Jul, the UFO of French rap?

From his first rhymes, Jul was a dazzling success. His particularly prolific career propelled him among the tenors of French rap, but he continues to cultivate his difference.

His accent, his hits, not to mention the famous hand sign in the shape of a “J” : the arrival of Jul in 2014 on the French-speaking scene was all a caricature made in Marseilles. However, it is without difficulty that the artist and his abundant prose imposed themselves in the middle of the French rap of the years 2010. Portrait.

From Juliano135 to Jul

From the age of 12, Julien Mari began to take an interest in music. He composed his first titles, inspired by Psy 4 and the Fonky Family, which he often cites as references. But it was only after being fired from his BEP sale, then doing odd jobs, that the 17-year-old decided to stop everything in order to devote himself to music.

Under the pseudonym “Juliano135”, he then samples the pieces of other artists and sings over them. A technique that allows him to be spotted by the Marseille label Liga One Industry and to join the Ghetto Phénomène group. He nevertheless continued to perform solo and quickly decided to rename himself Jul.

In 2014, released his first single, Take out the Stolen Cross – extract of the scrapbook In my paranoia. The title, certified since Platinum, is a real success on YouTube: Jul has just imposed his flow, between rap and reggaeton, all composed at home in front of his computer. A rap that smells of the South, far from the usual standards.

Jul’s hyper-productivity

This is only the beginning… After a first recognition on social networks and thanks to Skyrock, he goes straight back to the studio to release two albums in 2014: Lacrizeomic then I can’t find sleep.

The songwriter turns out to be a real beast of recordings, and the album titled The UFO (2016) is in particular a reference to the hallucinating speed at which he writes and produces his titles. Of My World (2015)for which he won his first Victoire de la Musique, at It’s not lol (2019) Passing by Extraterrestrialreleased on June 3, Jul now has no less than 18 studio albums.

A record for the French-speaking rap scene which allows him in 2020 to become the most listened to French artist of the last decade on Spotify; but also the biggest seller in the history of French rap! At the same time, he created his own label, D’Or et de platinum, after leaving Liga One in 2015. Commercial successes follow one another, despite the negative reviews that his albums often elicit.

Multiple certifications, tours across France, the last of which passed through the Stade Vélodrome in 2022: it is now impossible to ignore the Marseille phenomenon. We also owe him several featurings, in particular the essential Organized gangtaken from the scrapbook 13 Organized (2020) which brings together the gratin of Marseille rap.

An artist true to himself

Jul has as many admirers as detractors. If he is supported by his community of fans nicknamed “Team Jul”, but also by rappers like Soprano, Nekfeu, SCH or Soso Maness, others reproach him for the abusive use of auto-tune, or again a very rough grammar. Add to that the Marseille clichés around the “bouillabaisse rapper” like the magazine Society baptized it in its columns and you get a creature of French rap as divisive as it is mysterious.

It is indeed difficult to know who is really hiding behind the famous blase, as his relationship to the media seems complex. The rapper is known for very rarely giving interviews, as Jul actually puts everything on social media to communicate with his fans.

The latter seem to be the only priority of the artist, who ensures to sing “to have fun and please people” at the microphone of Brut in an exclusive interview in 2021. It waters the public at a maddening pace, rewarding it, moreover, with free titles and albums from time to time. A mentality that helps the rapper keep his feet on the ground. Unlike other artists, Jul does not cultivate the superficiality or the caïd identity often associated with rap, and those close to him describe him as a sickly shy person.

Known for its simplicity, it wishes above all to remain faithful to its roots and is also committed to the most popular districts. A figure of the Good Mother, as evidenced by the giant fresco bearing the image of the rapper near the Cité Consolat, in the 16e district of Marseilles. If he is often cataloged as the rapper who makes the crowds dance, Jul’s lyrics are nonetheless full of melancholy. Marseille and life in the cities thus occupy a preponderant place in his pieces, while his prose also serves as an outlet.

The result is an artist with a universe as unique as it is prolific. Although he is not unanimous on the French-speaking music scene, Jul has become a real phenomenon in recent years. An emblematic figure of Marseille rap, who certainly cultivates an image that is sometimes ridiculous, but also endearing and creative. A fascinating ambivalence, which most certainly explains why “the J is the S”.

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Jul, the UFO of French rap?

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