Gringe Brings the Heat To L’Astral

On November 29th, France-based rapper Gringe, otherwise known as Guillaume Tranchant, played an energetic show at L’Astral in the downtown core. The second Gringe took the small stage, he was able to effortlessly command the room's unsurmountable energy. Rapping with eloquence, maturity and ease, the France-native delivered a solid performance and proved himself to be an effective storyteller.

Gringe managed to get people jumping, "handbanging", and singing over him while at the same time saying that he’s “not the greatest singer”. The choir of fans beneath him filled up the room with melody leaving the rapper with a smile as he led his audience into a night of hip-hop excellence.

But behind the electric and jovial musicality was a rather somber and melancholic lyricism. I took a moment to close my eyes and feel the emotions of his words. When the time came to perform the song “Pieces détachées”, a song about the pain of a childhood with the absence of his father, his energy changed. He stood still on stage and took time to poor his heart out and tell his story. It was a break from his high energy performance that created an interesting nuance.

Gringe addresses many themes in his music: vapid love, depression, drug use, failed therapy, solitude, and many more… In his first solo album titled Enfant lune, Gringe beared all and cut deep to explore some of the most traumatic experiences he has had to face in a life he often defines as gloomy and tragic. “I had to put myself in a certain state of mind to write the album,” said Gringe during an interview with Konbini back in 2018. “For me, this solo album was an exercise allowing me to be more introspective and be more personal than on the group album”.

Gringe was a member of a former rap duo Casseurs Flowters with French rapper Orelsan. They released a mixtape back in 2004 called Fantasy: Épisode 1 that propelled the two into stardom. The new solo project was an opportunity for the rapper to start fresh. On Enfant lune, Gringe allowed himself to further explore his vulnerability and take on personal issues in a more intimate way.

In an interview with YouTuber Anne Borie in April, Gringe said he finds much of his inspiration from introspection and analytical writing as it often serves as a continuity of the experiences he goes through.

Looking on a song-to-song basis, “Pièces détachées” is about his father who abandoned him and his mother at a young age. He talks about inheriting his worst qualities like being “un coureur de jupons”, or “skirt chaser” in English. His father abandoning him made him doubt himself and hindered his ability to commit to relationships.

The artist proved to have no ego in a live setting, even admitting to the crowd before starting the song that he cheated on his loved one. It made his song feel authentic and it made him even more present as an artist.

“Scanner” is arguably one of Gringe’s saddest songs. He talks about the painful days leading to the death of his brother. From hospital visits to drug abuse, he tells the tale of a medical downfall that was doomed to end in utter sadness. You could feel the pain as he rapped on stage behind a symphony of electronic sounds.

Fans of French rap got an authentic and exhilarating musical experience. But fans of his lyricism had the opportunity to hear his storytelling in person. “Scanner” sounded even better in real life because of the rapper’s charisma and his ability to emote his most profound emotions while keeping the energy in the room lively.

But beyond the darkness, the artist seemed quite happy. The stage felt like his home and he was responsive of the energy of the people in the room. Beyond the sad undertone of his lyricism, Gringe created a positive experience with his live show.

Gringe’s flow was also rather impressive. His delivery was nearly effortless as he had been rehearsing rhyming for years. His sound stays fresh by combining an old school vibe with electronic and house beats. You could hear modern influences from mainstream acts like Koriass to old school ones like his main idol, Tupac.

The production was on-point making mastered cuts feel like they were destined for live performances. The beats were sharp and filled with surprises. This was refreshing in a time where rap is often filled with clichés and recycled sounds.

The concert quickly turned into a dance party. The crowd’s energy was at an all time high when Gringe performed “Konnichiwa”. Standing in the room, it felt less like a concert and more like an exchange between Gringe, the DJ, the hype man, and the crowd. Happiness filled the room of strangers clamming their happy drinks.

Before we knew it, the concert was over. Gringe looked happy to finish his tour in Montreal calling the city one of the “chillest” places in the world. With two applauding ovations, the rapper had many thanks to give and an unwritten promise to his followers of a return when his next project comes out.

Jean-Philippe Giroux is the host of Hidden Gems, a show focusing on artists outside the realm of popular music in Canada. His show plays every Thursday at 3:00 PM EST.