the new faces of french rap
Sporting Air Max 97’s and grillz by French designer Dolly Cohen, rappers Prince Waly and Tengo John, rapper and producer Fiasko Proximo, and producer Ocho got together one afternoon in Montreuil, France, with Nike and i-D — singing an ode to style...
Prince Waly wears an Etudes shirt, a pair of Air Max 97 gold sneakers, and grillz by Dolly Cohen.
This article originally appeared by i-D France.
Some people have a gift for words and flow; others have a knack for style. And then there are those who have it all — like Prince Waly, a star from Montreuil, a suburb just east of Paris, who shined bright last year with his unique, radiant flow. He's been honing his impassioned style with Fiasko Proximo, a fellow member of the rap group Big Buddha Cheez. Their suite bubbles with the added energy of rapper Tengo John and producer Ocho (a member of the esteemed Don Dada rap crew), who have a few things in common: A record label (Chez Ace), talent, and this photoshoot — held under the aegis of Nike and its Air Max 97 sneaker (in gold, please and thank you). All four of them share a sharp sense of music and style and agree with Waly's comments from a previous interview: His present day style is what he always dreamed of as a kid. And maybe that's what style is all about — our childhood fantasies brought to life. For Tengo John, it represents "a kind of visual identity." He adds: "Today, there's a lot of us out there in the artistic field, so it's hard to differentiate yourself with words alone. If you can stand out visually, that's a huge advantage."
Prince Waly remembers his early days and his big brothers, "Who always had the best kicks! I would inherit their stuff once they didn't want it anymore, and their shoes were really beat up. Today, I can afford them. Even better… I get them for free! And we're doing photos for Nike. This is a childhood dream come true; I always wore Nike. It's really awesome to be here." He's clearly not just saying that — Waly's love of the legendary swoosh goes way back. His Instagram account is proof enough, with shot after shot of rare, shiny sneakers. At his concerts, he sometimes throws a brand new model into the crowd. "To thank people for coming," he explains. "To me, it has a lot of meaning. The shoes are a crucial part of the outfit. You can have shitty clothes, but if you have a kickass pair of shoes on your feet, you're all good!" To Fiasko, spending a sunny day in Montreuil, trying on luxury clothing and the latest Nikes, is representative of "An incredible lifestyle. Look, on top of that we have gold grillz. I've never worn anything gold." Not just any kind of gold and not just any kind of grillz, either. These grillz are made by hand by French designer Dolly Cohen, whose clientele includes everyone from A$AP Rocky to Cara Delevingne, and, as of now, the guys from Big Buddha Cheez.
They set the bar high when it comes to both style and music — and that's probably what brought Tengo John & Ocho, Fiasko Proximo, and Prince Waly together on the same label, Chez Ace. The label's latest venture is infused with Tengo's furious, incisive flow and Ocho's dark beats. Their soon-to-be-released first project, N+UV, is a record of aggressive, hardcore rap that doesn't always offer a chorus. In Tengo's words: "It's rage, concentrated. It's a dark, somber, minimalist project, but a few stars still shine through, like flashes of green and purple. I'm green; Ocho's purple." The release is bound to make waves, and Waly lent his flow to a track made in homage to the legendary series The Wire. "Tengo and I kind of come from different worlds; his rap is more performative. But Ocho's production is so good, you can't say no… we already knew Tengo. He's young, talented, driven. And we only rap with the best!" The young duo hopes the future holds "great shows, great stages, and Nikes… lots and lots of Nikes." As for us, we support both what we see and what we hear.
Text: Antoine Mbemba
Photography: Quentin De Briey
Assistant photographer: John Karsenty
Stylist: Xenia May Settel
Assistant stylist: Ewa Kluczenko
Makeup: Tiina Rainoven
Hair: Yuji Okada
Talent: Prince Waly, Ocho, Tengo John, Fiasko Proximo et Rawi @Elite
Production: Mayli Grouchka