Born Laouni Mouhid in 1981, La Fouine grew up in Trappes, a distant suburb of Paris. The young Mouhid was raised listening to a variety of music, from Jacques Brel to the Jackson 5, with a fondness for rap acts like Snoop Dogg and NTM. He left school at 14 to become a rapper; he was a drug dealer by the age of 16. In 2003, having made a name for himself on the rap scene with a freestyle appearance on the mixtape Violences Urbaines, he was signed to Sony. He also became a mediator for youth groups in urban areas for his town at this time.
His first release for the label, after an interesting mixtape in 2004, reflected this: Bourré au Son, in 2005, was a real album of the streets, featuring pop hooks and hard-hitting texts with a hopeful gist. In between this release and his second album, 2007's Aller-Retour, he had a well-publicized spat with fellow rapper Kamelancien, instructing him "Ferme Ta Gueule" on the unsubtly titled eponymous single. Aller-Retour was a playful, confident album featuring quality collaborations with Booba and Amel Bent and the Top 20 single "Qui Peut Me Stopper?" The rapper began a mixtape series in 2008 entitled Capitale du Crime, which included tracks from some of France's most prominent hip-hop artists, such as Nessbeal and MLC. A year later his third full-length, Mes Reperes, appeared and included collaborations with fellow countrymen Soprano and Seyfu. In 2011 La Fouine released his seminal double album La Fouine vs. Laouni, which topped the French chart and was praised for its candid, personal portrayal of two sides to his life. This ambitious record saw the discs played out first by the bad-boy image of his rapper alter ego, La Fouine, while the second disc portrayed a personal side that was credited under his own name, Laouni Mouhid.
The same year, the third installment of his Capitale du Crime mixtape series -- the second came in 2010 -- was released and featured the cream of French talent as well as a guest spot from U.S. rapper T-Pain. His fan base continued to swell, and in 2013 his fifth album, Drôle de Parcours, was a huge success in French-speaking countries across Europe and was number one for a second successive release in his homeland. ~ Caspar Salmon & Scott Kerr