French The Kid, is an energetic and passionate rapper from Essex, whose honest bars and unique sound have grown him a loyal and adoring fan base. French is simply being himself, sharing his talent with the world, and having fun whilst doing it. Through lockdown, the rapper’s popularity grew. As he now gears up to his mixtape release Never Been Ordinary, French sits with us to discuss his musical history, come up and the new tape.
You have been super busy at the moment are you on a massive promo trail at the minute what’s happening for you?
“Literally, just getting ready for the mixtape. I’ve got one track I’ve done a video to literally the other day. And then another one, then hit them with the mixtape. So It’s all just leading up to the mixtape really.”
How is it feeling being in Project mode? What’s this process like? Is it really different from making singles?
“Yeah, there are more studio sessions. With me it’s normally like, I’ll only go studio if I’m really in the mood. I’m not in there all the time. With a mixtape coming you literally have to be in there a lot. So half the tunes are recorded I don’t even like anyway, so most of the time, it’s really just banging them out… literally.”
What’s the selection process like?
“Just being particular literally. When I’m recording a tune I’ll know if I lay a verse on it, I’ll know straight away if It’s gonna bang or not. If it’s not, I’ll just say let’s find another beat. That’s pretty much how we’ve done it really.”
Let’s go through your story a little bit for people who might not necessarily know. Starting from the very beginning, What music did you grow up listening to? Where does your influence come from?
“Everything. Literally. My mum’s a musician, so I’ve listened to everything growing up. Motown, reggae, rock, rap, literally everything. There isn’t a genre that I don’t listen to. My playlist is weird. People would look at it and think it’s weird. Irish folk music…everything.”
So you come from a musical household. What did your mum do play or sing?
“Everything, she loves it!”
A performer as well?
“Yeah, she’s got a little band. She goes to Irish pubs and does gigs. She loves it.”
So do you think that witnessing your mum engaging with music and performing had anything to do with you going down this route? Where do you go from I hear all this music, I love all this music to now I want to start creating it myself?
“I always liked music, but it was never like I need to start doing music? I don’t even remember how I got into music. Me and the boys were just freestyling. They were like ‘record this’ and then it literally happened from there.”
Have you always been good? Did you ever have a moment where you’re like, I could never say those bars again?
“I was DEAD! It was embarrassing. It was just dead man. But we all start somewhere.”
So freestyling with friends, that’s how you start writing. Where does the moment happen where you think this could be something worth pursuing?
“I made this tune called “Bella Latina”. I used to release on SoundCloud a lot, just to have my music out there. But my first proper tune out there was “Bella Latina”. And I thought yeah, this is the one, this is going to blow, and then I kind of longed it off for a bit. Then I met my manager, it was rolling smooth from that point onwards really.
Is where you are now something that you ever expected?
“Nah, but you don’t really do you. I think where mine happened progressively. I started seeing it and that was quite nice. It wasn’t just like, oh shit, like, I’ve just blown up this is nuts. It was easier, much better. But I didn’t I didn’t realise until it started happening.”
When did it start happening for you?
“Probably after my Mad About Bars. I thought, alright, this is it, I’m starting to get somewhere now.”
Okay. So, you have built a really organic and engaged fanbase. Listening to the project there’s a track called “Conversation” where you address that relationship. There are elements of inspiration drawn from Eminem’s “Stan”. Was that intentional?
“Course it is. I mean it happened naturally, but I used Stan as a way to communicate the concept. I wouldn’t have been able to do that song in any other way. It’s not similar, but it’s real.”
True, Stan’s quite sinister with the hard-hitting message. I like the way it’s taking something quite sinister but have turned it into something that’s thought-provoking in a different way. As the nature of the relationship with your fans evolves, how important is it for you to be able to communicate directly with them?
“I mean I think it’s the most important thing. Without supporters, where are you? You ain’t really anywhere. You can always release music, but they’re the ones that keep you going really. They’ll tell you I like this, I like that. So they’ve got time for me. I’ve got time for them. So I think it comes with the whole music thing really, It’s the whole point of it.”
Elements of the project are quite healing to listen to, in terms of overcoming dark times. Is that something that’s deliberate for you? What do you want your fans to experience when they hear you?
“I’ll write naturally. I’m not gonna write about this. I just write when I feel a type of way. People seem to like that, they go with it, Then hearing that back makes me want to do it more. All the real rap stuff yeah, that hits the fan base. But, I don’t do it because of that. I just do it because I like doing it.”
Do you find it quite easy, to be honest, open and vulnerable in your music?
“You’ve gotta be yourself, because otherwise, you’re just living in lies. I’ve got no filter. What I rap about is just how it is really. I think people appreciate that.”
