ALPHA WANN IS MAKING FRENCH RAP THAT PUTS AUTHENTICITY FIRST
The Parisian rapper explains why there are no rules to art, and reveals his New Era collaboration.
France has long been known as the second home of hip-hop, thanks to the massive market for rap music in cities like Paris and Marseille. In fact, at a global level, Paris has come to be seen as important to the hip-hop genre as cities like Detroit and New York. A lot of that momentum is thanks to the commitment of a rising generation of French artists, who are rapping in their native tongue about French matters, and thus cultivating a rich and unique sound. One man currently making his unmistakable mark on Parisian rap is the gifted and stylish lyricist known as Alpha Wann.
Alpha grew up in the 14th arrondissement of Paris, and spent his teens and early twenties starting rap groups with cult followings, like 1995 and L’entourage. The former, 1995, ended up being a petri dish for Parisian rap’s future greats, and helped launch the careers of both Alpha and Nekfeu. But it’s Alpha’s critically acclaimed solo career that has cemented him as a Parisian force. His debut album, Une Main Lave L'Autre, was a heady concoction of linguistic genius laid out over sparse beats. And his latest mixtape, don dada mixtape vol1, is more of the same, underpinned by sizzling collaborations with other French luminaries, and bold lyrics that champion artistic integrity and authenticity over the longstanding rap clichés of luxury, glamour and indulgence.
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“My rule is that there's no rules,” said Alpha, in an interview with New Era. “This is not a sport. It's not about if the ball crosses the line, and stuff like that. This is just art. Somebody can say it's the greatest thing you’ve ever made, somebody else could say it's trash. You just have to be true to yourself. If it fits you, if you manage to convince yourself, then I guess then you’ve made it.”
Alpha chatted to New Era as part of the explosive new music campaign, “The Music Generations”, which celebrates the brand’s historic journey through culture by championing pioneering artists across all genres, from the hyped alt-pop band Easy Life to AJ Tracey, to Alpha himself. As part of the collab, Alpha designed his own New Era collection, which includes a fine and lightweight Casual Classic, available in blue or green, featuring the logo of his Don Dada label.
“My favourite hat was a NY Yankee fitted cap. It was blue and red with leather on it. But what was special about it was that the leather pattern on the cap was of a New Era cap. It was the drawing of a New Era cap on a New Era cap... which was crazy. That was definitely my favourite one. I think I still have it."
“Clothing and music have always been interesting to me, since I was really young… I was always interested in what people were wearing and why they were wearing it,” said Alpha. He spent years collecting New Era hats, and had hundreds of them at home – now, he’s designing his own. “I think when you really have a passion, everything comes full circle,” he said. “I spent so many years collecting New Era caps back in the days, and now I’m designing one, so it has come full circle.” As for the fact that New Era is now celebrating 101 years as a brand? “I guess when people are still coming to see you after 100 years,” he smiles, “you must make a good product.”