Parazar and Ya Cetidon are two of the hottest prospects on today’s Québec rap scene. Whereas the former’s career has been booming for the past two years, the latter is on the cusp of releasing his first musical projects, after five years of remarkable evolution on the local scene. We met with both artists as they were getting ready to combine their talents for the SOCAN showcase to be presented during the Rendez-vous Pros des Francos in Montréal, on June 13, at 5:00 p.m.
It’s only the third time they’ve met, but one can already sense the complicity between them. Warm handshakes, contagious smiles, bursts of laughter… “We met at a rehearsal for a show and I immediately noticed his energy – it’s hard to miss!” says Parazar, explaining the chemistry that binds them.
But beyond this energy, the two artists have a lot more in common, starting with their abilities to mix singing and rapping, and to amalgamate genres: raï, rap, R&B and house in Parazar’s case, and afro-trap, rap, drill, and Latino-tinged music in Ya Cetidon’s case. Both owe this free-flowing musical approach to their respective families.
Ya Cetidon’s mother is a gospel singer, and his father is in the military, as well as a music producer, and both had a profound impact on his musical open-mindedness. “First thing in the morning, there was music coming out of the speakers,” says Ya Cetidon. “I learned the musical notes and harmonies very early on with my mom.”
As for Parazar, it’s her father’s career as a multi-instrumentalist, who had a flourishing career on Algeria’s raï scene, that served as a guiding light. “The moment something clicked and I did my first project,” she says, “I knew it came from my dad. I had it in me, and I immediately understood that I was going to carry on what he had accomplished in Algeria.”
Yet, before that something clicked, nothing pointed Parazar towards a career in rap. It all happened “by chance,” as she like to say with a smirk (because Parazar [pronounced PAH-rah-zar], her stage name, is how one pronounces the French phrase “par hasard,” meaning by chance). The Montréal-based artist initially wanted to get into stand-up comedy, but while recording a song for the credits of a comedy-related project, she fell in love with music. “Those two [comedy and music] worlds can co-exist harmoniously,” she says. “The punchlines in rap are very similar to their counterparts in comedy, whether it’s your delivery, or your energy.”
Growing up surrounded by raï (Cheb Khaled, Cheb Mami, Cheb Hasni) as well as Francophone rap and R&B (Rim’K, Diam’s, Zaho), Parazar took no time at all to find her own groove. Since the release of her first EP C’est live in 2021, things have been looking up for the artist: she was in the finals at Francouvertes this spring and she’s just been selected as the Révélation rap 2023–2024 by Radio-Canada (the French CBC Radio). To top it off, she’s signed a record contract with Cœur de pirate’s label, Bravo Musique.
As for Ya Cetidon, he’s had many lives. Now based in Laval, the rapper experienced a bit of fame with his first band, F2S – Frères 2 Sang, as a teenager in Congo-Brazzaville. Greatly inspired by late ‘90s French rap (Lunatic, Mafia K’1 Fry, Passi), he spent a few years on the road with his family – in Ghana, Benin, Togo – before moving to the U.S. in his twenties to study.
It was there – thousands of miles from home, ironically – that he first connected with Congolese music (Fally Ipupa, Koffi Olomidé, Tabu Ley Rochereau). “It wasn’t cool to listen to local music when I was a teen,” he says. “It was only when I got to America that I felt the need to listen to music from where I’m from, and learn to speak Lingala, because I felt cut-off from my bearings and my parents.”
He moved to Québec five years ago, and ever since, he’s had considerable success on digital platforms, garnering millions of streams and views, for songs delivered in French and Lingala. