For some time I’ve been covering the French rap scene from here in England, from my first time in Paris (years ago), I remember seeing posters with the name Booba, and brief stints of MC Solaar (thanks to Missy) and Roff (Thanks to Pharrell), as the years passed, we barely had our own scene here, so little was known outside of these sides and America. Fast forward, I came across the likes of Gradur, and monitoring that saw the large audiences being accumulated, more importantly, noticed the ability and whilst American influences will be always show, there was a unique homegrown appeal, not just with the sound but style too. France has always been pivotal to Fashion, and as always the streets never get their justice, with the French being ahead of the curve with the trends. Most recently, the football apparel.
Anyway, as these things draw interest, their inspiration becomes more clear, and we learn of further similarities amongst the unprivileged, filled with struggle, and the desire to overcome. Now while all these acts are emerging and flourishing, there still lacked a certain level of impact, until PNL.
The duo (Ademo & N.O.S), introduced to me by a friend from Reims, were captivating to say the least, from their look, down to their sound, but the mystery that surrounds the duo, only entices one further, and as each song continues to be just as good with catchy melodies and conviction in their tones, their visuals have not let them down either, and it’s fair to say, adding the fact that they turn down every major interview, invites from Chanel, and being on the line-up for Coachella, certainly creates a star-like phenomenon rivalling the ones you would assume they looked up to.
With Jusqu’au dernier gramme (Until the last gram), the duo show a deeper level of artistry, a stronger level of humility, removing themselves from the forefront, and bringing their associates together as leads, to create a movie around their music. Much like the songs, it is focused on the street life, drug dealing connotations and rivalry, however, much like them, there is more depth, lessons within, and a positive narrative overall.
Set up in four parts, the visuals are more action based than script, with the duo’s music providing the soundtrack. A story of three brothers, what initially was just something different to further promote the music, has really taken on a life of it’s own. Starting with Naha:
The visual has since racked over 60million views, serving as an introduction to the characters, especially Naha, and the rivalry that brews, as they look to take over his clientele, clearly disrupt the hustle as Naha ends up being arrested. Not only does this first instalment introduce us to Onizuka (referencing the Manga, GTO) and Bené, but it highlights the surrounding characters, and the outcome of decisions made, leading to part 2, Onizuka:
The more focused and studious brother, Onizuka, now the eldest in charge, has to not only maintain his studies, but take care where his elder Naha is unavailable to. It’s the more influential part to the series, with many able to relate to an extent, it also shows another spectrum of decision making, and we’re further shown Naha’s rivalry with Macha (aka the Coca Cola kid) inherited by Onizuka. The story is though understandable, it’s the principles on which they live by which can be learnt from, the dangers which can be avoided, and with the unfortunate circumstance he finds himself in, things fall into place for the third instalment, with the younger, not so experienced brother, Bené:
By now, you’re familiar with most of the characters, and like a Netflix series, engaged and invested. You learn more on the characters, including the backstory for Macha. Aside of the narrative, a lot has to be said for the production, and quality. It is well put together, acting as a stronger set of visuals for PNL’s music, it really does well, even if you cannot speak French, you can follow through (another factor of PNL’s global appeal). With now Macha out the way, it gives another a chance to takeover, whilst we follow Bené, the more radical character, who becomes the unlikely hero, as he continues to fearlessly bring justice with the aid of his comrade. It’s actually a sad truth, for many young kids, who have to act out and find a means to survive. Last but not least, we’re now at the last part, the conclusion of the story thus far, the finale, Jusqu’au dernier gramme:
Further providing backstories on the once friendship between Naha and Macha, and possibly the reasons for his ways, contrasting with the current unfolding of young Bené’s plans, it really is a gripping encounter, full of empathy and entertainment, as the youngster really takes matters further into his own hands ands foils their plans, down the final gunshot. Though you’re shown Onizuka making a recovery, and the release of Naha, it cleverly leaves it open for more, and I’m sure fans are hoping so, with questions still to be answered. Ultimately it’s an enjoyable watch, with quality music throughout, but more so, it does shine the light on French street culture, and better be through a form of entertainment than the reality of the news.
Definitely looking out for more from PNL, who continue to break boundaries for French music and the culture. And more plaques on this monkey’s wall..
Shout out both Ademo, N.O.S and the whole QLF.