This album is one of the cornerstones of French hip-hop music. Its release was a major act for IAM as they finally found a sound to match the quality of their lyrics, as well as for French hip-hop, confirming the fact that rap has a lot of followers in the Hexagon.
Like their peers from the suburbs of Paris, NTM, IAM went to New York to instigate the production of this album, seeking for the essence of the sound one can only find in the Big Apple (their previous album was also cut in N.Y.). They teamed with Prince Charles Alexander, the mixer and engineer who worked a lot for Bad Boy Records. They even got close to the Wu-Tang realm through Sunz of Man members on "La Saga."
The sound has definitely changed from the previous albums: at first putting themselves in the Egyptian tradition (look at their names), they now have found the musical depth they deserve as ones of the few best lyricists of France. Definitely influenced by the Wu-Tang soundscapes, the opening track is the story of the battle between their school, from the silver mic, against the wooden mic school, in a Bushido style. Too bad that non-French speaking listeners won't get the lyrics; they cannot appreciate the quintessence of IAM's style.
However, most of the album sticks to the traditional approach of storytelling, as it covers the city life in its darkness: little brothers that want to grow too fast and be the new caïd ("Petit Frère"), money hungry women who have sex without giving their names, the difficulties to have a similar chance and destiny than a boy growing up in the well-off (about equality of chances) and much more. Not many subjects of relief here, we only breathe thanks to the banging instrumentals and phrasing of the MCs.
IAM takes the time to raise questions we don't want to hear, and stories we don't want to remember. This album is just hip-hop as its best: quality of the production with skilled lyricists in top form. This would just be one of you first "must-have" purchase if you plan to approach French rap music.