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Makala, double meaning rap

18.09.2019 – Stéphane Herzog

Genevan rapper Makala is not one to mince his words. “Radio Suicide”, the name of his latest studio album, released in June, serves as proof. Neither is the young man of Congolese descent concerned about his music being played on the radio. In this album he has put together 21 titles packed with unmistakable acoustic freedom and poetic licence. The explosion of musical ideas, created alongside producer Varnish La Piscine, makes for an admittedly challenging first listen. Makala’s rap follows a chilled funk, even reggae beat, but the instrumentals are distorted, mixed, and interrupted by flashes that are sure to keep listeners alert. The lyrics speak of sweet and bitter sentiment, with each further listening revealing a new element. Founder and member of the Swiss collective SuperWak Clique (see January 2018 edition of “Swiss Review”), Makala tells of his success and its effects on his social relationships. He lyricises about social networks and their vanity. He reveals his fragility, in a world of heavyweights. “La première fois que j’ai fait l’amour, j’ai fait croire que je l’avais déjà fait,” chants the rapper in the track Goatier: “The first time I made love, I pretended I had already done it”. Money and success? “I’ve got my hand in my trousers, soon I’ll have my hands on the money” he asserts in ICIELAO: “J’ai la main dans le froc (pantalon). Bientôt j’ai les mains dans le fric.” The Genevan excels in creating lexical clashes, with his words provoking a multitude of stimulating ideas. The flow of Makala’s voice is similar to that of North American rapper, Snoop Dogg: it is smooth, almost a whisper. A heavy presence of slang and ‘verlan’ (the coded use of language in which syllables are inversed) render the lyrics understandable, but not always accessible. Indeed, it is an album which has piqued the interest of specialist French critics: “I could say that we have here the greatest French-language rap album of the decade, except that it is not quite a rap album,” writes Etienne Menu on the rap blog, Musique journal, before continuing: “rather, it is more than a rap album.” This is a sign that the Genevan rappers and their independent label, Colors Records, have truly succeeded in establishing themselves outside Switzerland.

Makala: “Radio Suicide” 2019, Colors Records