Coalescing Pharaonism with kick-snare symphonies from their native Marseille, the illustrious IAM have personified French hip-hop since the early 1990s. After merging in the port city in 1988, Akhenaton (Phillipe Fragione), Shurik’n (Geoffrey Mussard), Khéops (Éric Mazel), Imhotep (Pascal Perez), Kephren (François Mendy), and Freeman (Malek Brahimi) became the first French rap group to release an album, the Public Enemy-inspired 1991 debut ...De la planète Mars. The album’s centerpiece, “Tam-Tam de l'Afrique,” a scratching chronicle of colonialism, crystallized IAM’s iconoclastic conscience, rooted in Middle Eastern philosophy. The follow-up album, 1993’s Ombre est lumière, thrust IAM into the French mainstream with the group’s signature track, the disco rap floor-filler “Je danse le Mia.” Redefining rap francais’ upper limits with the irreproachable L’école du micro d'argent in 1997, IAM’s chef d'oeuvre established the genre’s French apogee, with the scathing, nine-minute social commentary “Demain, c’est loin.” After languishing in creative malaise, IAM returned to their vintage Brooklyn sound in 2013 on two stellar albums, the stirring boom-bap sonata Arts Martiens and the self-titled IAM. The group kicked off their third decade with distinction, releasing the retro bop Rȇvolution in 2017 and the instrumentally layered Yasuke in 2019.