I really gave free rein to my writing so I could talk about several things: racism, how others perceive you, my own ambition in the profession, my vision, the people around me, the way I see life. I also wanted to do a song like back in the day, where there’s only the piano and very few frills, that would highlight the lyrics.”
“Partir plus tôt” “I think this is the most introspective track on the album, and the most autobiographical. While I was creating Poupée Russe, I embarked on a path to gain greater sobriety. Listening to people talk about their creative process was inspiring for me. I felt they showed tremendous courage. So I tried to go that route myself, to stop being afraid of what people would think about me. I felt like being good to myself, by being genuine and honest.”
“Jaloux” “For this one, I wanted a nice easy vibe, something light and airy, backed by a really good groove. To accomplish that, among other things I collaborated with Nissa Seych, who helped me find the right direction for the track’s melody and improve the ambiance.”
“Genou à terre” “It’s a love song that describes the way I am when I’m in a relationship. I’m someone who gives a lot and I’m very passionate. I tell the story of a love that is far-reaching, in the best and most beautiful sense of the word, and one that could possibly end up turning into a lifelong commitment.”
“Superflex” “I love this song! It also dates back to 2018. We decided to get it out again and change it. I wanted a beat where the bass is very present, almost like rock. When I listen to it, I picture all kinds of weird things: a mosh pit, athletes entering a stadium and the roar of the crowds, being the star at a fashion week. In other words, there’s a lot going on in this song.”
“Sourde” “I did this one with Adel and Clément as well. I wanted something calmer, if not to say a bit laidback, but with a nice groove. We even added real trumpets. I don’t usually do that kind of beat, but I thought it really worked for this song and that it had its place on the album.”
“Tout quitter” (feat. Maky Lavender) “When I composed this one, I was going through a breakup and I’d embarked on the path of sobriety. There were lots of things going on in my life. This track talks of those times when you have to take the plunge, leave behind the life you’ve led, even if you know that everything is going to fall apart around you. For the music, and especially the guitar riff, we were inspired by Jamaican artist Koffee, who I listened to a lot at the time.”
“Le cœur a ses raisons” “This track sort of sums up my life and takes stock of where I am today. My career path in the world of music hasn’t been plain sailing. Despite all the people along the way who didn’t believe in me or tried to deter me, I was never discouraged. It’s a hymn to passion and to the importance of believing in your dreams.”

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