And so in another song on the project “Sirens”, you paint this picture of life and talk about, where you’ve come from. A far cry from where your life is now. What would you say about how those experiences have shaped your creativity?
“I think there’s a lot, there’s always a lot to write about. For me, I’ve always got things to write about. It’s like weird because it’s not things you would want to rap about. But it just comes so naturally. And that’s how it all started. I was rapping that type of stuff. But when it comes to beats, I think that just came because I just love music really.”
Let’s talk about the beat selection process. How does that work? Are you in the studio making the beats with the producer are you getting sent stuff? How did you pick the beats for the tape as well?
“I’ll just go through YouTube type beats.”
For real?! Then what, you just reach out to them?
“Yeah! I’ve got a couple of producers that I know personally, shout out Love Life. He made “Thrill” and “Can’t Feel My Face”. But most of the time it’s just ‘type beats’.”
Nice, the YouTube beat scene is crazy so it’s great you support that. And is there any cohesion in the sound?
“So sort of, in some ways. But at the same time, I’ve got tunes on there from two years ago. Yeah, I’ve got like three tunes on there from time ago. It’s not just one sound. This is just me. And I mean that’s why they’re so random.”
It moves really well, the energy shifts work well, even the acoustic track. What’s the overriding message, that you want them to get from this project about you as an artist or about what you’re saying?
“It’s in the name of it Never Been Ordinary. I live by that. It’s just different. And I think people understand that as they listen to the mixtape, and then the music comes out after that because it really is different.”
In terms of people you’re working with, you’ve got one collaboration on the project. Just the one, so who is it that you would like to work with in the future?
“Everyone’s doing their thing. There are a lot of hard artists but I don’t know. I do really need to think about it more actually. My management always tells me you need to start thinking about people you want to work with.”
There are a lot of hard ones. I tell you someone I would want to work with, Dave. I would want to work with him. He’s something else. He’s a pure musician. But then there are loads. I just can’t think of them right now. But there’s loads of hard artists right now.”
And I know you say you’ve got a super eclectic playlist and your taste is really random. What would be the most surprising song or artists in your playlist that people would think, really?
“That’s a very good question. There are so many I actually don’t even know. That’s a very good question though.”
Okay, someone who you think people should be put onto?
“Let me get the list out. One of my boys Slimz 100% up top. And you know what it is about him, people ain’t heard what he’s actually capable of, he is ridiculous, he just needs to release more different stuff. Young Sqizino, another boy from my area is doing his thing. Binz, a rapper from Manchester that does real rap, is very hard. I feel like I’m missing some of its peaks. There are so many underrated rappers it’s ridiculous.”
What’s the scene like in your area?
“It’s like London really. I’m East London, Essex. So I’m from Romford. But I’m in Basildon, which is more Essex. But it’s similar to London. Obviously, we have our rappers. Me and Slimz are doing it right now, and as I said Young Swizino is from here well. He’s from Chelmsford, but it’s getting there I think. A lot of Essex rappers are coming up now, which is good.”
Anytime one person opens a window of opportunity it means others can come through. Some people will be sat in their rooms embarrassed to admit they rap, and then they’ll see someone from where they’re from and they’ll be like, I can do it now.
“Yeah, that’s what it’s about. I think people paint a picture of Essex when it’s not that at all. You’ve got to fly the flag sometimes.”
Is there something distinct about the sound from Essex or do you think it’s quite similar to London sounds?
“I think we’re just hard. Literally, like we’re just hard! Nah, I mean, right now, there’s a lot of Drill, there’s a lot of samples. There are a lot of Essex rappers that I know, that are doing all that and it is hard. They’re doing their thing.”
How did 2020 impact your trajectory?
“It’s really good, I don’t know why, but my streams went up mad. On a madness, literally, while I wasn’t even going out doing anything to help. I think we released the video just before all the madness started happening. Or, Nah we filmed the video before the madness started happening, and then I must have released it mid-COVID and it did really well. That was “Old friends”.
Do you play any instruments?
“I wouldn’t say I play them, because I’d embarrass myself if people asked me to. But I play by ear. I can play a couple of things on the guitar, a few things on the piano. They were the instruments around when I was younger and I would have a little go on them.”
If there was an artist you could make a beat for who would that be?
“That’s a mad question. Probably A$AP Rocky. Oh or Kid Cudi. Those type of all over the place beats, that are kinda dreamy with a little sample.”
Rounding this off, would you give us one reason to listen to the tape?
“I just think because we’ve got a banger of each genre of rap on one tape. There’s one more single, then the tape.”
Never Been Ordinary is due for release on April the 1st.