Courbevoie 92400, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Paris. “Being real means holding your middle finger up when power tries to crush you.” This boy quoted these words, from an artist whose name he couldn’t remember.
“My name is Kouman. I was born in Italy but I am originally from Ivory Coast. I have been listening to rap ever since my uncle, when he had just immigrated, asked me to download his music for him. DMX, Biggie and Pac were the artists he listened to and so did I. I was 17 when I first approached a microphone, together with @bdpassu, my brother and producer. Three years ago, he and I moved to London to start a label, Blackdoor (bd). I made so many sacrifices in London. The street can give you everything, but it’s always ready to take even more away from you.”
Kid Gamma is a singer, pianist and beat-maker born in 2002 in Palermo’s La Zisa neighborhood. He works in both Palermo and New York. “Gamma” comes from the “G” of Gabriele and “Kid” hints at the themes he explores in his tracks: first loves, experiencing passions. “I started playing piano because my mother wanted me to, but then I felt it was my thing. So I got into electronic music and started collaborating with rappers in the city. A lot of kids in my neighborhood lose their way. I’m a ‘white sheep,’ who encourages kids to get into music as a healthy alternative.”
Mosè COV, stage name of Mussie Tesfay, is a rapper and beat-maker of Eritrean descent, from the northern outskirts of Milan. Mosè (Moses), who grew up in the low-income housing developments in the Maciachini neighborhood, stands out for his talent, writing skills and musicality. “No storytelling, my rap is real. Nothing I’ve written is made up. Everything I tell actually happened. I don’t want to listen to my record again in 10 years and be ashamed of what I said or didn’t say.”
The Courbevoie 92400 neighborhood on the outskirts of Paris. “I’m DJE DJE. I was born and raised in Milan, a city that has stayed in my heart… and on my stomach 🙂 My parents come from further afield, Ivory Coast. Whether in Milan or Paris, a street kid is what I am. The colors, the music, the harmony is what I imagine.
There is no fashion if it doesn’t pass by way of the street.”
Philip is a rapper born and raised in Piazza Prealpi, a place that is a symbol of working-class Milan and that made headlines with its criminal activities in the 1990s. He started listening to rap at a very young age, writing and composing his first tracks at the age of 12. In 2017, he released several singles, including the street hits “Criminale” (“Criminal”), “Zidane,” and “Il quartiere lo vuole” (“The Neighborhood Wants It”), songs with gritty lyrics influenced by the new French trap, lyrics that underscore how rap can become an escape from a hard life.
The largest Dominican comunidad in Europe has been well-established in the Italian town of La Spezia for about twenty years, so it is only natural that Dembow, a Dominican pop genre that is also extremely popular among the community’s young and very young members, exploded there. They gather in Piazza Brin, especially at weekends, when music, coronita, and dancing become the star attractions. This is where Disme, Samuel Heron, Angel Gretty, Itash, DaniFaiv and many others come to hang out, sing and shoot their videos.
@disme_flavorz, @samuelheron , @angelgretty, @itashy_sharinga, @danifaiv
Romanticismo Periferico (Peripheral Romanticism), a Florence-based label founded by rapper and producer Sakatena and rapper Tenore Fi, arose from a need to create an independent record label that could exist outside of the rules of the market. “It was this that prompted us to create our label, which seeks to give space, above all else, to issues of social concern, and to provide our artists with the tools to express themselves to the fullest. Our goal remains that of conveying a message through music and moving the conscience of our listeners.”
Trapper Bader of the “San Siro 7 Refreel 24K” crew is photographed here on the staircase of a low-income housing block in the San Siro district, where he lives. He is under house arrest, so, unable to move around, it is here that he writes his powerful and gritty songs and here that he shoots his video clips.
Piazza Selinunte, in Milan, is the heart of the San Siro district, one of the most problematic areas of the city, where gentrification is creating a rift between rich and poor areas. In this context, trap is a soundtrack for the ongoing societal emergency, a tool for communicating and catalyzing one’s anger, transforming aggression into a tool that listeners find shareable.
