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Fresh, unique and featuring slick raps from one of the founding members of the Saian Supa Crew, 'Jeune à la Retraite' by Féfé is a masterclass in modern rap, fusing blues, rap and hip-hop influences into something you've never heard before. Sung in his native French, the album is better understood by a French speaker but is just as enjoyable for those who have no prior knowledge of French.
'Jeune à la retraite' kicks off the album in majestic fashion, bursting into life immediately with Féfé's trademark rap style roaring into action at once. A smart riff and simple drum-beat accompanies the well-timed rap offensive, and the album reaches an ideal peace immediately. The chorus is great, with trumpets and pianos entering the action and layering the song wonderfully underneath the smart rap. As the album rolls onto 'Clichés', we learn that Féfé is no one-trick pony, changing the formula just enough to keep things fresh but being just as entertaining as in the opener. In comes an acoustic guitar, and slow, pumping drums accompanying a hum sound which smacks of blues influences. Meanwhile, smooth, melodic vocals make way for the all-out-rap of the first song. The chorus is wonderful, and the lyrics are insightful, describing how Féfé is fed up with the clichés which surround those who live in the French suburbs. Uplifting, gripping and beautifully delivered, the song is simply brilliant.
'Dans ma rue' is arguably the most impressive of all the tunes on this album, merging blues and rap brilliantly to create a unique tune. The rap is darker and sharper than ever, with a memorable riff and unusual beat lending it its own charm. Féfé explains how he wants to be anywhere but where he is, and the compelling and thought-provoking lyrics reach a crescendo in the delightful chorus, which merges melody, rap and blues perfectly. 'Mes Héros' is a darker track, and an ode to the real heroes in Féfé's life. He praises his mother and family for bringing him up well in hard circumstances, and the dark, touching lyrics are accompanied by both an acoustic guitar and cello which capture the mood impeccably. Hand-clapping makes for a different beat to the other songs, and a simple tune is once again used to maximum effect. The song is written and sung from the heart, and is a delight to listen to.
In 'C'est comme ça', the mood lifts, and Féfé raps optimistically once more. The tempo is faster, the beats are more frequent and electronic sounds enter the mix. Féfé raps cleanly, confidently and quickly to the sharp tune and delivers on every note. The chorus is unexpected, unique and a refreshing change from the tone of the rest of the album, making the album seem ever-fresh. In 'Miss Wesh Wesh Yo', Féfé is at his most melodic, singing a heart-felt song to a love interest of his with soft, personal vocals. The lyrics are again heart-felt, and make for a good love song.
'Cherche' is my personal favourite on the album, featuring a duet of sorts between Féfé and Sir Samuel. With the best lyrics of the entire album here, Féfé is at his most pensive and tense. The blues tone is blended with a soft rap which has a regular, but comfortable tempo. The melodic vocals, harmonies and tempo shifts in the rap itself distance the song from the others on the album, while both singers give the song their all. Quiet, unassuming and harmonic, this makes for wonderful listening.
In 'Pause' there is another change to the formula, with an unconventional tune featuring warped voices and a different tempo accompanying a new kind of faster rap which matches the subject matter of anti-racism perfectly. 'VPC' can be considered similar to 'Dans ma rue', with a more upbeat tone and greater blues vibe. The sounds are layered impeccably, the rap is both melodic and fresh and the lyrics once again deliver wonderfully. The harmonic chorus featuring a sound sample of children singing the same lyrics matches the wonderful story of childhood boisterousness that Féfé creates.
'Ride Home' is one of the slowest songs of the album, and the rap makes way for casual singing and a duet (with Patrice) to acoustic tunes, until the song kicks into a louder rhythm around half-way through and the tune becomes more layered. A great song, it merges melody and harmony beautifully. 'Etre père' is another heartfelt song which pulls on the heart-strings of the listener. Féfé is at his most focussed here, and layered audio makes way for wholly emphasised lyrics, with the vocals sprung to the forefront with great success. The acoustic guitar offers just enough to let Féfé express his inner thoughts while still taking a back seat, in a song which is a moving ending to an often upbeat album.
In summary, if you are a fan of rap and blues, this album will not disappoint. Featuring soft, perfectly executed vocals, wonderful lyrics and memorable tunes, 'Jeune à la rétraite' is a rare album which continually manipulates the tried and tested formulae to create something fresh and unique. An epic album with a wide range of great tracks, this comes highly recommended.
The album can be streamed legally, and for free, at this link: http://www.we7.com/#/album/Fefe/Jeune-a-la-retraite