Para One & TTC: First Tango in Paris :: Turning French hip-hop on its electronic head, the Institubes crew is preparing to take over the world
March 2007 – Urb Magazine
PARA ONE REALLY IS QUITE ADMIRABLY FRENCH, EVEN IN THE MOST TESTING of circumstances. It’s 3 a.m. in London’s slightly seedy Kings Cross district, and the Paris-based producer has found himself in the middle of a nu-rave nightmare. Originally booked to play a nice low-key early set, he’s had a disagreement with the promoter and has been forced to follow frenetic Scottish dance-rockers Shitdisco, which isn’t ideal. Shitdisco’s set is subsequently gatecrashed by fellow indie scenesters the Klaxons, who then indulge in a manic sing-along and proceed to trash the stage while the audience follows suit.
Para deals with this most difficult of situations by getting quite fantastically drunk. Not that you’d realize this, as he mounts the debris-strewn stage looking a picture of Gallic cool. Narrow of trouser, stylishly side-parted and with a Gauloises hanging elegantly from his lips, he surveys the rapidly diminishing crowd and decides to speed the blinkered fuckers on their way, subjecting them to the sort of blistering sonic assault that’s guaranteed to send indie kids screaming for the exits.
It’s truly an awesome noise, and the intoxicated Para is like a man possessed. As random members of the previous band wander bewilderedly in the background, trying to salvage what’s left of their equipment, Para performs a staggering array of aural pyrotechnics, seizing on a synth riff and mutating it upwards while emitting a radiant glow of almost orgasmic concentration. Truly, he’s the Eric Clapton of knob-twiddling. A sizeable crowd gradually filters back in, fascinated by the spectacle, and the promoter is clearly impressed, too, for when Para re-emerges from his aural- erotic reverie he discovers a flute of Champagne carefully placed on his otherwise redundant right-hand deck. The ultimate gift for such a gentleman.
Two days later Para is due back in Paris, zipping along on his scooter to meet up with his bandmates, brand-mates and this magazine. The stylish, richly talented performer is also the most prominent producer for TTC, France’s premier leftfield hip-hop crew, who themselves are the focal point of Institubes, a label-brand-collective causing an almighty buzz much further afield. While TTC like to see themselves as the French wing of the East Coast electro hip-hop scene—Diplo and Spank Rock are both name-dropped regularly—elsewhere on Institubes is a plethora of producers pricking ears across several scenes, a colorful collective who’ll make an almighty scene in the center of Paris later on, as URB’s camera rolls.
Initially though, we’re at the offices of V2’s French division, where TTC and, in particular, Teki Latex, are holding court on the state of French hip-hop. Latex is quite a character—the most recognizable face of his nine-year-old crew, but a man whose boisterous, boorish onstage appearance belies a fierce intelligence, which he expresses with some vigor.
Until TTC’s two headline producers, Para and Tacteel, arrive, Latex dominates the proceedings, and this appears to be the regular way of things. Also in attendance are fellow TTC founders Cuizinier, Tido Berman and producer Orgasmic, plus Institubes’ newest member, Das Glow, and several other label personnel, all who initially take an interest but quietly drift away as Teki’s flow shows no signs of slow- ing. He is the most fluent in English, admittedly, but there are also a few issues that need to be addressed. For example, the fact that TTC’s innovative beats aren’t properly appreciated at home, despite lots of press and props abroad.
“French radio won’t play us,” he growls. “It’s kind of our curse. We’re a group who has a fan base but doesn’t have the people to ‘diffuse’ our music. The people in charge of radio here are older; they have formats that they stick to and they say ‘Oh, this is great, but it’s not for us.’ No one wants to take the risk to start playing our stuff. It’s too electronic.”
Still, they’ve garnered a sizeable following back home. Founded in Paris in 1998, the core trio of Teki, Tido and Cuizinier initially bonded over a shared love of West Coast hip-hop, according to the briefly interjecting Berman, before falling in love with the East Coast independent scene. Company Flow, then Def Jux, were particularly influ- ential. “That’s when we starting making music,” recalls Latex.
Their unashamedly lowbrow lyrical stance (“lots of sex talk and bragging,” says Teki, “just being ourselves, getting our swagger on and talking shit”) won them a loyal teenage fan base back home, but an open-minded attitude to beats began to attract fans across other demographics, too. This kicked up a notch when they came across Para and Tacteel, two talented but then unknown Paris-based producers who chipped in with a few beats at first, but ended up making a massive contribution to their sound.
While Para is the most talked-about member at the moment, it’s Tacteel who has more of a behind-the-scenes impact on the overall collective. A forward-thinking producer in his own right, he was signed to the Warp-linked leftfield hip-hop label Lex a few years back, but when that went a little sour he decided to start his own imprint. Institubes was born, and there are similarities with Lex, particularly the intriguingly dual-edged roster of oddball hip-hop and out-there electronica. Tacteel would rather Institubes were compared with a more indie-flavored label, however. . .
“It’s maybe more like Factory Records,” says the shaggy-haired producer, of the legendary Manches- ter label. “It’s definitely a brand. It’s really weird, we’re kind of popular, but at the same time it’s like a niche. People are getting into the beats but also the attitude and the visual side.”
Teki agrees. “It’s kind of a scene, and MySpace has a lot to do with it. If you go to Tacteel’s page, you listen to his music, then you’ll see Institubes, Das Glow, Para One, TTC—you open one door and then you get access to all these amazing artists who always have very strong visual identities, all linked, all collaborating, all partying together. It’s like a lifestyle. From a foreigner’s point of view, it’s like a dream.”
A look at Institubes’ recent collaborative work gives a good indication of the different markets they’re hitting abroad. Their hottest-tipped new talent is baby-faced 21-year-old Surkin, from Southern France, who came to the label’s attention when he sent Latex a bootleg mix of an MIA track, and has now been commissioned to remix Klax- ons’ epic single “Golden Skans.” He’s done quite a number on it, too. Latex himself has an electro- pop-rap solo project upcoming, with contributions from German-based sleaze-scenesters Gonzales and Mocky. And Para One recently remixed Bloc Party’s comeback single, “The Prayer,” which is, again, a must-hear.
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Institubes Paris Terror Club is coming to Seattle on September 13th @ Chop Suey!