French artist Ichon has worked with some of France’s greatest creative minds, from collaborating with some of the hottest French rappers (Hamza, Myth Syzer) to working with top fashion designers (Pigalle, Margiela, Weston.) Three years ago, Ichon decided to dedicate time to realign and focus on his inner self. His story and “his truth” can be heard in his new album “Pour de Vrai.” We asked the French rapper, singer, and writer to tell us about his new album, the French Hip-Hop scene, and how he incorporates visuals into his projects.
Tell us about your debut album Pour de Vrai. What is this album about?
This album talks about me. I wanted to dig into my inner self. I wasn’t feeling like myself anymore – I felt bored and wanted to feel passion again. I really wanted things to just align.
During this process, I first had to realize that there were things in my life that were wrong. There were habits I had to change, some acquaintances I needed to walk away from. I changed habits as simple as what time I went to sleep at night and what time I woke up. Some days, I would wake up at four in the morning and then I would just go for a walk in the park and write a song. I learned to listen to myself.
What do you want listeners to take away from this release?
I would like the listeners to realize that it’s possible for everyone to change. Everyone has the ability to do what they please and become what they want. I used to think that “learning the piano” was something reserved to people who had that skill in the family, or that you needed to start young to have that skill. But that’s not true. Now I know that there are very few things we’re not capable of doing.
So you learned how to play the piano fairly recently. What was your method for learning?
I learned the piano in an unconventional way and I’m not sure whether this method would work for others, but it did for me. I first started to learn French classics that I liked, Diane Tell “Si j’étais un homme” and “Message Personnel” from Michel Berger. I would play these pieces over and over and from there I would get lost in the chords. I was really enjoying it.
At the moment I’m still learning, I don’t know if I can say that I really know how to play, but people tell me that I do. But I do play enough now that I have an understanding and freedom in the songwriting process. I was getting bored of just laying down vocals on beats that people were sending me. I wanted to free myself from that.
Though to be honest, I have to admit that a lot of the songs on the album changed a lot from when I first wrote them to the final result. I was able to lay down basic chords that allowed me to sing and come up with melodies, but then PH Trigano and Crayon really reworked the songs to get to the final results. Their input on the album is really important. I wouldn’t be able to do an album just on my own.
That leads us to the next question. You’ve been a part of the French collective Bon Gamin for years. How does it feel releasing solo projects? In what ways is it different than your releases with Bon Gamin? Is it more difficult? Easier?
I think the difficulty in working solo is that I’m facing myself and I tend to question my work. But at the same time, I had the same process when I used to be in a collective with PH Trigano, Crayon, Adrien and Fred – they are at the heart of the project. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to do a song on my own.
For new listeners, how would you describe your own music?
I would tell them the story of my life and say: “This is my life and I make songs out of it.”
How would you describe the French Hip-Hop scene?
You know what, yesterday I was in an Uber and the driver was super cool, we started chatting and he played me a couple of songs. I realized there were a lot of artists I had never heard of! There are a lot of rappers, but many of them do the same thing. I realize that those that I really like are in my circle: Laylow, Makala, Loveni, Myth Syzer, Luidji, Hamza, 13block.
There is so much cool stuff out there, but a lot of things are “middle of the road.” But I don’t criticize them – I used to, but I don’t anymore.
Who are some key artists that have influenced your career?
Frank Ocean. I had a Michael Jackson period, but not for his music specifically, even though I do love his music. More for the visuals and the way he addressed his audience. Prince of course, for the way he broke the codes. It’s funny, I always get asked this and I never give the same answer because I don’t have one really. Wait there’s Pharell Williams, of course Pharell.
Your visuals are very important in your work. How are you invested in them and more specifically “Noir ou Blanc”?
In “Noir ou Blanc” I was 100% invested, though I don’t consider myself as a director because I wouldn’t be able to direct a team or to write a letter of intent. I did direct once, but it’s a lot of work. Just like when I’m making music, I like to work with a team. That’s what happened with Louis (Lekien) during the lockdown. We started talking about a project for another video that was never shot, we went back and forth. Same with Ugo and all the creatives I work with. I drop an idea first and I give them the freedom to add things. I want to be able to tell the story they hear and not only the one I see. Plus if it was just for me, my visuals would be so weird and niche [laughs]. I tend to focus on details and I like controversy, so many people probably wouldn’t understand. So I lay down the first idea and others will edit and bring other elements.
That is the case for the new video “911.” My initial idea was I wanted to get in a Porsche 911 and drive towards the South. The second layer was about all these wrong habits and imperfections that I carry – I want to get rid of them. The video contains a lot of details and symbols. But the song’s name itself is symbolic so it reflects that. But all these symbols are true, nothing was faked. When you see me pulling on the cord, it’s true. I was pulling so hard I still even have some scars because I wanted it to feel real.
And coming back to “Noir ou Blanc.” The idea was to go from Noir (dark) to Blanc (white). Going from sadness towards joy and showing that it’s all possible for all the people you see in the video.
In addition to music you are also active in the fashion world, working with brands like Maison Martin Margiela, Jour/né, Pigalle and more. What connects you to fashion and how do you combine your worlds of fashion and music?
I wouldn’t say I connect both worlds. Fashion and style are part of me, I inherited it from my mother. When I was young, I used to steal my mother’s, father’s, and brothers’ clothes and make my own thing out of them. I used to sew on my T-shirts because I didn’t have money to buy designer’s clothes. I remember my mom used to buy me fake Burberry and Gucci belts because everyone had them, except mine wouldn’t last more than a week because they were fake. So when they fell apart, I would sew them on my shirts and jackets and pretend I had Burberry shirts.
I think that style and clothes are another way for me to tell a story. And I love it.