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MC Solaar
CINQUIÈME AS
(ELEKTRA)

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Alone of the first wave of French rappers, MC Solaar has retained the recitative eloquence and personal presence that made him matter way back in 1990, when he began his career. His "fifth ace" (thatís what "cinquième as" translates to) boasts the greatest musical riches of his five CDs, and these offset the understated drollery of his raps as effectively as the shifting stop-and-go beats of his early CDs reinforced them.

Riches, in Solaarís case, means sounds you donít expect to find in a rap environment: a back-up girlsí choir and Eurodisco dreampop in "Solaar pleure" and "Arkansas"; disco and blues guitar, some light drums, and nothing else in "Lève-toi et rap"; girls, again, waving him goodbye in "Hasta la vista mi amor"; harpsichord and violins in "La belle et le bad boy"; a Russian Army chorus in the title song; light, romantic piano in "Les colonies." Itís music that highlights the sadness, or wistful airs, of his complaints. He wants life to be different, and so does his music, as he talks about how things could be, or once were, or will never be (but might have been). On his early CDs, he faced his adversaries and fought them to verbal defeat, or at least a draw. His fourth release, Paradisiaque, marked a change: the "other than the way things are" moved out of reach, and so it stays in Cinquième as ó except that the music itself portrays these situations so vividly and pours them into your ear so tangibly that they clearly are within reach. Can Solaar be telling his hardscrabble Northeast Paris ghetto fans that the things hardest to find are those in plain view in oneís own front yard?

BY MICHAEL FREEDBERG

Issue Date: March 28 - April 4, 2002
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