Saïd M'Roubaba, better known to French rap fans as Soprano, was born in Marseilles, France, on January 14, 1979. As a youth, Saïd was fascinated with American R&B and hip-hop artists such as Michael Jackson and Kris Kross. Though a reluctant leader, it was not long before he formed a hip-hop crew of his own, with two members from his parents' native Comoros and the fourth from Morocco. M'Roubaba and friends became important players in the years when European hip-hop's foundation was being laid. He earned a reputation for a lyrical intuition and insight uncommon in the genre. The quartet capitalized on this image, choosing the name Psy 4 de la Rime (Four Psychiatrists of Rhyme).
M'Roubaba chose the MC name Soprano, enamored with American TV's Tony Soprano, especially for the character's psychiatric explorations. The group built up instantaneous recognition, with two records to its credit, Enfants de la Lune and Block Party, both of which went gold in a matter of weeks upon release. As often happens with successful hip-hop groups, one member finds himself singled out as having solo potential. Soprano was solicited by a number of labels offering to help him release a solo disc. He tested the waters with the 2006 mixtape Psychanalyse Avant l'Album. The record's positive reception and enthusiastic label support convinced the artist that the time was right for his debut studio album. Puisqu'il Faut Vivre was released in March 2007, immediately landing on Billboard's European Top 100 and hitting the number two spot in the French album charts.
While inspired by the obvious big names of U.S. hip-hop, Soprano was also influenced by West African music and by some of the more conscious names of French rap, such as Fonky Family. He aimed to present a more positive type of rap free of some of the more unsavory attitudes often associated with the genre. While a stopgap live album, Live au Dôme de Marseille, was released in 2008, he took his time with the studio follow-up, a dualistic concept double album, the first part of which, La Colombe ("The Dove"), did not drop until the end of 2010. The second part, Le Corbeau ("The Raven"), arrived a few months later. The albums did extremely well, both entering the top three; they were later combined and re-released as a double-CD package. Fans did not have to wait nearly so long for the next release, as the punningly titled E=2MCs, a collaboration with fellow rapper REDK, arrived in 2012. ~ Evan C. Gutierrez & John D. Buchanan
- Marseille, France
- January 14, 1979