Midnight Album Spotlight: MC Solaar

Hello, I’m Michele Myers, a DJ here on KEXP. My show Nite Life airs every Friday night at 9pm. Every week, after 3 hours of danceable sets -- at the witching hour -- I choose one of my favorite records for the Midnight Album Spotlight.

This week it’s the 4th album from French rapper MC Solaar -- simply called MC Solaar. This record always reminds me of my time in France, which is funny because I heard American music almost exclusively all four times I’ve been to Paris. Apparently the French LOVE Michael Jackson (Thriller was huge), Madonna (her early stuff) and The Eagles (who I think are actually a great band that have been tragically and chronically overplayed). This trend was true throughout Europe. When it comes to music from the United States, it seems “you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.”

In Paris, I always felt rather like the “Underground American”. I would pretend I was French. The French love to wear black, they wear clothes that actually fit (rather than baggy American wear) and they are into shoes, so I fit right in (at least until I tried to speak my high school French). But everywhere in Paris I was surrounded by, and embarrassed by, American tourists. They yelled out their questions to French people, as if English would be more understandable if heard at a higher volume. And they wore shorts (totally unacceptable in most Euro-cities), white tennis shoes (you might as well write “American” on your forehead with a Sharpie) and t-shirts (come on, guys, you are in PARIS, live a little). In the words of David Sedaris, an American writer who lived in Paris (paraphrased): “It’s fine to be comfortable, but do you have to dress as if you were here to mow their lawns?”

The other thing is that Americans often see the French as rude, but they don’t study the customs before visiting. Do you know it’s considered extremely rude to walk into a French room and not say hello to every person? So if you just walk in without a “bonjour” you are already offending them. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is visiting Europe. Do us proud!!

MC Solaar is France’s most popular rapper. Born in Senegal, he grew up mostly in Paris, where he would spraypaint his tags “Soar” and Solaar” on buildings. He’s influenced by the jazzy hip-hop of the 80′s like Tribe Called Quest, Queen Latifah and Jungle Brothers. This video of “Galaktika” has a definite 80′s vibe. Don’t be frightened.

I love how European countries who colonized parts of Africa are now becoming largely made up of citizens from those countries. This is a rare case of international justice. In the 1600′s the French started taking over what is now Senegal (they named it St. Louis even, cheeky!). And now the Senegalese are an ever-growing large segment of the French population. Viva la Senegal!! MC Solaar is a example of the regal bearing of many African French. This gorgeous, rich cultural minority has enriched French music. And MC Solaar himself is largely responsible for bringing rap to the French Mainstream.

This record is lush, cinematic and sexy. It will warm up even the coldest Seattle summer. Put on your sharpest clothes and dance. Spray on some cologne, eat a baguette, drink some vin. Viva la France!

Join Michele Myers for Nite Life -- Every Friday Night at 9pm. She also produces KEXP Documentaries -- short radio features. KEXP Documentaries series include: Punk Evolution, Masters of Turntablism, The Heart of Soul and Music Revolutionaries.

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4 Comments

  1. Robz
    Posted June 19, 2008 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    I love his music, no idea what he’s saying.
    Do you know of any sites of his lyrics with English translations?
    Thanx for intro.
    robz

  2. Michele Myers
    Posted June 19, 2008 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t found any. But if you find one let me know...

    Meanwhile...enjoy the mystère...

  3. French R&B fan
    Posted November 2, 2010 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    Solaar definitely made a lot of people around the world aware of French hip hop. Nice to see how it’s blossoming today.

  4. Jim
    Posted November 22, 2011 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    Any ideas where I can find this album? Not available on iTunes.

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