Guessmi and Malko are hard-to-categorize artists that live at the crossroads of rap, R&B, and Afropop. In other words, what they truly are is representative of Québec’s new wave of rap. We met with both artists as they were preparing to headline the SOCAN showcase at the Rendez-vous Pros des Francos in Montréal, on June 20, 2024, at 5:00 p.m. ET

Even though they only met about three months ago, there’s an almost tangible chemistry between Guessmi and Malko, evident right from the start of our interview.



Malko remembers that first time they met; he even jotted down the date: March 22, 2024. It was his producer and longtime partner-in-crime Astro that hooked him up with the Laval rapper. “Astro is an A&R, a headhunter. He sees talents and connects them,” he says.

But Astro isn’t the only one who spotted them: Guessmi was one of our five breakthrough rap artists of 2023 while Malko was included on the 2024 edition of the list. It’s obvious that both artists have a very rich musical knowledge. They’re not afraid to explore, and push back against the tight limits of hip-hop. Whereas Guessmi switches from rap to R&B with uncanny ease, while adding touches of Latin rhythms, Afro, and UK garage, Malko cultivates his singularity through a music that mixes baile funk, trap, and Afropop.

But before landing on their current musical signature, both made their mark alongside other artists. Guessmi launched her first project in 2022, with the 45 degrés EP, as a duo with Lebza Khey. As for Malko, he started out as a member of the Playdays collective, alongside the aforementioned Astro, between 2018 and 2021. “It’s about finding your identity when you’re on your own, finding your message,” says the Montréal rapper. “You need people around you to give you strength at the beginning. People that make you want to surpass yourself.”

“Music is incredibly unifying,” says the young Laval woman. “There’s this euphoria when you start out. It’s all of us together, we create great stuff; but at some point, there are conflicts of interest, ego problems… Nothing is forever.”

Although they both fly solo now, Guessmi and Malko aren’t completely on their own. Far from it. They’ve both surrounded themselves with people who continue to motivate them. “I don’t think there’s such a thing as a self-made man in music,” says Guessmi.

Still, American hip-hop is chock-full of rappers who, according to their own mythology, made the journey to the top entirely on their own. “Everyone plays that game, but… There are so many people behind the scenes. There’s nothing you can accomplish on your own. Everyone is in the position you need to make it work,” she adds.

“There are so many people who idealize the rapper. It’s much easier to be aware of a single person than a whole team,” says Malko.

Not to mention that the team can materializes way sooner than we imagine. From their youngest age, both artists’ parents contributed to their artistic growth by playing a whole range of music genres. Of Tunisian descent, Guessmi remembers car rides listening to Algerian raï from the likes of Cheb Hasni and Cheb Khaled. “In the car, we’d play CDs, one after the other,” she says. “My dad would sing; he has a beautiful voice. There are also singers in my family back in Tunisia. It didn’t come as a surprise to them that I became an artist.”

For Malko, Haitian music like zouk and kompa were the soundtrack to Sunday housecleaning. “My mom would zouk that broom!” he laughs. “She’d take my hand and teach me how to dance. My dad listened to soul, jazz, a lot of samba and Latin music. It’s because of him that I speak a bit of Spanish.”



All this musical awareness can be heard in their music, to a point where it becomes impossible to categorize them. “I never know what to answer when people ask me what kind of music I make,” says Guessmi. “I can do everything! I don’t like to be pigeonholed. I do whatever the fuck I want!”

“Recently, someone said to me, ‘You make alternative R&B,’ and I didn’t quite know what to say to that,” says Malko, a comment that made us all laugh out loud. “I was told I make progressive trap, so I just said OK!” Guessmi adds, with a smirk. “As long as I’m evolving, I don’t care!”

Still, for both artists, discovering hip-hop was a key moment in their lives. Malko remembers the exact moment he came into contact what the culture. “One day, I was in the car with my dad, and he said: ‘Hey, I’ve never played rap for you!’ He started Rapper’s Delight. I must’ve been 10. After that, I got back into it through my big brother, who played me some Lil Wayne. Before that, I was into LMFAO.”

“You’re killing me! I was so not expecting that!” Guessmi bursts out laughing, before adding, “I didn’t have a big brother, but I hung out with older kids. The first American artist I really got into was also Lil Wayne. I loved his flow, his voice, and as I grew older, I also started understanding all his wordplay.”

As far as Francophone music is concerned, both of their musical journey was heavily influenced by what was coming out of Europe. The Belgian scene, especially Hamza and Damso, captured Malko’s interest in the 2010s. Guessmi had a major and almost immediate love for some of the bigger names of French rap, like La Fouine, Booba, and Youssoupha.

In both cases, the influence of the Québec rap scene was minimal. Guessmi was a big fan of Québec’s new wave of street rap in the mid 2010s, with artists like Enima, 5sang14, and Izzy-S. “I ended up getting to know older artists like Connaisseur Ticaso and Manu Militari, but before that, I had no clue what had happened in the city. I didn’t even know there was a scene here before the new wave!”

Same scenario on Malko’s side: having been raised in the West Island, he wasn’t exposed to Québec rap before hearing the aforementioned new wave artists, and a few rappers from his area, like T.K. “I really wasn’t aware of what was going on in Québec,” he readily admits.

That probably explains, for the most part, why Malko has much more international than local goals. “A dream is bigger than Montréal,” he says, aligning his philosophy to that of Cult Nation, the record label to which he’s signed, and which is behind the success of Charlotte Cardin.

Although she’s currently independent, after spending a few years on the roster of Lebza Khey’s label Seiha Studios, Guessmi also has international ambitions. “What can I say, I’m a nomad at heart. I don’t like staying put in one place,” she says.

“And I’m a vagabond!” says Malko. “I’m someone who is super-soothed and chill, but I have a very hard time staying put. It’s very much part of the soul of artists to travel around. I love to discover new people, talk with them, communicate, connect.”

“We don’t know what tomorrow has in store for us,” says Guessmi. “And I think it’s beautiful that that’s the way it is.”