At 23, Jeune Rebeu displays stunning lucidity on Business et sentiments 3, the third instalment in a triptych of albums that saw him evolve both on a human and artistic level.
“I don’t see it as a duality, but rather as to things that complete each other,” says the Montréal-based rapper, when asked on the scope and meaning of the title of his trilogy — which started unfolding in 2018. “People tend to put business and feelings in opposition, especially in the rap world. Some will be more revealing of their feelings while the tougher ones will say they’re more business minded… And I’m not talking specifically about the macho rappers, but rather the ones who play a game and hide [a part of themselves]. More to the point, I’m talking to rappers whose masculinity is misplaced. I just try to be as authentic as I can. I’m a sensitive person and I try to rid myself of the shyness about my sensitive side, that others repress.”
Young Rebeu has long been a sensitive one. He remembers hearing two songs that left a lasting mark on him when he arrived in Québec in the early 2000s: “Parce qu’on vient de loin” and “Seul au monde,” by Corneille. “It was a tough period for me,” he says. “Not only was I coming from far away, but there was death in my family back in Tunisia,’ he confides. ‘There was a sensitive side to Corneille’s music that spoke to me. I didn’t speak French that well when I got here, but I felt a connection to his emotion.”
Twenty years later, the young rapper’s destiny intersects with that of Sonny Black, the multi-instrumentalist who composed, arranged, and co-produced Corneille’s brilliant first album, from which these two powerful pieces came. Like a little nudge from fate. “It’s crazy!” admits the young man, who benefited from Black’s expertise and rigour as artistic director and principal music composer of BS3. “I really dig the way he works. He made two of my songs way better than I could even imagine.”
With its warm sonic signature. where acoustic guitar, trap rhythms, and Latin influences reign supreme, Business et sentiments 3 marks a leap forward in Rebeu’s career. Ten years after his introduction to rap, which took place during a rap writing and interpretation workshop at a community centre in Côte-des-Neiges, the artist (based in the borough of Lasalle), has clearly evolved immensely, far beyond his collaboration with Sonny Black.
Somewhere between the spontaneous side of the first part of the trilogy, and the more melancholic one of the second, Business et sentiments 3 strikes a balance between the rapper’s strengths and emotions. The girl he’s been talking about for three years, this “Valentina” whose presence has coloured the writing of a sizable chunk of his trilogy, has now left his life.
The result: Rebeu sees more clearly now.
At least that’s what he shows us on “BS Story,” a striking, five-minute-plus conclusion that sums up the Business et sentiments era. Time to move on. “I was in a cabin to write, last August, and I’d just gotten out of that relationship,” says Rebeu. “I wanted to mark the occasion,” he adds, devoid of any hard feelings. “I had no regrets. I thought it was a shame [that everything ended], but I had no regrets. I just wanted to tell it the way it happened. Some people have a diary. My diary is my songs.”
He was lucky to benefit from another small gesture from the hand of fate: he met Dubmatique’s OTMC (aka Ousmane Traoré). “I met Ousmane at the moment I lost that relationship,” says Rebeu, still a bit shocked. “Life is balance. Everyone needs to find their balance.”
At the time, Traoré was putting together the basis of what would become Yokobok Records, his brand new record label.”‘I played him the demos of BS3, and he really liked them. He said: ‘Let’s go! You’ll be my label’s first contract!'” the young rapper remembers. “We’ve gotten to know each other better, since then. We’re friends, business partners. We’re constantly giggling.”
Now on a solid professional track alongside one of the best-selling rappers in Québec’s history (Dubmatique’s La force de comprendre has sold more than 100,000 copies), Rebeu has grand ambitions. “For the longest time I’ve had a ton of ideas, but no tools. Now, with Ousmane, I have the tools I needed to flesh out the ideas I dreamt of,” he says.
BS3’s opener, “J’suis pas désolé,” embodies the “business” side of the title-cum-mantra of his trilogy. “Je fais ça pour le butin/Pour marquer le but hein ?” (“I do this for the loot / To score the goal, y’know?”) he claims, evoking both his mission and his empathy, hidden somewhere in the cold .
“Money to me is a vector of ambition and dreams. It’s not an end in itself,” says Rebeu. “When I rap about money, it’s not with stars in my eyes. I’m not at all attached to brands or luxury. Unlike others, I understood early on during my childhood that money wasn’t going to save me. But I do know it can help me reach my goals. It’s all a question of knowing how to invest it wisely.”