What’s the story?
The son of a Greek father and a Scottish mother, the 27-year-old rapper was born Ken Samaras and raised in the suburbs of Nice before the family moved to Paris when he was 11. His rap career started in 2007 and he performed in a number of groups, including S-crew, 5 Majeur, L’entourage and, above all, 1995, who won the award for Best Urban Album at the Victoires de la Musique in 2014.
Nekfeu’s first album, Feu ( Fire, pictured right) was released in June 2015 and quickly became a major success. The track On Verra ( We’ll See) attracted 64 million views on Youtube, establishing Nekfeu as a major artist in social media. After making a surprise announcement about the release of his second album, Cyborg, live on stage at the end of 2016, he achieved 300,000 sales in record time.
Nekfeu has been involved in controversies, especially in 2013
when he insulted satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in a lyric. After the murder of some of the magazine’s staff by terrorists in January 2015, Nekfeu expressed his regret over the song. He has recently become more politically active, supporting a number of causes designed to help France’s disadvantaged.
Why do we like him?
Nekfeu’s music is often gentle, quiet even. But his rapid-fire rap offers an irresistible counterpoint, giving it a harder, more urgent edge. The singer’s style constantly leans on French culture, roots and experiences, meaning that he creates something distinct, rather than simply aping American artists. Although some of his videos do fall into cliché, Nekfeu’s admission that he is an avid reader means his lyrics are a cut above the norm.
What does he say?
“I make rap music naturally and the albums cover all kinds of themes. I talk about politics, I get rid of my anger, and there’s a little bit of an ego trip there, too. But the rap I make is a true reflection of my life.”
Three songs to check out… Mauvaise Graine
Nekfeu recounts his troubled youth against a background of rippling pianos and infectious beats.
Nekfeu duets with English singersongwriter Ed Sheeran on a throwback tune that sounds like a joyous old disco dance-floor filler.
A woozy number featuring fellow rappers Sneazzy and S.pri Noir that manages to mention Donald Trump, Israel’s leader Binyamin Netanyahu and former French president Nicolas Sarkozy along the way.