The rapper Tiers Monde just released his first album Toby Or Not Toby, which we highly recommend you to buy. Originally from le Havre like me, attached to Din Records (independent for 15 years), he is an artist that I discovered from his first group Bouchées Doubles. It was obvious for me to go to him and ask him some questions. The interview took place at McDonald Grands Boulevards in Paris. Quiet with my homie Julien Thollard.
Couvre x Chefs: Hi Tiers Monde, can you introduce yourself to the readers of CxC? Where do you come from and when did you start rapping?
Tiers Monde: Hi I’m Tiers Monde, I’m a native rapper of the city of Le Havre: I’m from the group Bouchées Doubles, itself derived from independent rap label Din Records. I started to rap 15 years ago in college where I made my first classes with Medina and all the local scene Mont Gaillard. And then little by little we all professionalized.
CxC: Do you remember your first track?
Tiers Monde: Honestly, no. In fact at first I did not write whole texts; rather I wrote it four measurements, two measurements there with some tunes too. I repeated for weeks and shouted at anyone who would listen, and for me it “was an album.”
CXC: You mentioned your group Bouchées Doubles duo that you form with Brav’, can you tell us more? You mention racisms and differential treatment between whites and blacks…
Tiers Monde: What you are saying is not entirely true. We started with a first EP named ” Quand ruines et rimes s’rallient ” followed by the EP “Matière Grise” (both available here). These two projects did not speak of racism and differential treatment between whites and blacks. That came later, with the album “Apartheid” where being more mature and having been confronted with such situations and problems, this project was brought out in 2006. It is true that racism is now one of my favorite themes as well as Apartheid, it has been out there for eight years, the problem is still not resolved and it has even been amplified.
CxC: I agree with you, when I listen to your album Apartheid, I still think it’s a current album, which has not aged and still belongs to the French rap landscape. Is that an honor for you?
Tiers Monde: Oddly yes, it draws big pride. It was a big critical success. Besides, we still talk about me a lot, especially rappers I meet as Deen Burbigo who say they have been affected by that album. So this is a great pride but also a great disappointment that the album has not contributed more than that to change things today.
CxC: What had me surprised me at the time was that nobody knew Din Records; Le Havre either, and yet you got albums out, you had very well made music videos (with aerial shots of the city of Le Havre) … Are you nostalgic of that time?
Tiers Monde: Nostalgic, yes and no because being too much in nostalgia, it makes people bitter. I love to death this time because with Bouchées Doubles being the first to make a rap music video in le Havre. It may be nothing for people but for us it was great to be pioneers in our city. Meet our entire neighborhood (and other districts of Le Havre) on a single project, it was huge for us.
CxC: Let’s talk a little about Din Records now. At first it was an association, now it is a real business that employs people and pays wages. Independence in the French rap today is almost unique. But originally, Din Records, what is it? A group of friends? A family?
Tiers Monde: It’s a mix of both: family and friends. At first, the pioneer group label was “Ness et Cité” consisting of Proof and Salsa (respectively today beatmaker and Director of Din Records). Proof you should know that he is the brother of Brav. Brav and that was in the class of Medina at school. So Din Records is a story of family and friendship, and even fraternity because the word “friendship” is not strong enough. In the end, Din Records is a big story of a young neighborhood who are brothers in different ways and have a common project.
CxC: Din Records is also a story of “resourcefulness” where each member specializes in a specific activity (making music videos for example) because the use of external providers is too expensive…
Tiers Monde: Yeah outright. For example me, for a long time I was doing the accounting for the label, Medina was logistics, computer graphics was Brav … We had so much spirit of “resourcefulness” while being self-taught. That is to say, we learned by doing a lot of things that initially we did not know how. It was very rewarding for everyone because it allowed us all to look behind the game.
CxC: OK. We’ll focus on you and your rap. Din Records is often stamped “conscious rap.” When you get in the studio, are you still looking to get a message across? Freestyle Egotrip is that something that you forbid yourself?
Tiers Monde: I already do not like labels. Because a label, it’s made to be pulled sooner or later. I do not rap “Egotrip” or the “conscious rap”; I’m real rap. I report what I want to rap: tomorrow I get up and I see something that shocks me or makes me laugh, I’m rapping about it.
CxC: Now, let’s talk about your album “Toby Or Not Toby” (TONT). Toby is the name of the main character in the novel “Roots” by Alex Haley, which was adapted into TV series (Roots).
