Reviews | Album
Last year, 13Block a rap band from Sevran dropped the album Blo. Through their first few featurings, songs and projects (Vue in 2016 and Triple S in 2018) the band members established 13 Block as one of the biggest name in the trap scene in France. They took a lot of influence from the Atlanta rap scene, as well as from their home departement, the 93. This new album sees them doing what they do best. But in an even better way.
• Group Effort
First and foremost, 13Block is a band. That might sound obvious but it’s important. Each member of the group has a very unique and distinct voice. Zefor is amazing at doing catchy and repetitive chorus like on “Zidane”, “Métagorique” or “C’est pas mon Cas” [It’s not my case]. Sidikey’s voice lies on the thin line between monotonous and harmonious. He uses this to create tension by switching his flow from slow-paced to faster very often. The best place to check this out is in his solo song “Vrai Vie”. He is also the one with the funniest lyrics. Then there’s Zed’s whose tone of voice is amazing. His voice can go deep in the high-ends and get very melodious. Listen to “Amis d’Avant” [Friends from before]. This song is about when good friends later become acquaintances. Zed’s uses his voice very efficiently in the chorus to address the melancholy of the situation while also adding a lot of energy to the track. The last member but not the least is Stavo. Stavo’s voice is deep and raspy in a very ear-pleasing way. This is used very efficiently on “Fuck le 17” and “Binks 2.0”.
All the members have very different voice tones and flows which complement each other greatly. This creates a lot of diversity in the songs. No songs on this 24 tracks long album is boring. Special Mention to the back-and-forth between Zed and Stavo on Zidane.
It’s also important to note that they use a lot of ad-libs. The members of 13 Block use their own ad-libs like ”Nonante”, “Soixante” or “Bin-binks” to announce their verse or to emphasize certain sentences. They also use these ad-libs to add background melodic elements. On “C’est pas mon cas” and “Ghetto” you can hear “Sku sku sku” during some verses and choruses in the background. Ad-libs are an essential part of these tracks and act like any other instruments.
• 100% Trap
The instrumentals on this record are phenomenal. All the producers involved in this album like Myth Sizer, Junior Alaprod and Ikaz Boi did an amazing job. These are among the best trap beats you can find. They are energetic, fast-paced and lively. The hi-hats patterns make the instrumentals feel very upbeat. This is pretty much what you can expect from these kinds of beats, but done well. On this tracklist no beats sounds like one another or is too repetitive. The beats have great kicks and 808s and an overall great bounce that mix very well with the rappers’ voices.
The first half of the album is where the bangers are. “Zidane”, “Fuck le 17”, “Amis d’Avant” and “Petit Coeur” [Little Heart] where all released as single at some point. On the second half of the albums you can find some more melancholic bits. “Ghetto”, “Si j’avais” [If I had] and “Des choses à dire” [Things to say] all have a more nostalgic and sad atmosphere that are accentuated by the guitar melodies.
As I said, no beats sound like one another, but some production really sticks out to me. On “Fuck le 17” [Which can be translated as “Fuck 12”, 17 being the French police number like 911 but only for police], producer Myth Syzer sample a police siren to great effect. Especially considering this sample is mixed with a loud bass, Stavo’s angry voice and a message who criticize police forces so openly. This song is a worthy successor to N.W.A’s “Fuck tha Police”. On “Métagorique”, the repetitive instruments and drums greatly accompany the playful tone of the track. “C’est pas mon cas” is another high point of the record in terms of production with its psychedelic and trippy synths.
• Street Lights
The lyrics on this album mainly revolves around everyday life in the city of Sevran. Sevran was one of the poorest areas of the Paris Metropolitan Area in 2013 according to the Economist. And where there is poverty, there is violence and drug sales. 13 Block talks a lot about drug sales, urban violence, police brutality (Fuck le 17), and the everyday lifes of people who live in poor neighboorhood. While these topics are talked about a lot in French rap, it’s dealt here with a lot of sincerity. The band members are not flexing on how much money they made or how much dope they sold. They are not bragging, just explaining how life goes in some areas. For instance on “Ghetto”, Zed explain with a lot of details that “Si un Clio 4 est posé devant la pharmacie, c’est qu’les grands de la té-ci vérifient qu’les p’tits font pas les cons avec les ients-cli” [If there is a Clio 4 in front of the pharmacy, it means the elders are making sure the young ones are not doing stupid shit with the customers]. They show no pride for what they had to do in the past which makes the lyrics seem so believable.
Another important part of the lyrics is the relation between the band members and their family. Zed talks about his elder brother who was probably an important figure for him growing up on the tracks “Esclave” and “Des choses à dire”. In “Amis d’avant” Stavo says “Le sourire de ma daronne vaut mieux que mes arrivages” [My mother’s smiles is more important than my deliveries]. In the same song, Zed explains how before he began doing music, he was dishonoring his family name “Mon nom d’famille était sali” because of what he was doing in the streets.
The lyrics on this album are very candid and even a little bit sad by moments. But it doesn’t mean the songs are gloomy and depressing. On the opposite, you can still find some great and funny punchline and egotrip lines here.
They have the voices, the beats, the lyrical content. What is missing? Almost nothing. This album is probably my favorite from 2019, as well as their most well-thought-out project to this date, and one of the very best French trap projects ever made.