Last year, Serane made a brilliant debut in New York in the wake of the Surf Gang collaboration SGPM; despite minor buzz, this tape failed to completely cement the French rapper on American shores. The one from last month SER doesn't seem any more likely to propel Serane up the charts, but it does expand the envelope of his sound and features some of his catchiest music to date.
The biggest change on SER must be the undeniable influence of Chef Keef. As a plugg rapper, Serane is technically one of the Chicago icon's sonic grandchildren, but here he goes back to the source, relying on the sinister DAW textures of Shot 3. A handful of slyly bombastic tracks run through the album, filled with synthetic brass, minor theremins, and stuttering hi-hats. Especially “Without you“and opener”the Sharks” feels like an open homage, a clear deviation from Serane’s typical languorous modus operandi. The much more immediate “Glory” nails the landing with much more aplomb, thanks to a locked and ever-increasing vocal take.
Elsewhere, the plugg sounds that have become Serane's bread and butter are further refined. There is the Goyxrd product “Close 2 me“, where he admits to needing the girl who “wants to sip me like a smoothie”, and the dreamy sweetness “For you“, where he reminds his girlfriend “you know I'm crazy about you. His lyrical talent also accelerated, whether it was rapid spitting on broken glass”Sky» or the falsetto singing on the sublimating synths of “Myself.”
Serane's music draws inspiration from some of my favorite hip-hop scenes – not just the ethereal grooves of plugg and simpler Atlantean trap, but also the harder sounds of DMV rap cultivated by Sparkheem, Mannyvelli and SpizzleDoe. He's also not afraid of his inspirations or influences: often, the credits of his releases resemble a preview of his personal playlists. This is especially true for those of 2022 World Pricewhere Serane intelligently gives ground on the hilly terrain”History“to let Slimesito steal the show and remain unfazed by a strobe beat from Surf Gang”Location.” Although Serane's music is not particularly formally inventive, his songs go beyond homage by interrogating the creators of the sounds he wishes to emulate. They also reflect a kind of SoundCloud erudition that's quite personal and idiosyncratic—although Plugg has enjoyed a minor renaissance in recent years, Serene jumped on the sound just before the revival, and her cultural exchange with the DMV belies the lack of media coverage from the scene.
Rapping in French also allows us to distinguish Serane's sound, in more than one way. There is local competition: according to Serane, a large part of the French rap scene is oriented around drill and street rap, leaving the way wide open for French-speaking plugg (even if this is not a guarantee of success). Another differentiator: the prosody of French (the way in which the words of the language are linked) is clearly different from English. As a Romance language, French is syllable timed, meaning that each syllable takes the same amount of time to be pronounced. In comparison, in stressed languages like English and other Germanic languages, syllables can be shorter or longer depending on which syllables are stressed and unstressed. This contrast between stressed and unstressed syllables contributes to the singing quality of Shakespeare as well as the rapid triplets of the Migos flow.
In fact, this extends beyond English and extends to other international outposts of plugg sound, like Russia (Slavic languages are also accented) and Brazil (Brazilian Portuguese is a little of both). The syllable-timed French rap gives Serane's bars a more fluid quality, the lyrics spilling over the divisions between bars; you can hear something similar in Bb trickz's Spanish raps. The lack of phonetic accent blurs the line between vocal and instrumental, creating dreamier harmonies and more jarring contrast when he occasionally slips into English.