LaF is Taking Us to Another Era

Photo: Felipe Arriagada-Nunez

You would think that a six-member rap group would struggle to contain the various egos and creative differences that result from such a large gathering of the minds.  However, that’s not the case for the three rappers and three beat makers that comprise Montreal’s LaF (short for La Famille), one of the most exciting entities to come out of the new wave of hip-hop that has hit la belle province in the past few years.

“Everybody has their role and we exploit them the best we can,” explains Bkay over the phone, one of the three rappers in LaF, along with Jah Maaz and Mantisse (the group’s three beatmakers consist of Bnjmn.lloyd, BLVDR, and Oclaz).  “The recipe of LaF as such is a consensus itself, so from there we accept that premise [and] we can just create accordingly.”

Having joined together while at Cégep de St-Laurent in 2014, the members of LaF released their first album, Monsieur-Madame, at the tail-end of 2016.  Their debut displayed the palpable chemistry possessed by the group’s three MCs, on top of a collection of nocturnal-sounding beats.  Nearly a year later, LaF released an EP entitled Jello, whose more upbeat sound reflected the group consciously writing with the stage in mind.

Jello was more light [and] easier to listen to; we wanted to make music that was cathartic and that would be fun to perform live,” says Bkay.

“For sure we try to be balanced in our productions and to think when we make music, we think of the shows as well,” notes Mantisse.  “It’s still important because it’s a big part of our work, shows as such.”

That focus on performing and getting a crowd going came in handy for LaF once they decided to submit themselves for the 2018 edition of Les Francouvertes.  A long-running institution presenting the up-and-coming generations of Francophone artists, the winner of Les Francouvertes receives $10,000 as the prize. Ultimately emerging as the victors of the competition, LaF became the first hip-hop act to win Les Francouvertes since 2000.

“The competition was extremely formative in terms of performance, because we focused on making a professional show, and we worked hard on that specifically,” explains Mantisse.  The rapper also believes LaF’s approach to the competition aided the group when they hit the stage this summer at big-time local festivals like Francos de Montréal and Osheaga.

However, instead of biding their time after their Francouvertes victory to slowly tinker with new music, LaF decided to quickly follow it up with their second EP, Hôtel délices.  Its somber sonics harkens back to the group’s debut album, but this time with an expanded instrumental palette consisting of synthesizers, guitar, and even room for a sax solo.

“The thought behind the instrumentation was different; it was really about getting a fuller sound, something that would lead towards newer horizons,” explains Bkay.

“We chose trap-ish beats because we wanted something very in-your-face, that would move the speakers so to speak.”

That fuller sound is exhibited throughout Hôtel délices’ seven songs, whether it be the airy atmospherics of opener “Drapeaux,” the hip-house of lead single “Tangerine” and “See you Later,” or the foreboding tones of “Quart de siècle.”

Don’t expect LaF to take too much of a break after this busy year, as Hôtel délices has been cited by the group as being “like an appetizer” before a second album to be released in 2019.  While the group has only taken tentative steps towards crafting the album, Mantisse notes that with their latest EP they have “touched on a way of working that’s more instinctive and through which we can have the results we’re looking for.”

Finishing their second album isn’t the only thing LaF would like to accomplish in the future. “I think a big dream [of ours] would be to go do shows in Europe,” reflects Bkay.  “I think that ultimately it’s something that we would get a kick out of.

“On the level of creation, we’d really like to have a state-of-the-art studio, be stable, have everything at the ready and really have the time to create what we want.”

Touring Europe’s Francophonie would certainly bring LaF closer to the trajectory of Quebec’s biggest hip-hop acts like Alaclair Ensemble and Dead Obies.  However, while the group respects and admires those homegrown trailblazers, LaF prefers to stay humble in their outlook.

“We’ll never have the role of the Dead Obies.  We’ll never have the role of Alaclair. At the same time, we make music that’s also a bit different, and we’re in another era,” explains Bkay.  “We hope that our music will pass the test of time and that it will have a dimension that matters to us, and represents us at our best as people.”

“You always want that it reaches the most people possible in a genuine way,” adds Mantisse, “but I also want to be at peace with it; in the end you want your happiness to be proportional to what you bring others.”

LaF launches Hôtel délice on Friday, September 21 at Le Ministère (4521 St- Laurent) at 9:00 p.m., $15

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