Seven years after hitting it big with “SAPOUD” ( “sapoud” is a contraction of the words “sur la poudre,” which literally means “high on blow” [cocaine]), one of the first Québécois rap videos to reach a million views, Les Anticipateurs are back with Temple de la renommée, an album that once again combines three of their favourite themes: sex, drugs, and hockey. Is it a pastiche of American gangsta rap? Is it a satire of Québec’s uninhibited society? Is it simply a hodgepodge of vulgar language designed to shock people? MC Tronel lays his cards on the table.
P&M: Temple de la renommée is your 11th project since you started out eight years ago. It’s quite an impressive track record. Do you ever run out of inspiration?
Tronel: In Québec, you have no choice but to operate like that when you’re an independent with no grants. If you don’t work twice as hard as everyone else, you live three times worse than they do. You can’t wait very long, you need to always have something ready in your bag of tricks and be ready to release it when the time is right. We always have one or two albums ready. That’s how we manage to be constantly booked on tour. But I can’t lie; a lot of people book us just to hear “SAPOUD.”
Is there constant pressure to live up to such an incredible success?
We’re never worried about that, because our fan base is incredibly loyal. We don’t have casual fans that are into us just because it’s the latest cool trend. They’ve followed us from the beginning, and they want to see where it’s headed.
Your musical evolution is quite stunning. Your first mixtapes were essentially the instrumental tracks of known American rap songs, and over the last few years, you’ve collaborated with big-name producers such as Loud Lord, Lex Luger, and even Scott Storch [who wrote hits such as Still D.R.E. and Let Me Blow Ya Mind]. What do these collaborations mean to you?
It’s like we’re wearing military uniforms and we’re constantly being decorated with more stars. When you have the Lex Luger star and that opens the door to earning the Storch star, it’s like a dream come true.
Are Les Anticipateurs slowly becoming a more serious project?
No doubt. Our first project [Deep dans l’game, 2011] was a few tunes we put together to make our friends laugh. Next, we decided to shoot three videos on the same day: “GSP,” “Deep dans l’game,” and “J’fume des bats” (“I smoke blunts”), and the concept of that one was simply to have as much weed as possible on a table. That the video that was the biggest hit, and we realized that we could earn some dough with that shit. So we decided to do it over again, but with blow… And it seems blow is more popular than weed in Québec, because that one was an even bigger hit.
Drugs, sex, and hockey are probably the topics you love the most. Do you sometimes feel like exploring other avenues, but hold back because you don’t want to upset your audience?
You need to find something fresh, but you can never forget that without your audience, you’re nothing. Our true fans will follow us anywhere, but there are a lot that will never accept that we change. We try to find the right balance. I remember people getting upset when we started using Autotune in our tracks. Yet, over the years, we’ve understood that it’s often a good sign when people complain from behind their screens.
When you consider the scope of the topics you cover, and the vulgarity of your lyrics, are you sometimes surprised that you’re not more controversial?
I’m not surprised, because it’s a debate that’s lost before it even starts. Anyone wanting to say we’re too hardcore would lose that debate in 30 seconds. You think we’re hardcore? There are metal bands who tour the world and sing about Satan and beheadings! On the rap tip, you have guys like Future, who play on the radio and nobody minds! It would be rather hypocritical to point a finger at us! Then, there’s the “Yeah, but this is Québec, we don’t have the same culture as the Americans!” argument. That’s not a valid argument either, because the vast majority of Québec culture is the consumption of American products.
Do you ever get formal complaints or legal threats?
It’s happened, but that doesn’t change a thing, because we’ve never pretended to be Québec’s answer to Mother Theresa. We don’t force people to listen to our music, and our shows are always 18+. Les Anticipateurs is, above all, a project that shines a light on the decadence of show business. At first glance, it might seem like all we talk about are drugs and negative stuff, but beyond that, our recurring theme is being a winner. We are winners and we diss losers. That’s it.
So, in a way, you are like certain controversial stand-up comedians who invoke the second-degree argument?
Except we don’t just do stand-up, we do rap. It’s a way for us to not lose it. We all know boys who fell off the wagon in fucked up ways because of drugs, and we know that from where they are now, they wouldn’t want to hear us complain about that. They would want to hear us makes jokes about it! Taking heavy stuff in a lighthearted way makes for a better life. People who don’t give a fuck live longer than those who stress out about stuff.
Would you go as far as saying there is a social message in Les Anticipateurs’ songs?
There’s something patriotic, that’s for sure. At the very heart of hip-hop, there’s a mission to represent where you’re from, and we’re proud to be from Québec. We love the idea of being perceived as Québec superheroes. But we’re superheroes who represent both the best and the worst of Québec, straight up, no censorship.
So you never censor yourselves?
No. I grew up listening to Snoop Dogg’s Doggy Style, and that’s way more hardcore than any shit we’ve ever done. Yet, the guy is acclaimed wherever he goes, and he does cooking shows with Martha Stewart. Why shouldn’t we be accepted just as much as he is? Thankfully, there are a few people who get our vibe in Québec. Like Ariane Moffat, who is fuckin’ down with us. She doesn’t get irritated by some of the stuff in our songs. She gets it…
But are you aware that, even in your audience, not everyone “gets it?” In your shows, certain people seem to justify their own decadence from your lyrics…
Yeah. I see chicks doing lines of blow during our shows. Some of them do that right on the subwoofers. You realize how dumb that is? I’ve seen people throw bags of blow at us at the merch table after the show… But what can you do? There’s always going to be basket cases! It would be scandalous to say we can’t do what we do because of that.
Lastly, what are your short-term plans? You recently recorded a song with Lorenzo [a very popular French rapper], so I gather France is in the plans?
Yeah, for sure. We went there before, it was super-fun, but it wasn’t a game changer either. But now, with a video alongside Lorenzo, we know it could take us to another level. A single picture of him on the social networks automatically increases your following. His fans are compulsive! But other than that, we’re already anticipating the next step. After the Temple de la renommée (Hall of Fame), the ultimate honour in the world of hockey, we’re moving on to the stadium of the Dieux du Québec. That should be out before the end of the year.