Tiers Monde: Yeah, so the real name of the character on whom it’s based is Kunta Kinte. At one point, he was tortured and flogged to finally change her name which was a common practice of the time of slavery. His master gave him his name Toby and symbolically it represents something very hard because it means he has to forget about his past and accept his slave status. So we wanted to take this title which is fairly representative of the series.
CxC: Before TONT, you released a first mixtape entitled “Black To The Future.” How preparing an album differs from that of a mixtape? For me, an album is a much more thoughtful and built project …
Tiers Monde: In fact, the album TONT was already in preparation at the time of Black To The Future, KroKop song was originally intended for the album TONT. Personally, whether an album or a mixtape, I try to push myself; although generally there is less time to prepare a mixtape so it gives a more spontaneous result. For my part, whenever I go in the studio, I try to be the best rapper in my way, in my lyrics … But I also agree with you: the mixtape is a bathroom training where you try new things and where you prepare for the album.
CxC: Can you tell us more about the topics discussed in this album? There is of course the theme of slavery and the man who accepts a position of submission imposed on him … Can you say more?
Tiers Monde: Actually it was not bad to trap people by telling them a lot of slavery of the time with what was happening in Africa and the triangular trade. And many people thought that the album would essentially be focused on the slavery there. But we very soon felt the need to make the song Toby Or Not Toby and talk about modern slavery. Today there are different ways of being slaves either emotionally or whatever slave money with materialistic people. It was all so that people realize that we can be removed physical chains of slavery, but that other slavery ways exist today.
Frontside of the album Toby Or Not Tovy (photo by Koria)
CxC: So this album is a true reflection of today’s society and a return to real values, which allow building humanly and advancing in life.
Tiers Monde: Exactly, I’m often thinking we’re here in France working hard for a certain condition of life. I am sure that they bled and also when you make a ratio, they still have about the same thing in their pockets at the end of the month. Due to the cost of living is much higher in France. There, back home, they know the amount of the minimum wage in France, but they do not know the cost of living and what you have left at the end of the month. It is mainly what creates an offset. And indeed it is a form of slavery because we’re working for something you could have in terms of better and more simply elsewhere.
CxC: I’ll make an aside; you often go back to Senegal?
Tiers Monde: Often yes and no … the last four years, I went there three times so it’s not bad.
CxC: When you go back there, does it allow you to relax yourself?
Tiers Monde: Actually it depends where you are going. When I go to Dakar, it does not relax me; it’s worse than a French city, it’s so messy. I am from a small quiet village, there electricity shuts at midnight, you drop your phone and you separate yourself from all that is not essential. You rest and you release the pressure.
CxC: To return to your album and producers with whom you worked. You’re surrounded by Proof course, Richie Beats (My Parano), General, how do you work with them? You listen to instrumentals and you put it, or you have a text and you ask a producer to make you an instrumental for it?
Tiers Monde: It depends on many things. Sometimes I go into a studio and hear instruments that I will try to capture and top kicker. And sometimes I’ll go see Proof with a clear idea of a beat in mind. You should know that Proof has excellent adaptability. I often say, that there are beatmakers and there are composers. For me, Proof was a beatmaker who became a composer. I can ask him tomorrow funk or anything other and I’m sure he will produce me something crazy. He has a big musical culture and he’s someone that self adapts very quickly. Here is the difference: there are guys who do not know that rap and there are composers. And for me, Proof is a composer.
CxC: And Richie Beats? General?
Tiers Monde: Richie Beats instrumentals he had sent through Oumar and I heard the prod My Loathing. I immediately gets off and saw what I was rapping, relate, and how flow. Géneral and is the younger brother of Proof (to continue the family stories) that is also set to beatmaking and produced BBVJR and National Snub.
I hump feeling. But I confess with Proof I can be very boring and meticulous because I know he’s going to make me the instrument I’m looking for exactly.
CxC: For you Proof has a real empathy for the artist he works with?
Tiers Monde: Yeah, it’s a chameleon adapts. For example, in the next draft Brav will happen, he produced and still exploring new things.
CxC: We’ll talk featurings: Soprano, Thelma and Alivor. I wanted to get back on your collaboration with Soprano because I know that this is someone who supports Din Records from the beginning.
Tiers Monde: Yeah actually Soprano support us from the beginning. I know him since 2000. I like to tell this story. We met for the day of the year. The Havre coming down in the south to Marseille (the train was free) to celebrate the New Year we were. We were fans of rap and rappers wanted to meet the local scene. We were told a small group began to rise “Psy 4 De La Rime” and through Mateo who had slept in (and we did not know), I’ve met Soprano. So is someone I’ve known for a long time and has always been there (and quickly), despite the size and reputation he has now.
