French The Kid is paving the way for bilingual UK rappers. Blending punchy East End rhyming with smooth, delicate French language hooks, his vocal style is totally unique, as his backstory. Raised between the streets of Essex and Toulouse, with strong ties to the Irish traveller community, his identity has been forged by cross-cultural encounters and experiences of crime and poverty. Bars packed with vivid storytelling are the outcome — and rap fans are lapping it up.
In late 2020, he dropped one of the most-watched Daily Duppy freestyles ever, racking up over 20 million views, and surpassing equivalent efforts from Central Cee and Meekz. Since then, he’s collaborated with Bad Boy Chiller Crew and Russ Millions, released his debut project ‘Never Been Ordinary’, and featured in the NME 100. Yet a willingness to do things differently defines French’s music. That drive is clear on ‘No Signal’, a mixtape which sees him flip effortlessly between English and French over dark, goosebump-inducing UK drill and road rap beats.
While previous releases have stuck to a fairly consistent sound, linking spacious drill rhythms with chilling string compositions, ambient piano, and gliding subs, ‘No Signal’ sees French dip his toes into new waters. There’s soulful gospel on ‘Remember’, funky summer hip-hop vibes on ‘Fuck A Trend’, while ‘Notice Me’ links skippy drill hi-hats with indie guitar effects. Live instrumentation also features on ‘Constantina’, where dark piano melodies spark excitingly against haunting high-pitched vocal samples. Arguably the project’s best track, it sees French spit “Turn up the bass, run up the whole mixtape / Trust me, listen to the lyrics alone” — he then backs this up by repeatedly dropping the instrumental out to spit a bar, before allowing heavy 808s to swoop back in forcefully.
‘S-Class’, the 18-track mixtape’s sprawling third song, embodies the essence of French The Kid: after spitting a series of intricate, cleverly-textured bars documenting tales from the road, he drops the silky Francophone hook “C ton pote frr c pas mon ami / Tu me trouve sur le block dans la nuit”. The smoothly-delivered lyrics translate roughly as “He’s your friend bro, he’s not my friend / You find me on the block in the night”.
What’s most impressive about the Essex rhymer’s bilingual rapping isn’t always the direct translation, but the fluidity with which he skips between languages, and the unwavering sense of his individual voice that prevails throughout. Last year, he told NME, “What is talent? You might as well believe in ghosts. I don’t believe in it” — and yet, on a mixtape that’s packed with invention and sharp storytelling, French shows that he’s clearly got bags of it.
- Release date: April 14
- Record label: Drop Out UK