Despite popular representations of Essex in botox-filled reality shows, depicting plush lifestyles and lavish living, these images couldn’t be further from French The Kid’s experience, one of council estates and Irish traveller sites. He makes it a point to reference Essex across his music and details the diversity of stories and experiences in his hometown, stating “That’s why I talk about Essex so much, because that’s what I want to put out there and get that point across”.
Born in Harold Hill, Essex, French the Kid’s upbringing was a contrast between two different worlds as he spent his formative years attending school in the South of France just outside Toulouse before returning to the UK in 2016. This dichotomy is reflected throughout his music and showcased in French’s ability to switch effortlessly from sweet melodic singing in French to a headier, more drill-oriented verse rapped in English.
Since his debut track ‘Bella Latina’ in 2019, French The Kid has quickly amassed a cult following across the globe with his unique style. His swift ascension has seen him put a stamp on the UK scene and solidify his place without delay. With an elegant and bilingual flow, French the Kid’s singing ability mirrors pop singers with his rapping being just as formidable. Off the back of the release of his debut mixtape Never Been Ordinary, we break down a few songs on the mixtape, dispel some misconceptions and discuss his inimitable sound.
Let’s start from the start French, for our readers in Australia who might not be familiar with you, or your story — it’s quite a unique one. You spent your early years in France, which explains the bilingual bars. So just break down your come up for us.
Yeah, so basically, I was born in Harold Hill, Essex in the UK. I was there for like, all my young years really.. Then I ended up in France for most of my life. I must have moved back to Essex around 2016 and then a couple years after that is when the music started for me pretty much.
Your birthplace of Essex is a common theme across your music. Can you give us a rundown on the demographic of Essex and what it’s like?
Essex is so multicultural. There’s a show over here called ‘TOWIE’ (The Only Way Is Essex) — I think there’s one town in Essex that is like that and people get it twisted. I mean shoutout to them lot but I’m not from that rich background. If you come to Essex, I’ve got friends from all different communities. I feel like it does happen in London. But Essex is really where it’s properly happening, where everyone goes pubs together and you’ll see all different nationalities in the pub. It’s good. That’s why I talk about Essex so much because that’s what I want to put out there and get that point across.
So, you settled in Romford. There’s a lot of references to traditional British and Essex ‘geezer’ culture so I was wondering what your introduction to rapping was like?
Just freestyling with the boys innit. We would all just sit in a flat and then just bang a beat on the TV and just freestyle for like hours and hours. And then obviously, it got to a point where my boy was like, you might as well just go to a studio, you might as well make a tune out of it. And then that’s when I recorded my first track ‘Bella Latina’ in 2019 and then after that, I met my manager and now I’m here. Even the end of 2018 really because that’s when we were just like fuckin about with music.
Do you come from an Irish travel background yourself, I see a lot of similarities between you and that community?
No, but people get it twisted a lot. Do you know what it is bro, I was brought up with the Irish Travellers my whole life. So, people just think I am. I’m Irish, like my mum’s Irish. Most of my family is Irish, so people just think that. I’m Irish but I’m not a traveller. But that’s my fam. Shoutout to them.
Your freestyles gain a lot of traction, you drop a freestyle on your stories every other month. So, it all started with the freestyles when you were younger?
I mean, you know what it is, Instagram freestyles kind of started getting big when I was doing them. It was quite an easy way to sort of do numbers without paying for videos and all that. So, I would put my freestyles on my Instagram and just like try and get pages to post them up and to promote them. That’s how it started to be fair.
You sing very well throughout your music and it mixes well with the rapping. I was just wondering where the singing comes from, have you been singing from a young age?
Thank you bro! I don’t know, to be fair I feel like this goes back to the freestyle days. When we were all freestyling, and everyone was drinking I would throw a couple of melodies in there every now and then. Then the boys would say that it sounded quite hard so I’d keep going. Add in a little bit of autotune and you’re flying bruv.
Right now, the dominant sound in the UK is drill and my introduction to you was your Mad About Bars freestyle in 2020 which was more drill. On the new mixtape, ‘C’est la Vie’ is the only song that I would say has a drill beat on it. Would you say you’re stepping away from drill and imposing your own sound?
I mean, I think you’ve said it there, it is a distinct sound. So no matter what I’m on, it kind of has to stay sounding like French The Kid. As long as it’s real to me it doesn’t really matter what beats I go on, it should all kind of feel the same. But obviously, different people like different things, and I like different sounds. So that’s why on the mixtape there’s so many different types of rap on there and that’s what I try and put out. But to be fair I started with drill and that’s how I started getting popping but now I’m trying new things.
I love the violin and beat selection across the tape especially when you add in piano. Do you try to actively stay away from heavy sampling?
I love sampling. I absolutely love samples but clearing samples especially the ones that I like is an absolute nightmare. So, if there’s a sample on the tune that I like, then we go with it, but if there isn’t, then it is what it is, it’s hard to clear. I think the piano on that song is sampled but that is a sick beat.
‘Window Blues’ is another one of my favourite songs on the mixtape, there is some deep pain being discussed there. Family seems to be a big theme across a lot of your music. Would you say that music is therapeutic for you?
100%. When I started making music, I was in quite a bad place. I didn’t realise how good it was for me. So as soon as I started getting something out of music It was proper boosting. Half the music I do really, has that about it and there’s a lot of mental health within it. That was a massive part of me doing music. Absolute massive part. My brother does music, and he’s got problems of his own but when he plays the guitar it feels like all of them go away. So I think that’s why I like it because people relate when I spit about that stuff.
Slimz is the only feature on this mixtape and a lot of your fans would be familiar with you mentioning him in your freestyles and your earlier songs, is he making a run this year with the music?
He is a proper rapper. He needs to be taken seriously; I think he is the best in Essex really. The geezers got way more potential than me let alone anyone else. Most of the tracks that he has, he hasn’t released innit. But yeah, obviously that’s my brother as well so it’s only right. Definitely follow his music and the best is to come for all of us.
Are you familiar with Australian acts, what’s your Australian fanbase like and do you plan on coming down anytime soon?
It is so mad you say that bro because the amount of people that message me from Australia is ridiculous bruv, I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s crazy and there’s a group over there, these boys called the Brothers and we are definitely due to do something they are proper stuff. There’s OneFour as well and they got big over here. All the old school rappers too, I know all of them lot.
So with your new mixtape out and your singles doing big numbers, things are on an upward trajectory. What do you have planned after the tape?
I just want more people to hear what I have to offer. I just think there is way more to give. There are way more people listening to my music. So yeah, man, I just want to branch out. I will see how people take this and then I can work on the next body of work.
Thanks again for the time, I look forward to seeing you here in Australia.
Love my bro, God bless.
Follow French The Kid here for more and stream the new mixtape Never Been Ordinary here.