Orelsan: A rapper not without reproach

This February 9, 2018 was to be the day of a supreme consecration for Orelsan. The rapper from Caen (Normandy) had just won three trophies during these 33rd Victoires de la musique. On the stage of the great hall of La Seine Musicale on Île Seguin, in Boulogne-Billancourt, the 35-year-old artist of the year did not hide his joy: “I would like to thank the public, without whom I’ll just be a guy making music in his room. ” In front of their flat screen, part of the public however does not see these Victories with a very good eye. The next day, dissatisfied people step up on social networks, a petition is launched in the wake to request the withdrawal of the trophies. And, on February 13, on the RFI antenna, it is downright Christiane Taubira who declares herself horrified by Orel-san’s words when the journalist quotes her the lyrics of Dirty pute, a title that made the artist known ten years before and that the ex-minister of François Hollande was obviously discovering on the air.

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“I am much happier than at 15”

Flashback: in 2008, Aurélien Cotentin is a 25-year-old Norman rapper. He is white, from the middle class, calls himself Orelsan and he has just made a sensational entry on Myspace with a willingly filthy title that evokes the extreme resentment of a young man left and cheated by his fiancée. At a time when the murder of Marie Trintignant remains in everyone’s memories and when society begins to take feminists seriously, this provocative piece with (false) appearances of rape and murder is messy and challenging. Dirty bitch and then the very heartfelt words of Valentine’s Day (a real ode to porn culture) will hit the Internet and subsequently generate a scandal as enormous as it is embarrassing. Because of Le Monde au Figaro, Orelsan has become the public enemy number 1. The sanction is immediate: in front of the complaints of certain associations, his tour is interrupted and he loses his status of intermittent of the spectacle. The Norman, believing himself definitively burnt out in the trade, is on the verge of stopping everything.

His career

PERDU D’AVANCE (LP) Myspace artist, Orelsan signs at Wagram a first album appreciated by critics. The resurrection of the Dirty Bitch and Valentine’s Day titles will

LE CHANT DES SIRÈNES (LP) Second album carried by the efficient Nothing surprises me anymore and La Terre est round which will make a hit. Orelsan is taken seriously.

BLOCKED (CANAL +) With his accomplice Gringe, they play in this short program tribute to their green years when they were wankers “blocked” on their sofa.

HOW IT’S AWAY (FILM) In the wake of Blocked, a feature film by Christophe Offenstein, which tells about the youth of Gringe and Orelsan in Normandy.

LA FÊTE EST FINIE (LP) A third opus certified gold in three days and platinum four days later, carried by the single Basic. The clip for the title Family Defeat, will break everything on YouTube.

NEVER SHOW IT TO PERSON (PRIME VIDEO DOCUMENTARY SERIES) A documentary series filmed by his brother Clément Cotentin and Christophe Offenstein which, via unpublished archive footage, retraces the Oreslsan epic.

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2021: CIVILIZATION (LP) After two years of silence and a return to Caen, he signs a new album whose release is scheduled for November 19. Pre-sales are already selling for a high price.

A marriage with Ahélya?

“I would love your flaws if I ever manage to find any / Nothing has changed since our first ‘I love you’ / We’ve been dating for seven years for two weeks…” These lyrics are excerpted of Paradise. And they are dedicated to his fiancée, whom he met in 2010. After living for a time near the Canal Saint-Martin, in Paris (10th), the couple returned to Caen in 2020 with the intention of getting married. Something done in recently, even if the couple had to adapt the ceremony to the health crisis …


A chubby teenager with a shaved head, dressed in any way: such was Orelsan at the start of his career. With music video director David Tomaszewski, the rapper decided to create a new image for himself. He therefore imposed a discipline made of sport and a diet without sugar, without fat, without alcohol without starch… The rapper then asked the director: “How long will this diet last?”, to which David replies: “Well all your life, what’s the point of getting fat again?” Today Orelsan is lean, muscular and quite stylish. Simple, basic …

His clan in Caen

At the time of the pandemic, Orelsan left Paname to return to the city where he grew up: Caen (14). This is where it all began: with Gringe, the accomplice from Cergy-Pontoise (95), who introduced him to rap. Ablaye, the Swiss army knife who grates, signs sounds, disguises himself as Cupid or rabbit in the clips. There is also Skread, the beatmaster, a real booster of the combo. Without him nothing would have been possible as his determination was so important. Finally, there is Clément the little brother who typed the encrusted in the group of friends of his elder by playing the videographer. He is now a documentary filmmaker after having been a journalist at Canal + in the sports department.

“I had no more money, I was planning to resume a job,” he recalls in Le Parisien, in July 2018. In addition, he has to face another problem: his grandparents are panicking, they told the 8 p.m. news that their grandson faced eight years in prison. He will be definitively relaxed… in 2016. At the same time, part of the public and the cultural press are interested in the unprecedented style of this phenomenon rapper: an original flow carried by a dragging diction, striking lyrics that evoke, ten years before , yellow vests and the dreary daily life of an unknown youth: that of peripheral France. A real counterproposal to the hip-hop sound of the moment. At the time, some saw in Orelsan, a kind of French Eminem. Or a rough-cut “cassos-white trash”, bottle-fed with Coca whiskey ingested in soda bottles. The kind to tape with a PlayStation in the hands or in front of the porn streamed the bédo in the mouth. But it’s more complicated than that … Because the young man is the son of a college principal and a school teacher. His childhood was not spent in a mobile home like Eminem, but rather like that of Vincent Delerm: according to his father’s assignments in schools. It is not always easy to be the son of the dirlo. Aurélien does not play her first in the class without being a dunce either. He is the eldest of a brother and a sister, is passionate about rollerblading, manga, Queen and Eurythmics, then basketball which leads him to rap: IAM, NTM, Snoop Dogg become the soundtrack of everyday life. of this teenager with a no-life style. “I am much happier than I was 15 years old. Today, I know what I want to do ”, he analyzed in the columns of L’Express, in February 2018. After a bac ES (economy and social), he joined a management school plus for the internship in the US that for the love of the biz. The United States will not be Peru. It is 2003, and the French have not been welcome since Jacques Chirac refused to participate in the Second Gulf War. He comes up against the hostility of young people of his age and the cops who catch him in manifest intoxication on the public highway. As a result, Orel hides in his American room and works on his texts.

Avnier, Reebok, Umbro, his ready-to-wear business In 2017, he signed a deal with Reebok and promoted sneakers in the clip for Basic. Orelsan has become a stamped “stylish” artist. He also released, with a Swiss partner, the Avnier ready-to-wear line, which he subsequently coupled with Umbro for a capsule. The Avnier style? “Streetwear for thirties too old to dress like teenagers,” he says.

“I started at 1,200 euros as a garbage collector”

Back in Caen, he finds his lifelong friends: Gringe, Skread and Ablaye. Together, they decide to focus on music. At the same time, the rapper earns his living by multiplying odd jobs: “I started at 1,200 euros as a garbage collector”, he explained to Public in April 2012. Clément, his brother, believes so much in the potential of his elder brother, that ‘ he decided to film his debut in loser mode. Good pick since twenty years later, these images will become a documentary currently broadcast on Prime Video: Orelsan, never show that to anyone. A film which announces, moreover, the release of a fourth solo album called Civilization.

Because over time, Orelsan refined his heavy-light style, sold a lot of records, made television and films. Finished, the sulphurous rapper judged as a “danger for the youth”: infrequent, here he became essential superstar. All is well, the party is far from over.

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Renaud Leclercq

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