15/04/2019

World | PNL – “Kings of French rap” – to conquer the globe

An essential figure of French rap, PNL dominates the charts and the international urban music scene. After the revelation of the music video “Au DD” and the release of their fourth album Deux Frères, PNL has been a hot topic in foreign media.

Both French press and international media are fascinated by their mysterious way of communicate: their interventions on social media are scarse, they do not make interviews and master the art of teasing.
In the USA, PNL is dubbed as the heir of cloud rap a subgenre born in the USA five years ago and particularly driven by the productions of Lil B, which characterised by lo-fi and atmospheric beats. For the student paper The Michigan Daily (USA), cloud rap takes a new turn with PNL while the genre stagnates in the US. In October 2018, the American daily dedicated a feature article analyzing the duo’s genre.

On March 24, PNL reactivated their communications on social networks to tease via Youtube Live the release of their new single “Au DD”. The track was accompanied by an impressive music video at the top of the Eiffel Tower. The single announced the release of their fourth album, out on April 5. On an international scale, “Au DD” has attracted the attention of Clash (UK), who called them “icons of French rap” and The Fader (USA), who had already devoted a cover and an exclusive interview in 2016 after the release of the album Le Monde ou Rien. Billboard, the American reference magazine of the music industry, placed them for the week of April 1st at the 10th place of the Social 50. As for now, this is the peak position achieved by PNL in a chart referencing the most influential artists on social media – accounting subscribers, views and streams. The duo surpassed international artists such as Miley Cirus or Cardi B and their single “Au DD” was curated in the Global Top 50 on Spotify and Deezer.

With Deux Frères, PNL is perceived as “the kings of the French rap scene” and about to take the world by storm

On April 5, the release of the album Deux Frères (QLF Records) was supported in France by an ambitious marketing strategy. All day long, the Parisian public space was taken over by free Uber cars sticked with the faces of Ademo and N.O.S, later in the evening, the band rode down the Champs Elysées in a bus and gave an unexpected showcase. In the international media, the open source information aggregator, Archy Worldys echoed the event.

A strategy that has been talked about in France and beyond: the European and North American general media have devoted feature articles to PNL, closely analysing the compositions of Deux Frères and the unique genre developed by the duo.
The Belgian daily newspaper L’Echo describes PNL as a phenomenon that confirms its status (Le phnomène PNL enfonce le clou). In Switzerland, the daily newspaper La Liberté tries to explain PNL’s slang to adults. While Morgenbladet (NO) sees in PNL the most important act of French rap (Frankrikes viktigste rapgruppe). For the Norwegian weekly, Deux Frères is the duo’s most accomplished album (beste utgivelse) and translates the social reality of France into music: “equality, fraternity and inequality” (frihet, brorskap og ulikhet). For the British daily The Guardian, “the kings of French rap” could well penetrate the English-speaking markets. The German daily Welt gives them a very highly review on April 8 in its print edition and in its web version: the journalist Mathieu Praun considers that “the rap album of the year comes from France” (Das Rap-Album des Jahres kommt aus Frankreich). With Deux Frères, PNL has reached the pinnacle of its art, the article headlines that “everything is accomplished” and questions “what more can be achieved?” (Alles erreicht, was es zu erreichen gibt). The album marks European rap with its style and the duo is one of the few European projects whose influence radiates to the USA. On the other side of the Atlantic, The Michigan Daily (USA) follows up its former analysis of the band through its review of the album. For Sayan Ghosh, “The production value and diversity is world class on Deux Frères, which is notable since that is one aspect of their American counterparts that many foreign hip-hop albums rarely reach“. The journalist compares PNL to Daft Punk in their way of communicating: few marketing plans and rare speeches. In Canada however, the daily La Presse is more nuanced in its review and stresses that PNL fascinates as much as it repels.

The album has also been covered by the international music media. In Italy, Rumore, the independent reference magazine for alternative cultures, sees in Deux Frères an album exploring a “new narrative arc” (PNL apre così a narrative arco) – more introspective than the previous ones. In Denmark, Soundvenue, a medium specializing in music, cinema and technology, highlights the global aura of PNL, whose style influences Danish rappers such as Sivas and Carmon. The chronicle also compares the crowd movement generated by the duo with the yellow jackets movement, arguing that the arm movements were larger than that during the protests of yellow jackets (PNL havde gang i in større bevægelse end gule jacket). In the USA, the Denver-based music webzine, The Prelude Press highlights the bridges created by PNL and fashion, especially through the capsule collection signed by Virgil Abloh, artistic director of Louis Vuitton Men. This spontaneous collaboration is one of the many instances in which French rap’s most culturally important act have been cosigned on an international stage. The album has also been talked to in South Africa, where the discovery platform JustNje invites its reader to discover Deux Frères.

All emphasize PNL’s own style, blending Hispanic sounds with trap, reggaeton and rai influences ; and introspective texts inhabited by melancholy and rage.

A week after its release, the album has been certified platinum in France. In Germany, it entered #10 of Hip Hop Top 20 and the #76 of Top 100 Album. In the Netherlands, it reached #13 position of the Album Top 100 upon the week of its release.
In Berlin, PNL also stands out in public space: a building has been covered with the billboard of Deux Frères. The display will last for a month.

References:

Feature articles:

The Fader (USA), « PNL’s World or Nothing » – cover & feature, juin 2016
The Michigan Daily (USA), « Cloud rap crosses the pond, finds little new » – octobre 2018

Mentions: 

The Fader (USA), « PNL announce new album, share ‘Au DD’ video » – mars 2019
Clash (UK), « French rap icons PNL launch new album ‘Deux Frères’ » – mars 2019
Archy Worldys, « PNL bus parade on the Champs Elysées » – avril 2019

Album reviews: 

L’Echo (BE), « PNL enfonce le clou avec ‘Deux frères’ » – avril 2019
Morgenbladet (NO), « Frihet, brorskap og ulikhet » – avril 2019
The Guardian (UK), « PNL: Deux Frères, French Rap’s Kings scale broding new heights » – avril 2019
Welt (DE) print, « Lieblingsrapper deiner Lieblingsrapper » – avril 2019
Welt (DE) web, « Das Rap-Album des Jahres kommt aus Frankreich » – avril 2019
The Michigan Daily (USA), « Sayan Ghosh: PNL, Part Deux » – avril 2019
La Presse (CA), « L’énigme PNL » – avril 2019
Rumore (IT), « I PNL in cima alla Tour Eiffel nel video Au DD. Ascolta il nuovo album » – avril 2019
Soundvenue (DK), « De franske verdensstjerner PNL laver gangstarap, du kan meditere til » – avril 2019
The Prelude Press (USA), « PNL Release New Album ‘Deux Frères’ » – avril 2019
JustNje (ZA), « Listen to PNL’s new album, Deux Frères » – avril 2019

Charts: 

Offizielle Deutsch Charts (DE), Top 20 Hiphop-Charts, 12 avril 2019
Puna (NL), « Boef komt op nummer 1 binnen in de single top 100, Vic9 belandt op 9 met Bloed album » – avril 2019