Photo: Félix Renaud
Nourished on the rap of Alaclair Ensemble, FouKi, 21 years old, is now signed to the same stable as his inspiration, Disques 7ème Ciel. He worked for it, the proof being his four albums, including one with Koriass. Under cover of playful lyrics and catchy melodic beats, he tackles delicate themes. Grignotines de luxe, a 12-track album that’s a sequel to the EP released a few weeks ago, gives pride of place to singing, brass, and guitar, and reveals structures close to pop and chanson. PAN M 360 spoke with FouKi about his record, a work without hang-ups.
PAN M 360: You say that Grignotines de luxe is your most accomplished album.
FouKi: First of all, on the production side, we looked for more instruments, then also on the lyrical side, there’s like a guideline to the album, more than with the previous ones, which were maybe a bit more collections of songs. This time I started with three or four songs, and then I built around them. It’s been a long time since I’ve got the feels, as you might say. Sometimes I listen to Bijou again and, I still get shivers.
PAN M 360: It’s obvious that the common thread is food, can you tell me more about that?
FouKi: It’s not necessarily just like, “you have to eat, go ahead, eat the food, yeah, yeah” (laughs), I’m making innuendo, I don’t just talk about “Crêpes sirop d’érable”. I’ve noticed that “S.P.A.L.A.”, live, works almost too well, the crowd shouts “spaghetti garlic bread!” It made me think that food is a bit like music. You’re going to think of a dish and it’s going to take you back to your grandmother’s when you were young. I wanted to exploit the perceptual side of food.
PAN M 360: Concerning the track “Crêpe sirop d’érable”, it’s also a way of talking about Quebec identity. On Bijou you approach it differently, you say “I’m a fucking wanderer in my country, Canada.” Can you explain your feelings?
FouKi: I’m not a hater of Canada, I love Canada, it’s just that you have to be aware of it, I’ve been out West with my girlfriend and I met people who didn’t think we could speak French in Quebec, they just don’t know, some people think we speak English. It’s a mixture of ignorance and thoughtlessness on the part of Canadians who are not Quebecers.
PAN M 360: Is your rap music a platform for highlighting this culture?
FouKi: You know, when you’re a young artist, you look for your identity, that was part of my questioning – “I could rap in English, or more French style” – at some point it’s not just my personal identity, I want it to be Quebecois. My father comes from Baie-Comeau and my mother from Lac Saint Jean, I was born in Montreal, it’s a nice mix. I grew up in a culturally diverse environment, I still have my Quebec roots.
PAN M 360: Who did you mainly work with on this album?
FouKi: “Beigne” is a song by Richard Beynon who did “Ciel” (with Alicia Moffet) too. That beat was supposed to be for Kanye West and he slept on it. After that, Marc Vinvent composed “Table d’hôte” with me in mind. Except on “Grignotines” and “PCU”, where I made the basic beat, it’s pretty much all Michel (Quiet Mike) and Clément (the guitarist of Clay and Friends).
PAN M 360: You sampled the voice of Louis-José Houde, who did a very remarkable sketch about you at the Gala de l’ADISQ 2019 – is that a tribute?
FouKi: It’s all because of him. The 2019 Gala, for me, I won more than a Felix or two or three – Louis-José Houde’s sketch was worth all the Felixes in the world! I thought it was funny that he said that a rapper who talks about snacks is out of this world, it doesn’t make sense. It really inspired me, I wanted to follow the delirium. Apparently he likes my music, we sent him the whole thing to find out if he agreed and he was super down with it.
PAN M 360: That’s not the only vocal sample you used. On “Beigne”, you hear “As I get older I say the same shit as when I was 16 / But now in meetings I’m taken seriously.” Who’s behind it, and is it an analogy for your evolution in the Quebec rap scene?
FouKi: There’s a funny story behind it. I can’t say who it is because I tried to send him the song but they didn’t reply. It happened at the St-Jean show, the person was telling a story to Émile Bilodeau and I, and I asked to record it because it was too perfect, they said yes but didn’t say, “go ahead and put it on your album” (laughs). That’s why I high-pitched their voice by +4, so that we don’t know if it’s a woman or a man. It spoke to me so much, it’s so true! When you’re young, you’re not taken seriously, as you get older you gain recognition from your peers and you can fulfil childhood or teenage dreams. The St-Jean show was really one of my highlights of 2020.
PAN M 360: Any culinary advice for those who will read this interview?
FouKi: Dare to be spicy-sweet-salty!