It is fair to say that a lot of international rappers typically borrow tropes from artists in the United States, as that’s where the majority of evolutions in what we know as rap and hip-hop have taken place at. Besides the budding drill scene out of the United Kingdom, which many people mistake to be a sound started by Pop Smoke with the rise of New York drill out of pure ignorance, you would be forgiven to think evolutions in what we know as characteristics of rap and hip-hop have mostly stayed within the borders of the United States if you aren’t in any online music circles.
For all its notoriety and impact on the world as we know it, Europe is seemingly isolated from the more “Americanized” side of SoundCloud. Different regions upon the continent tend to foster unique sounds and styles that they can call their own. One country in particular with a budding scene unlike any of its contemporaries is France.
Covered most in-depth by “PÉPITE” - an independent platform which covers self-reliant creatives within its home country - this is the goto place for anyone looking to key in on what’s going on in France’s regional rap scene. One group enjoying success in France’s extensive underground scene is Crystalclub. Presenting sounds similar to the likes of 7serene, early Bloodhounds material, and Ivvy League production, they craft the perfect combination of dream-like melodies and clean to a tee production with a French flare. This is shown in their most recent EP “meetup,” which showcases the group’s vocal and production talents at their very best.
“The first goal we had in mind was to create an EP that would be uploaded with each track separated,” said Sds, one of the allotted CEOs of the group. “That might seem like a dumb goal, but it was a long-time frustration for some of our listeners not to be able to listen to every track on its own.”
Speaking on the group’s origins, they went on to say, “We met each other when Allan made the Crystalclub Discord server. At the time, we only knew each other's names because we were both present in different ambient trap Discord servers but we hadn't really spoken before or anything, we didn't even know the both of us were even French.”
At the start, the Crystalclub Discord was only a server where members would help each other in music-related topics. But after a while, Allan - another collective member - realized something more could be made out of it. Sds then stated Allan started pitching them the idea of a collaborative mixtape, where each artist could express themselves how they wanted to. It is important to note that Crystalclub were inspired by the many different collectives like the otter enclave, divine boys, scarlet ivory, and others for the format of their releases. Yet with this being said, Crystalclub especially sets itself apart aesthetically -- backed behind designer Migi at the helm of these operations.
Being a group with a massive producer to artist ratio, it's not hard to find instrumental work on Crystalclub vol. 1, 2 and 3, with a few vocal tracks sprinkled in. The vocalists Crystalclub puts on display however, are easily their most impressive facet at their disposal.
Nara is arguably the strongest vocalist artist of the group, making considerable noise with his NORTHERN CROWN album earlier this year. Featuring everything from edm-esque sounds to straight-up nightcore, the album is arguably the best project from a Crystalclub member yet.
On the other hand, Uliss is the perfect counter to Nara. Finding himself on more Slayworld-esque beats, he finds himself crafting beautiful atmospheres in his music. On “RIRIRI” produced by idée noire, Uliss can come off as cold and upfront, maintaining a consistent rhythmic pattern throughout the song. On other songs like “Two-Side,” his rapping ability truly shines, putting together the ideal French rapper persona like no other. While his influences could be considered obvious by some, his approach sonically makes him all the more interesting than any of his contemporaries.
The collective impresses beyond their music alone. The group’s lead designer Migi has created a finely-tuned aesthetic that sets them leaps and bounds above nearly all of their closet comparisons in a visual-sense. Their efforts are completely worthwhile, as they ideally represent the creative passion and commitment all of their members strive for as a whole.
“When I have to design something for someone’s music, I listen to the track hundreds of times before and during the design process,” Magi said. “I would like to give Crystalclub a sort of clean and simple artistic direction that can fit with all of us while keeping a little of each person's style and with what the guys want to express.”
The group’s newest project Vol. 4 features a wide array of work. From experimental offerings like “silver” from vocal tracks like “dernier arrêt” and “south.” The balance between everything from production to vocals gives Crystalclub’s series of volumes a taste of uniqueness you won’t find in many other groups’ body of works.
“The French underground scene being quite small, we all mostly know each other. We do get a lot of support from that scene, and it's to be expected since we're mostly all friends.” Sds said “We feel like there's an Americanization of content that we see posted, but we don't feel like being popular in English-speaking countries.”
When asked about what we could expect from Crystalclub moving forward, Sds gave us an all-too-clear answer. “In the upcoming months, we should release our next volume, and it's been a long time coming. Along with that, we'd like to release some new merch. We don't have any big plans or anything, we just want to make music and share it with anyone willing, really.”
Stream Crystalclub's entire catalog here on SoundCloud