A staple on the Gallic hip-hop scene, Deen Burbigo dropped his well-received debut Inception in 2012. The rapper has a natural ear for the best beats and his smooth, conversational verses on top of melodic tracks mean that even if you don’t speak French, you’re able to enjoy his flow. Clearly influenced by pioneers like Nas and the Wu-Tang Clan, Deen Burbigo has gone from strength to strength over the last five or so years.
Born in Toulon, the now 30-year-old rapper moved to Paris in 2008. A low-key intellectual, Deen Burbigo moved to attend the prestigious Sorbonne University to study history. During his early days in the French capital, Deen Burbigo made a name for himself in Rap Contenders competitions.
Since his early days taking to the stage as part of Rap Contenders, in 2017 Deen Burbigo released his first full-length album, Grand Cru. After being on the scene a remarkably long time to have only just released his first LP, the reviews of Grand Cru have all suggested that good things come to those who wait. Deen commented in an interview with French hip-magazine abcdrduson.com that taking your time feels like a thing of the past:
“This image, it also evokes something of our time: today if you do not make a video every two weeks and an album every six months people tell you that you are ‘old fashioned’. A few weeks ago I released the video of Me Réveillier, a week after I saw people who told me it had been a while since it was released! I can’t keep up with this pace!”
This track feels like a natural progression from his previous album Warlord. Since Yung Lean came crashing on to the scene in a beige bucket hat, rain jacket and some serious white boy Lil B vibes in 2013, the rapper has gone in a progressively darker direction. Since the heady days of Ginseng Strip 2002, where a 16-year-old Lean bopped around in a Swedish shopping centre rapping about getting brain off a cokehead that looks like Zooey Deschanel, the young rapper’s music has undergone a remarkable development.
As a rapper that specialises in the quality of his lyricism, particularly his punch lines, Deen Burbigo requires certain writing conditions to get into the flow. This, plus a disaster where he lost all of his work due to a burnt hard drive, the three-year incubation of Grand Cru is indicative of an artist who likes to take his time. However, the time that was taken over this release is reflected in the quality of the tracks.
Grand Cru marks a charge in the rapper’s approach. Technically, Deen Burbigo no longer has to prove himself as a lyricist – therefore, bars are less packed, the flow has been lightened and more sung verses have entered in the tracks – Deen commented that in some of his earlier work, he would barely stop to take a breath. This approach has significantly broadened Deen’s crossover appeal, with tracks like On y va having the potential to break in to a more mainstream market.
On Grand Cru the production has also progressed. Previously having worked almost exclusively with samples, the quality of the beats has come on significantly. Grand Cru borrows from a plethora of different styles – for instance, tracks like Coupe le con and Lá Gamin bring a surprising trap flavour to the album, and Freedom, the ninth track on the LP brings in some reggae beats. Deen comments that he doesn’t see himself as a rapper that has a style that he has invented or developed – he tries to extract the best bits out of everywhere, creating eclectic, interesting records. However, this is not to say that the album lacks consistency: the presence of producer En’Zoo holds it together.
Despite the trappy, floor-filling vibes of tracks like Coupe le son, Grand Cru demonstrates Deen Burbigo is the thinking man of French hip-hop. Although subtle, several lines in Burbigo’s flow address French politics and society. Faced with a political and societal climate saturated with debates around identity politics and national security, the rapper has confessed in interviews that the toxicity of French politics has made him want to leave the country. However, Burbigo has chosen to stick it out, engage more and mobilize his music as a tool against reactionary speech. Burbigo said:
“I told myself that we have to fight, so I’m going to be more interested in what’s going on…We will stay here and we will do it. We [rappers] have a lot to bring to the country in terms of culture, economy.”
Despite his pessimistic view on the state of France, the future is looking bright for Deen Burbigo. Since creating his own record label Maison Grand Cru, Deen is charging ahead with his mission to keep French rap and hip-hop at the forefront of cultural production. Deen has suggested he is keen to get behind the boards as well, and work with younger French acts such as PNL, SCH and Josman. With other recently completed projects proving Deen Burbigo is on an exciting path – such as translating rap music for film – we can’t wait to see what France’s George Crooney serves up in the coming year.
Deen Burbigo – Grand Cru Tracklist
- Retour en arrière
- On y va
- Me Réveiller
- Ma bande
- Pas une autre
- Coupe le son
- En principe Deen Burbigo
- Lá gamin
- Tu rêves
- Fils de riches
- Faut pas t’en faire
- Rêve d’ado