First known as one of the members of the 1995 collective, a group of friends and rappers in southern Paris that created the album Paris Sud Minute (2014 Victoires de la Musique award in the Urban Music category), Nekfeu released a debut solo album (Feu !) that was a huge hit in concert halls, on the Internet, and with critics, showing that French rap has a bright future.
Feu ! set a number of records in 2015, including best digital sales launch of the year, historic record for launch of a debut rap album on iTunes and the most streamed artist on Spotify, and the record also went platinum. Nekfeu’s first solo work also stood out for its diverse influences that depart from urban culture. With tracks titled “Le Horla”, “Laughable Loves” and “Martin Eden”, we find references to works by famous writers and legendary French musicians (Gainsbourg and IAM). A look back at the various inspirations behind a debut album that reveals the openness of an especially talented young rapper.
Nekfeu in a few words
Ken Samaras - his real name - was born in 1990 in La Trinité in southern France and spent his childhood in the Nice region before moving to the 15th arrondissement of Paris with his family in 2001. The rapper, who created his stage name by distorting his nickname “Fennec” from his youth, cut his teeth in groups from the new French rap scene such as S-Crew, 1995, 5 Majeur and l’Entourage. He excelled at the art of rap battles and stood out for his skills with formulaic phrasing.
In June 2015, he released his first solo album, Feu! (Polydor – Universal Music France). This first album was a huge success with the critics and the public (over 170,000 albums sold and 6 million downloads on streaming platforms, to date), winning a 2016 Victoires de la Musique award for Best Urban Music Album.
The musicality, sharply honed lyrics and flow of the rapper’s work reveals a wide range of influences. Nekfeu drew inspiration from early French rap from the 1990s (IAM, Salif, etc.) as well as chanson française (he mentions Gainsbourg). But Maupassant, Kundera and Jack London have an even stronger presence on this debut album of a man who spent his childhood surrounded by books and has a flair for handling words.