Orelsan is a French hardcore rapper whose full-length debut, the hit album Perdu d'Avance (2009), was the subject of much controversy, with many critics likening him to Eminem. Born Aurélien Cotentin on August 1, 1982, in Caen, France, he listened to rock music as a youth but gravitated toward rap music as he grew older. He made his recording debut in the mid-2000s with a series of underground singles released online; in particular, he used the popular video-sharing websites YouTube and Dailymotion to release early singles such as "Ramen" (2006) and "Saint-Valentin" (2007). In association with the French rap label 7th Magnitude, Orelsan made his commercial debut in October 2008 with "Changement," the lead single from his full-length album debut, Perdu d'Avance (2009). A Top 20 hit on the French albums chart, Perdu d'Avance spawned a series of follow-up singles, among them "No Life," "Différent," and "Soirée Ratée." Produced chiefly by Skread, the album was an atypical French rap release.
Whereas most French rappers are of immigrant descent, hail from suburban high-rise ghettos, and rap about social injustice, Orelsan is a white middle-class rapper from the far northern province of Lower Normandy who raps about the boredom of his rural locale. Hence the comparisons drawn to not only Eminem but also Mike Skinner, the British rapper known as the Streets. Shortly after the release of Perdu d'Avance, Orelsan became the subject of much controversy when French politicians of both the right and left wing joined together in their condemnation of the violence and misogyny expressed in his lyrics, in particular those of the song "Sale Pute" (i.e. "Dirty Slut"). While the song isn't included on Perdu d'Avance and indeed predates the album, the controversy garnered lots of publicity, especially once French cultural minister Christine Albanel tried to get it banned from YouTube, and thereby made Orelsan something of an outlaw hero. His 2011 effort, Le Chant Des Sirènes, featured much less controversial material with many tracks focusing on the artist's rise to fame. ~ Jason Birchmeier
- Caen, France
- August 1, 1982