The prolific and popular French rapper Jul represents an entirely new direction for French hip-hop. In a culture that has treasured ’90s boom-bap, he splices rap and club music into a danceable whole. Whereas many shun Auto-Tune, he’s embraced it, citing American artists like Future as the model for his sing-rap hybrid. He’s digitally savvy, having built a community of fans over social media with very little radio support. Born into a working-class family in Marseille in 1990, Jules Marie started rapping at age 12. He was thrown out of secondary school at the age of 17 and briefly worked with his father. He rapped with local group Ghetto Phénomène while composing his own songs, breaking out as a solo artist in 2014 with Dans ma paranoïa. He released an astonishing three albums that year (all of which went gold or platinum) and kept up that frenetic pace for a few years. Perhaps most importantly, Jul is part of a new generation of French rappers who are looking to the Afrobeats scene for inspiration—and finding that French audiences are wholeheartedly on board with the sound. He’s worked with French-African producers like DJ Babs, and several of his top songs, including 2016’s “Tchikita,” are built around African instruments like the kora. He’s released several free albums—for his incarcerated fans, he says—and in order to exert more control over his sound and finances, he founded his own label, D’or et de Platine, in 2015.
BORNJanuary 14, 1990