While most of us are probably familiar with several French artists of Northern African origin, such as Freeman or Rim.K, their counterparts in the Maghreb itself are often ignored or, for lack of distribution or marketing, just overlooked. As far as Algerian Hip-Hop goes, two crews have played the role of dooropener for a bigger wave of artists that have come after them: MBS and Intik. Both represented on a compilation of Algerian hip-hop named Algérap as they were just about to become the very faces the rest of the world identified with the music of Algeria’s youth.
MBS are from Hussein Dey, a quarter of Algiers, the capital of the country. The four members are M’hand, Red One, Yacine and Rabah. MBS stands for Le Micro Brise le Silence (The mic shatters the silence) and the name itself hints at some of the problems the group struggles with, both as artists and as citizens of a country that has gone through waves of atrocious violence committed by the French colonists right through the struggle of indepencence, the post-independence dictators and self-proclaimed democratically elected governments as well as by various armed factions causing thousands of deaths in a struggle for political and economic power.
MBS published their debut, which was also the very first Algerian hip-hop album in 97 entitled Ouled el Bahdja (Children of the radiant one) and they sold over 60,000 tapes in just a few months. Following this huge success, they released their second album one year later called Aouama (Swimmers). At the same time, in November 98 they were invited to a show of Algerian music in the Zénith in Paris. After that, they’d become the face of Algerian hip-hop in Europe, touring several festivals and spreading their name. The albums I’ve got for you here are their third and fourth releases. After these, in 2005, their latest album came out, following a solo release by Rabah in 2004.
Now meet Intik. They formed amidst the civil war breaking out in the late 80s and their name, Intik, is highly ironic as it really means something like “it’s going fine.” It’s what you say if somebody asks you how you are. Obviously, things were not going fine at all. Their lyrics tell of the unofficial censorship that bans their music from TV and the radio, of the civil war horrors and the people’s frustration with the self-important political caste. Musically, they blend hip-hop, reggae and raï, which may deceive the listener to think that this is some easy chill-out music to switch off your mind and kick your feet up to.
Intik got their big break after IAM’s producer Imhotep somehow got hold of one of their quickly-recorded tapes that they would send to friends in France. Imhotep was just organising the Logic Hip-Hop festival in Marseille and invited them over, along with Algerian old schoolers Hamma. Soon thereafter, they got their first record deal and gave birth to their self-titled album in 2000. One year later, we are blessed with another album called La Victoire, which is the one I’ve upped for your listening experience. “Notre devoir” could easily be the world anthem for reconciliation and peace, as far as I’m concerned.
Algeria, here you come.
Algérap Compilation (2000)
MBS – Wellew (2001)
Intik – La Victoire (2001)