Quebec hiphop supergroup Alaclair Ensemble are both trailblazers and charismatic leaders to the Quebec Rap Renaissance that is taking place in the province right now.
After an interesting discussion with Lexis (who released his KNLO tribute mix recently) I started thinking about how much history the group has already traversed. They were basically present in all eras of modern quebecois rap through various groups and crews and are now enjoying success and putting out incredible music through ”solo” projects like Eman/Vlooper’s incredible XXL record or the new dynamix duo Rednext Level and that is without discounting Claude Begin’s stellar production work for his solo project and with Karim Ouellet.
The recent reissue of their iconic 4,99$ album on vinyl (renamed 24,99$) was preceded by the release of a very intimate and creative mini music movie about producer/rapper KNLO. A real musical odyssey the video features incredible beats and shots that match a portrait of Kenlo’s day to day life. More than a glorified music video its a gorgeous glimpse into the creative mind of one of the pillars of the group.The moment acaptured 14 minutes in is a captivating songwriting exercise with a stellar beat annoucing KNLO’s solo album will be coming out in October.
But what about this album Les Freres Cueilleurs. If the Bas-Canada references in the title and the funky packaging are to be believed it’s another Alaclair project following in the line of many solid releases, however a few things stand out. First of all it was produced A-Z by Vlooper who has been on a hot streak lately (check out his Modlee project as well). Secondly, the album was released on rap label 7e ciel records and was recorded in an intense 7 day session in an isolated house. Finally, and more importantly, it was a project where the group decided to simultaneously stay rooted in rap and explore more modern hip-hop waves. The result is what I consider to be the group’s most consistant record with varied bangers from start to finish. Verses and beats of spectacular quality that simply thicken the classic Alaclair sound and themes.
Sparking one to the intro track places one in the perfect mood to discover the grimier Alaclair on display and is a references to the strict rules of the house where they recorded. A latemotif throughout the record is the group’s sense of humor being sprinkled into ad-libs and voice-overs that are hilarious, yet musically on point. We jump right in to La Chicane and we know this is not the campy fieldtrip we’ve been on with the group before. Bobby Nel’s verse sets the tone for the darker corner where Vlooper takes the listener and we experience the first of many in-track modular shifts or beat changes when Kenlo brings his technical yet lackadaisical flow.
The abstract Mash is up next and allows Maybe Watson aka Dairy Prada to shine while we are eased into another dreamy beat change. Then the soulful Fouette, with its funky chopped up beat, is the first track where the whole crew goes in and fetures a dope pitch turn where we get a slowed down flow from Ogden followed by double time rapping by Kenlo. The record takes a sharp turn with the trap banger Ça que stait and we realize Alaclair is not afraid of taking the modern sound by the horns. Les Infameux comes in immediately after to balance out the surprise with a jazz laden sample featuring flows based on classic rap verses from Mobb Deep, Pharcyde and Snoop while Claude Begin’s melodic and comical hook links everything together.
My favorite track Alaclair High’s lyrics mentionned that the crew consider themselves as part of the uncles generation, but with this album i am sure the best is yet to come as the group seems more focused than ever and their sound has really reached a balance. I am sucker for sample spotting and I love the flip executed on Jan O Jan by Henry Ford & The Brothers From The Ghetto (link). Vlooper’s masterstroke comes in the form of the lush and hypnotic Mes gars shootent (the dudes LOVE their basketball) with easily the most rich beat on the album, we then get more street songs, a haitian food trap anthem and even a westcoast burner plus a funky bass boogie slapper to close out the record.
Alaclair are both leading, adapting and are basically continuously growing. That’s all you can ask from artists especially in rap! This record will have everyone else in stepping their game up and will become a certified classic in the future with enough quotables and memorable beats to stand the test of time while representing the province!