The French-Algerian hip hop artist’s new single ‘Kawasaki Ninja’ draws on the imagery of the Japanese mafia to tell a story of love and protection
Taken from the spring/summer 2016 issue of Dazed:
“There aren’t a lot of Algerian singers doing hip hop, so I like to represent the ones who were born here. We’re a lost generation.” So says 24-year-old French-Algerian artist Ta-Ha. Hailing from Bondy in the suburbs of Paris (which she describes as, “basically, the French projects”), the rapper is a thrilling product of the city’s diverse musical diaspora.
“When I was 18, we had these things called ‘afternoons’, which were basically local house parties,” she says. “The music was mainly African and West Indian, and you’d say, ‘There’s an afternoon at this place,’ and we’d go there instead of clubs.”
These parties set the scene for Ta-Ha’s current brand of exquisitely melodic hip hop, identified by melancholy, slick offerings such as “Lil Bit” and “Cloud999”. Her brooding basslines are a warped departure from the music that she grew up on – “a lot of soul, Middle Eastern music and Mariah Carey” – but if you listen closely, you might just catch the familiar sensuality of those influences, albeit paired with electronic injections.
As for her upcoming EPs SunrayZ and Xrayz, all she’ll say is that it’s “full of energy that connects people”. For Ta-Ha, it’s important that her music connects at a time when Paris is increasingly politically fragmented. Like many artists from grassroots communities, she credits internet culture for allowing her sound to be uncompromisingly independent. “I’m part of a generation that is realising we can do it all ourselves… while being ourselves.”
“Kawasaki Ninja”, the first single from the Sunrayz EP, was written while Ta-Ha was living in Tokyo last year. “It’s a track that puts me to work,” Ta-Ha explains, “A reminder to get back to business and focus on the important things happening in my life and on who I should really trust or get with.”
The song opens with the words “I fell in love with a yakuza”, but Ta-Ha says the lyrics shouldn’t be taken too literally. “I just used that image to say that no matter who you love and what people might think, as long as that person is there to love and protect you and give 100% of themselves to you, then it’s worth it.”