In the current jungle of musicians, quality and originality always make the difference. On that tip, Antoine Valentinelli aka Lomepal, 26, is at the top of his game. What really differentiates the young Parisian for me—besides the obvious quality of flow, lyrics and beats—is that his hip-hop connects to skateboarding. Rather comfortable on his board, he just released his first album (after many features and an EP) aptly titled “Flip”. Don’t stop at listening to his stuff but also be sure to watch his stylish videos, including the one for his excellent “Bryan Herman” song. It shouldn’t be too hard to figure that Lomepal is in the midst of creating a bit of a future for himself.

You did a really original and successful tour in September with the “FlipSkateTour”, performing showcases in front of skate shops in France as promo for your album. Can you tell us about the concept?

Some friends and I piled into a van and drove to the big cities of France, trying to up their vibe. I’d do a concert in a skate shop or skatepark, then we’d go skating all over the city all night, and then we’d get back on the road to another city. All the while, we were filming and throwing a small report on Instagram every day. It was super stressful, I feel like I aged 15 years in 2 weeks, but it was cool.

We met you a while ago on a skateboard around Bastille or Bercy in Paris. Did your beginnings in rap come from this same era, and did you connect skateboarding and music at the time?

Not at all—I’ve been skateboarding since I was 9 or 10. That’s what I lived for and that’s what I wanted to be when I grew up. But I wasn’t good enough and when I was about 18, I began to write by chance. Little by little, it led me to what I am doing now.

The skate scene has always been quite eclectic in its tastes. What drove you to rap?

Because that’s what I listened to the most at that moment of my life.

Did music save your life?

I could say that yes, it saved me in the sense that I did not know what to do with my life. Now I get up in the morning (or afternoon) with a goal.

What triggered this decision to talk about skateboarding in your music and how did your entourage react?

From the beginning, I expected skateboarding was something I’d talk about in my first album. During the development of Flip, I put a lot of time into deciding what angle I’d take in communicating this culture. This bet was rather successful because the skateboarders felt more represented than used for, once. My friends in the skate scene support me and obviously it gives me a lot of strength.

Pros like Chad Muska, Chris Gentry, Terry Kennedy, Jereme Rogers have dabbled a with rap outside their skate career with varying levels of success. What does that make you think of today?

Haha, that’s an ego trip! But hey, none of the names you mentioned have taken music as seriously as I do. I haven’t just recorded a mixtape or made a noseslide on a bench: I have worked hard to be strong and serious in these two areas, and that’s what makes me different from them.

When I met you last spring, you were accompanied by Hologram Lo. In what way are friends, family, crew and connection important to you?

It’s the same with everything: there are many ways to work with people, and for me the family way is the most productive and most enjoyable. I just work with friends.

The Belgian rap scene has also been talking a lot about you for some time now. What are your links with some of these artists?

I’m a little against classifying things with borders, I never differentiated between us. There are very good artists everywhere and big Belgian rappers already existed before all the hype.

There was a lot of talk about “protest rap” or “conscious hip-hop” in the ‘90s. That’s evolved today, so how can young artists be vectors of critical thinking in this moment in time?

Before, rap was part of a movement. I do not think that is always the case for everyone today. Rap has become a science; a musical genre or a tool. We can call it what we want, but now it’s especially okay for everyone to try to make music, just like with computer music technology. So some use it to challenge and make music that makes you think, others want to dance and others want to make you laugh and entertain. I like to try to do a little of all that at the same time.

* Your 2 favourite instagram accounts?

@yes_sk8

@yeahleyeah

* Your 2 favourite websites?

www.adultswim.com

www.isguccimaneinjail.com

* Your 2 favourite movies?

Calmos

Wrong cops

* Your 2 favourite records?

Eminem – Marshall Mathers LP

Asap Rocky – At Long Last Asap

Text: Guillaume Le Goff

Photos: Olivier Mathieu