What can you say? The European rap scene – especially in France – is actually in great shape. “But it was better before,” some complain, nostalgic for a bygone golden age (the 90s). Hip-hop has exploded, urban culture is everywhere, rap has evolved and it’s dominating the charts. It’s a fact: there have never been as many groups, artists, labels, producers, beat makers, DJs, parties, festivals, blogs, websites, etc. dedicated to hip hop. But is the quality still there? Much like before, it’s everywhere, but it’s especially good if you take a closer look. Hailing from the Parisian suburb of Montreuil, Prince Waly is part of a new generation of MCs with a fresh and creative style who contribute to relighting the flame of true Hip-Hop. Listen, look, appreciate. Prince Waly has it all.

Hello, Prince Waly. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Moussa aka Prince Waly. I’m 25 and I was born in Montreuil on December 24, 1991. I’ve lived in my city since I was little: I group up on the Boulevard de la Boissière, where I took my first steps as a football player. I played from the age of 6 until 12, until I stopped because I no longer got anything out of it. I never liked liked to watch football on tv; on the contrary, I always preferred to play with my friends. I’m not a huge fan of the French educational system; I was always maintained average grades without really having to study or revise my work. I chose my specialisation at school just because most of my friends chose the same one! After graduating, I started working because I needed dough. I wanted to start studying again but I fell into the trap of rap instead.

You come from Montreuil, a suburb close to Paris. What was it like to grow up there and how did it influence your approach to hip hop and your style as a rapper?

Growing up there was truly culturally enriching thanks to all the things people there shared and the diversity of lifestyles. You can find every nationality there; I grew up eating all the cuisines of the world in my city. I didn’t grow up with Montreuil rap: I discovered that much later. My brothers and sisters listened to rap all day, I was like a sponge at the time soaking up all those sounds. Since they only listened to good music, you can say I was lucky to be exposed to that.

How did you get into rap and what were your first influences?

It was my friend Fiasko Proximo who first gave me the drive to make music. He was already into it when we met and he had crazy lyrics for his age, so I would ask myself where he’d gotten all that from. He made me discover the Xmen, which is a style of rap totally different from what I’d been listening to (Doc Gyneco, Booba, Secteur A). Afterwards I started discovering a lot of stuff myself: Mobb Deep for his flow and the atmosphere he created, Oxmo Puccino for his legendary story and his words. At the time I didn’t pay as much attention to production as I did to the lyrics.

One could say you’re really inspired by 90s rap but also by what’s going on today, clearly. I imagine you weren’t much older than a child in the 90s: what does that era evoke for you?

For me, the 90s are synonymous with creativity. Whether in fashion, video games or music, everything that came out of that era was extraordinary. I remember when my brother would bring home new video games, we’d go totally crazy for them. We’d watch Hype Williams’ music videos on TV and I’d watch Michael Jackson’s videos with my dad. Our family went to see Titanic at the movie theatre. I wasn’t that into sneakers as a kid. The first pair of sneaks I ever got were Nikes (the turfs) but after those I only ever wore old goddasses.

Your first EP, Junior, was dropped at the end of 2016. Your videos got a decent number of views online and that’s kind of how we noticed you: we dug your rap, your style and your freshness, which you reminded us of with your recent video for “Rally”. You could say that compared to a certain generation of young rappers who are really into vocoders and trap, your rap is something else that’s still fun…  What was the concept for your first EP and how did you get to working with Myth Syzer, with features by the likes of Ichon & Loveni (Bon Gamin) et Ada ?

I should clarify that I work a lot based on feeling. I never force things and I take the time I need to work. With Myth Sizer, we had already collaborated on the track “Clean Shoes”, which was a success. The feedback was really cool and encouraging, so we decided to make a maxi EP which was supposed to have four songs, but ended up with seven. The features seemed obvious to me: Ada had the voice to bring the right flavour, it needed to be his and no one else’s. Then Ichon and Loveni were sure bets, and I wasn’t wrong about that.

Let’s talk about the videos for a bit. How are music videos important for rappers today, to what extent are you involved in your music videos and how are they created and produced?

Today, visuals are an integral part of a rapper’s artistic direction. You can listen to a buddy on the radio, love their track, then watch their video and totally get their sense of style as well as their physicality. There’s gotta be some sort of alchemy between the different facets of what you produce. I try to be as involved as possible in the visuals I release—whether that’s in photos, videos or anywhere else. When I work with a director, I take the time to listen and make sure we’re on the same page; then, the ideas he brings will be in coherence with the universe I try to create.

You’re on tour and I think it’s going well. To put out an EP is one thing, but facing the public is another. What’s your approach to it and how do you see yourself growing from the process?

My buddies and I make music to perform live; when you’re living in the studio like a cabin, you get bored. And in the studio you can hide behind a lot of artifice: it’s easier to cheat. That’s doesn’t work when you’re performing. How many times have we been disappointed after seeing artists perform live? The feelings are different, the connection to the audience is really important. Then, when you realise that people are dancing to your stuff, paying for their tickets and also giving you tons of energy and singing along, it’s like entering a parallel universe. You want to give them everything you have inside of you just to thank them.

What’s coming up for you in 2017 and what should we wish you for the future?

After the release of Junior, I became aware of many things and what I’m able to accomplish. So my guys and I got back to it and right now we’re working on a Big Budha Cheez Project. I have a track already mixed that will be released later this year. I also have a solo project in the works. I also have a few ideas outside of music, but it’s still too early to talk about them. I hope I have all the energy I need to be able to continue putting out good music and beautiful visuals people can dig. You can wish me lots of love and lots of jewellery.

Big thanks to my label, Chez Ace, and my collective Exepoq!
S/O Fiasko Proximo, Dj Dooky, Sahy, Sara Lanaya

Interview: Guillaume Le Goff
Photos: Melchior MPY Abeille
Published in Bitchslap issue 28