The party may be over in Canada, but it starts back up again on Monday, September 24, in Boston. French rapper OrelSan is about to teach the basics, just like in his song “Basique,” to his American audience in Boston, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. “I am happy to be going international. There’s a lot of fun, it’s a bit of an American dream,” says Aurélien Cotentin, the rapper’s real name.
The Caen artist first gained fame on the Internet in 2007 for the wrong reasons. The sexist and misogynistic lyrics in some of his songs such as “Sale Pute” (Dirty Bitch) or “Saint-Valentin” (Valentine’s Day) led to his prosecution by feminist groups in 2009 for “insult” and “provoking violence.” After years of proceedings and developments, OrelSan was acquitted by the Versailles Court of Appeal in 2016 on the grounds of freedom of expression.
The rapper says he’s moved on. “You don’t say the same thing at 22 as you do at 36. Music is fiction. It’s important to be able to be free in your writing.” The enfant terrible of rap grew up and reached the top of the French charts. “I like to evolve, I like to do different things.” His latest album, “La fête est finie,” was a hit in the music industry. In one month, it was certified gold once and platinum three times. The rapper knew how to surround himself with the rap greats; Stromae, Nekfeu, Maître Gims all added their touches to this singer’s third album. And it didn’t go unnoticed. In February, he won three Victoires de la musique awards, including the award for best male artist of the year.
“I don’t make music to win prizes,” he counters. He ignores the criticisms that resurfaced after the Victoires de la musique ceremony. “I’m very happy to have won these trophies. I only hold on to the positive feedback.”
After starting his tour in Canada, OrelSan is heading down the East Coast to play in Boston and New York before heading to San Francisco and Los Angeles. This is the first time he’ll perform perform in the United States. “I like this side of conquering a new space,” jokes the rapper. “With expats being away from home, you feel that they’re happy that you came to see them.”
The rapper is familiar with the United States. “I lived in Florida for a year when I was 20. The year allowed me to work on and refine the songs we had in my first album, ‘Perdu d’avance.'” Released in 2008, the album has been certified platinum. While “70% of my playlist” is composed of American artists like Outkast, Andre 3000 and Kanye West, the rapper remains cautious at the idea of writing in English. “I would love an international career, but I don’t see myself writing in English in terms of culture, word choice. But there are alternatives that could be cool.”
“We expect only good things from it. What’s cool about this American tour is that we play in smaller venues than in France. There’s an intimate side to it.” After the United States, OrelSan will continue his tour in France.