Debut from French Algerian rapper. Jazzy grooves and world rhythms mixed with...
Neil Bennun 2002
First things first: Kad Achouri is from southern France, of Algerian-Spanish ancestry. He lives in London and his music occupies a previously unexplored hinterland located somewhere between French chanson, jazz and MC Solaar. He is like, and this is an inevitable although an inaccurate comparison, a hip-hop powered Manu Chao. Liberté is his first album and it's absolutely superb.
Expect broad, rolling, double bass-driven organic hip-hop rhythms with supple vibraphone and evocative story-telling ('Vue Sur La Mer'), sophisticated horn arrangements ('Dis Moi'), and loping funk ('Mi Negra'). There are melancholic choruses, poetic lyrics rapped and sung en francais, and exemplary instrumental performances from a battalion of Greek jazz musicians on all the tracks.
The first two tunes, 'Liberté' (a rapped reinterpretation of extraordinarily beautiful verses by Paul Eduard) and 'J'amerai' (think John Lennon's 'Imagine' with a plan of action) have a subtly skanking quality and are both about as Manu Chao-like as the album gets. 'Sous La Lune' demonstrates Kad has ears for funky bossa-nova. 'Il Faut Que Ça Change' with a walking double bass line and turntables, is as righteous a piece of electronic/organic rabble rousing I've heard all year.
The album is worth buying, above all, for the tune 'African Piano' alone. It kicks off with a sample from the avant-garde saxophonist Archie Shepp. It displays a gently propulsive hip-hop swing, a hypnotic piano riff, a string arrangement recalling Tunde Jegede, and subtle turntables. These serve to anchor splendid solos from Kad (acoustic piano) and the Greek jazz musicians (sax and trumpet, for two.) Backing vocals are arranged by the Congolese singer Lokua Kanza, whose own album Toyebi Te is worth a listen.
A terrific debut and recommended.