From Keny Arkana to Chilla, six faces of female rap in France

Women are gradually taking their place in the sphere of French rap. Witnesses of their times, they perfectly embody all the musical genres of today’s urban music without forgetting to respect one of the fundamental pillars of rap: to convey strong messages. From Keny Arkana to Chilla via Joanna, zoom in on six faces of female rap to listen to urgently.

Keny Arkana, the immortal

She released her first songs in the mid-1990s, at the same time as Diam’s. Keny Arkana is one of the rare French women to make a lasting contribution to rap, with nearly thirty years of career. Originally from Marseille, the city that saw the birth of the IAM group the year he was 6 years old, Keny Arkana made his first scenes at the age of 14 with personal lyrics. Her struggles: alter-globalization, awareness raising, education, ecology … At 38, after a long absence, she is preparing to release her third album entitled Before the exodus.

READ ALSO: “I’m leaving for political reasons”: in his new album, Keny Arkana prepares his exodus

Aya Nakamura, l’icône

photo aya nakamura with old plows in 2019 © hugo smague

Aya Nakamura at the Vieilles Charrues in 2019 © Hugo SMAGUE

An icon for his international fame, the artist embodies French urban music throughout the world. It is no longer useful to present the one that young people call “Aya”, as she is present in their parties, especially since 2018 and the release of her hit. Djadja. It is his second album which propels the artist on the front of the stage. Sensual, a little provocative, the young woman of 26 years assumes her lyrics, her femininity, and it pleases. A Nicki Minaj made in France, singer more than rapper but, undeniably, a hit machine.

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Joanna, fragile and intoxicating

photo joanna in concert at the old plows.  © yves-marie quemener, west-france

Joanna in concert at the Vieilles Charrues. © Yves-Marie Quemener, Ouest-France

She’s got the trick, as they say. His bleached hair, his recognizable clear tone, make the artist from Rennes a half-rap, half-RnB talent to follow. She has a gift for unfolding romantic feelings down to the smallest detail. Joanna demonstrates it in her album Serotonin, released on May 7. Told as a romance that everyone could know. His ease in handling words catches the ear and gently triggers a certain melancholy. Through the fragility that emerges from her pieces, she expresses a force: that of giving herself up without make-up and of being able to look her faults in the face.

Chilla, feminist, but not only …

photo chilla.  ©  sarah schlumberger

Chilla. © Sarah Schlumberger

Real name Maréva Ranrivelo, Chilla released her first album Karma, in 2017. Of Franco-Malagasy origin, the rapper became known through committed lyrics and freestyles with rhythms and punchlines worthy of the greatest rappers of her generation. His pieces Dirty bitch and If I was a man were talked about during the #Metoo wave. Far from being locked into a totally militant rap, Chilla has diversified her style with texts that speak of love, doubt and stages of life.

Shay, gold between the tubes

photo shay.  ©  zabulon laurent/abaca

Shay. © Zabulon Laurent/ABACA

Granddaughter of Congolese singer Tabu Ley Rochereau, Shay was rocked to music. Her real name Vanessa Lesnicki, the Belgian rapper will celebrate her 29th birthday in August. If she really made herself known in the summer of 2016 with her title PMW, she had already made an appearance alongside Booba in 2011. In a few years, the artist has aroused curiosity, has established himself as one of the muses of French-speaking female rap. It has nearly 203 million views on YouTube. After his first album, Pretty bitch, released in 2016 and certified gold record, the artist returns in 2019 with a second opus, Antidote, also certified gold. A project that includes the hit Liquid in collaboration with another rap heavyweight, Niska.

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Lous and the Yakuza, feminist and committed

photo lous and the yakuza at the reindeer musical trans 2019. © nicolas joubard

Lous and the Yakuza at the Trans musicales de Rennes 2019 © Nicolas Joubard

At only 25 years old, the Belgian-Congolese artist Lous and the Yakuza continues his musical rise on the international scene. The author, composer and performer, Marie-Pierra Kakoma (real name), became known with her first hit, Dilemma, in September 2019 before the release of his first album, Gore, last fall. Nominated for the Victoires de la musique, in the 2021 female revelation category, the young feminist and committed woman has accumulated tens of millions of views on Spotify and YouTube. In just a few months, she became one of the most popular French-speaking voices and an icon.