Zaccaria Mouhib, aka “Baby Gang,” 22, at the basketball court of Il Gabbiano group home for youth by Lake Como. “I have been in and out of group homes since I was 12 years old. I never thought about being a singer. I wanted to be an actor. Then I was given the name “Baby Gang,” and along with it came the ‘fame’ they slapped onto me. So, I decided to become a singer, the best, and hunger made me beat the others to the top, even artists from big cities like Milan, Rome and Naples.”
From the tower of Torrevecchia, in Rome’s Primavalle neighborhood (known locally as “il Bronx”), Delpinto sings in rhyme about his tough and troubled daily life on the outskirts of Rome, in the company of his friends. “I have to do it for me and for my street brothers. Together we decided to tattoo the word ‘brotherhood,’ our core value.”
Primavalle is a part of Rome that remained rural until the first half of the 20th century; only in 1923 did its urbanization, completed in the 1950s and ‘60s, begin. The area was, and in part still is, a place of petty-crime, specialized in drug dealing.
Niko Depp, a Neapolitan artist of Romani origin, independently published his project La danse des bandits, in which he recounts his Roma roots and life in the Forcella neighborhood, where he grew up. It was here that he began to sing, experimenting with different genres, but always sticking to his gritty yet romantic poetic style. According to historians, the Forcella neighborhood takes its name from its fork-like street-plan, designed by the ancient Greeks. Forcella is one of the city’s keystone neighborhoods, but it is also the scene of terrible feuds between Camorra clans. Today, the situation is so improved that it has become a safe tourist area, although there are still some pockets of poverty. It is often chosen as a location for video clips, films and street art.
Although, on social networks, many trappers can reach hundreds of thousands of followers, it is live shows that allow trap artists to make some cash, playing places from small venues, bars and nightclubs, all the way up to spaces more properly intended to host large audiences, where they arrive either after years of working their way up or when a lucky hit gains millions of views on YouTube.
The cost of a good rehearsal studio in Paris’s Vitry district can be prohibitive, so many young artists record at night, when it is cheaper. “Reccare,” a trap slang word meaning “to record,” is the final stage in the creation of a track, and a crucial moment for ordaining the success or failure of a song. Starting from written words (recorded almost exclusively on phones these days), tracks can attain high levels of technological complexity, which producers handle easily.
Emanuelino Z4 is a trap artist from Calvairate, a neighborhood on the southern outskirts of Milan. Despite being one of the poorest and most working-class areas of the city, Calvairate has stood out recently for the wave of trap musicians it has produced who have gone on to become rich and successful at their craft. Young artists try to find their own paths and seek fame as a way out of their problematic circumstances. The genre they throw themselves into is “Drill,” a style typified by violent and nihilistic lyrics, by the frequent use of auto-tune, and by beats that are similar to but slower than those of classic trap. Some of these youths have already been in trouble with the law. In their songs, they call themselves “monkeys in the jungle,” “children of the street.”
A scene from a video clip by Diego Willer, an artist in the “San Siro 7 Refreel 24K” crew. In the foreground, one of the protagonists, named Asso (Ace), is playing the role of a drug dealer waiting while a killer orders some buyers out of the house. In their songs, the crew talks about how difficult it is to live life on the line between legality and illegality, a situation that has led to the arrests of many friends, relatives and fellow trappers in the San Siro neighborhood.
Piazza Selinunte, in Milan, is the heart of the San Siro district, one of the toughest areas of the city, where gentrification is opening an ever-widening rift between the city of skyscrapers and the other, that of low-income housing blocks. Here, the phenomenon of trap music has a relevance that transcends its musical genre, becoming a true soundtrack for the societal emergency that is happening right now.
Corviale, an outlying neighborhood of Rome, Italy. Uzi Lvke is the stage name of Luca Sampieri, an Italian rapper and Roman native, born in 1998. His stage name was created by combining “Uzi,” a word that is explosively reminiscent of the life events that caused him to grow up too quickly, and his own first name. In recent years, he has released several hits and is seen as a rising star of the Italian scene.
Corviale is a housing development on the south-western outskirts of Rome. Known as “the big snake,” due to its length and its inhabitants’ grim living conditions, it has become the symbol of the decay in the capital’s outlying neighborhoods.