Multi-platinum selling emcee OrelSan is one to watch. His latest project 'La fête est finie' is one of the highest selling hip-hop albums in his home country of France, but the multi-disciplinary act is not resting on his laurels. His newest video "Paradis" is a blend of cinematic animation and live action scenes that go beyond the typical rap video. The song itself is a profound look at a blossoming relationship and all the drama that comes along with it. The rapper made his US debut performance at Irving Plaza on the 25th of September and we were able to get some quick juicy bits from him so sit back and get to know the man known as Orelsan.
EARMILK: For the benefit of anyone who’s been living in an underground bunker for the past few years…who on earth are you? Could you give us an insight into the origin of your name OrelSan?
Orelsan: I’m a French dude, called Orelsan I’m from Caen a middle size city in Normandie. I write stuff, make music and videos. My real name is Aurélien, so everyone calls me Orel for short and since I’m a manga fan I added the Japanese « san » that kind of means "mister".
Do you remember the first song you ever made? How did you go about it?
The first song I ever made was an egotrippin rap verse that must not have been very accurate, probably talking about drinking, being lost in life, and lying about having a lot of sexual intercourse, hahah.
Describe your life during your short stay studying at USF Tampa in one sentence?
My life in USF was a strange year, being far from home, in a different country, and I was only 2O years old so it was an experience.
On your newest release "La fête est finie". You worked exclusively with Skread(Besides "La pluie" produced by Stromae) and you both have a really organic vibe. How was the process? did you ever work with other producers on this project? The lead single "Basique" with its infectious groove sees you dumbing it down for the sheeple. Some may see it as a gimmick but what are your thoughts on this?
Yes, I worked with Skread, Stromae, Guillaume Briere and Phazz on the production. Skread did most of the beats on the album, and he also is the executive producer. Skread and I have been working together from day one, so we really complete each other, he is a pure genius. We wanted to make an album that sounds like what we listen to, but that is also personal. We are really influenced by UK/ grime, afro and the whole American rap/trap scene so we try to blend all that, plus my style. When I pitched Basique to Skread, I told him ," I would like a simple beat, with a UK vibe, I want to make a song in which I tell bits of advice that are so obvious they become funny and make you think at the same time » Of course he didn’t get what I was badly trying to explain… So he made a beat, and I started vibing on it, repeating that and we built it from there.
The video is very vivid and engaging too. I do notice that aspect about your videos(eg "Défaite de famille"). Can you break down the concept a bit for us?
The video is a massive one take. It’s directed by Greg and Lio. Since the song has kind of a military vibe on the drums and the delivery, they thought of this classic « Full Metal Jacket » scene. We thought that it would be cool that the line of people listening would never stop, so we started counting how many people we needed (350), and we kept adding ideas, like it’d be cool if the camera flys at the end and people from the album release date etc. Greg and Lio really did amazing work.
Congrats on your first US performance at the Irving plaza, unfortunately, we weren't able to make it but how would you describe the reception? How different is it performing to an anglophone crowd? Should we expect a collab with a US emcee soon?
Thanks, It was incredible. The place was packed. We really had a special vibe playing so far from home,everything seems more emotional. It felt like a rollercoaster, we had moments of nostalgia and some real turn ups.I’m started to do more and more speeches in English so that the anglophones in the crowd aren’t lost. But on the other hand it’s music so the vibe communicates. I mean when you go see a pop band live in your own language you really understand most of the lyrics, so I think you can have a great time without a full translation. I play with a live band so it’s really about the music.I’d love to collaborate with American artists soon, there are so many great artists nowadays, I feel like rap music is becoming more international since we have a lot of melodies now. So yeah I’m really going in that direction. Plus it’s a win-win thing, there are really big American stars that are not as big in France, we need to change that.
You have been both a solo act and part of a duo. How does your recording process change in those instances? Will we ever get another album from Casseurs Flowters?
The duo with Gringe is really a lot of fun, we try to write songs in which there is a point of being a duo. Our albums were like buddy movies on record, stoners for the blind. Gringe is releasing his first solo album really soon and I feature on it, so Casseurs Flowters is still alive.
If a movie about your life in music was to be made, what interesting/strange moments and stories would you share to make the movie cool? What is the greatest thing about working in the music industry? And what would you change if you had the opportunity?
Actually, I made a movie about our life in music, the early days, before blowing up. It’s called "comment c’est loin" which kinda means, "it’s really far". I'd like to see it as a mix between a Kevin smith movie and a musical (to make it simple). It came out in theaters 3 years ago. If I had to write a sequel about my life in music there are so many interesting things I could talk about how it impacts your life in a positive / negative way, the sacrifices you have to make, the tentation, the pleasure of overcoming yourself, the business issues, being on tour, etc.
What has been your biggest challenge…and how did you overcome it? What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
I guess my biggest challenge is to keep making good music, It’s really hard to evolve without losing the old you. Staying actual is tough. Also not becoming your own caricature is a major issue. The only way to overcoming it is… making music, being in the studio a lot, writing, listening to people’s reaction, getting out your confort zone. And of course not releasing every song you make. It takes me like four shitty songs to make a good one, it’s always hard to throw stuff away when you have been working a long time on it. But it’s necessary.We’ve done so many gigs that I loved it’s hard to choose one. The first Accord hotel arena we did this year was incredible. The feeling was like, ok now we reached the point where 15000 people are reunited to see the show, let’s enjoy every second.
Where can everyone reading this interview keep up with your adventures?
To be original I’d say Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube. I’d love to say thanks for reading the interview. I learned how to speak English and about the American culture listening to rap music, (I try not to use slang though ahah I have to refrain myself). I’d love if the opposite happens. They should make a rap genius section where they translate the other languages, bye.