CxC: Soprano, I confess that on the track, I would have liked to stroke!
Tiers Monde: Yeah, it’s the thought that comes up all the time!
CxC: Actually, when I heard he was working on your album, I thought it was dirty rap, as in the beginning, because the Third World would not let him choose! Thou hast given carte blanche?
Tiers Monde: But in fact the song was already written, and I needed a chorus. After, you should know one thing: even with the career he did, he is someone who cut a lot of MC’s. Everyone knows but many people forget. And I love Soprano for that side. His flow is still crazy and MC’s today who speak ill of him; I invite the same song to see who takes me out of the game I put my balls on Soprano.
CxC: The featuring with Alivor (last signature dated Din Records label)?
Tiers Monde: Yeah, Alivor is someone who comes from the area just next to mine, called the Red Mare is also a talent pool. He severity for some time around us and he finally joined the team because he has the same vision and the same ideals. It is therefore natural that it happens on my album, which is a kind of introduction to him.
CxC: No featuring an artist with Le Havre we hear more: DEF?
Tiers Monde: Yeah I know, I even made an appearance on the album. After my album I can not include everyone. I have not managed to integrate Medina, I joined at the last moment Brav surPeur of Disappointing. For this first album, I really wanted to not have too much for featuring people see my true identity and my universe.
CxC: There is always this “selfish” side when a rapper released his first album. There are not too many featurings wants (see no) because it is his baby, and most importantly, it is a presentation card.
Tiers Monde: It is exactly that. And I also need to learn some things alone. For example, Medina has a richer mine is someone who has brought a wealth of experience that I prefer to buy my own career. So it was natural to pieces alone. I wanted to train myself. Now I began to collaborate with other artists, as Disiz and Youssoupha on the track “5 Minutes A Slave.”
5 Minutes A Slave, available here.
CxC: Exactly, it was one of the points I wanted to address. I think Din Records turned a corner: music videos, freestyles filmed a lot of news on Booska-P, featuring with Disiz and Youssoupha … I felt that I had spent Din Record “a step”…
Tiers Monde: It is our determination that you feel because in fact, not much has changed since the days of Black To The Future. Unless we learned a lot and the media at our disposal we are no longer controlled. We no longer need to spend mandatory on some radios to the promo and have a minimum of media visibility. The public is much more oriented sites like Youtube or Booska-P. And we are also masters of what we publish. So it is done when you want. It is normal that you feel an increase in power: it is slowly beginning to be ubiquitous in the end.
CxC: By the way how did you hook up with Disiz and Youssoupha?
Tiers Monde: Youssoupha, haggle for quite some time, the connection is made through Medina who collaborated with him.
Disiz had been invited on the album “Recall” of Compass (on a track with Medina). After we got a little lost. And when I started the promotion of TONT with Phoenix clip, he invited me to his Planet Rap on Twitter kicker for the instrument on his song Rap Genius. In the process, I invited him to ask about the song “5 Minutes A Slave” and he came to honor the piece. Now we are in regular contact and exchange not bad.
CxC: Plans for 2014? A tour?
Tiers Monde: I wish I came in late 2014 with a new project. So we are already modeling and work on the next album. A tour in September with some dates (we will soon communicate above). Here we are really in a good momentum and it should be retained.
CxC: Question lighter to finish: what are your influences? In your car, you put anything like her? French rap, rap us? Anything but rap?
Tiers Monde: Many U.S. rappers (JayZ, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar), a little electro … I am a big fan of Coldplay and Daft Punk. And some French rappers! But it is true that Kendrick influenced me a lot this year in terms of flow, musical innovations … He broke the trap that was in the U.S. at that time when rap was aside, and it was full during my creative process.
CxC: The French rappers also then?
Tiers Monde: Then, I’ll make you a very corporate response. In fact, I do not like more than that to talk about other French rappers because they themselves do not promo us. Except of course the few names that I mentioned earlier (Disiz, Youssoupha). Otherwise I would advise everyone to beware the return of Medina who arrives with his new project this year! And of course, the new project Brav happens also in 2014.
CxC: Last question: the pair of Jordan that you burn in freestyle Booska-P, where they yours?
Tiers Monde: Yeah!
CxC: That must have broke your heart?
Tiers Monde: No, just that part of the master or slave concept and due to come off all equipment that is not essential. The ironic thing is that I have another pair to toe. This proves that even thinking detach, still a slave of that thing we rest.
CxC: TM Thanks for your answers and your availability: MOLO BOLO! And good luck, we wish you the best for 2014!
Tiers Monde: Thank you guys!
Traduction by Ryan Lavoine.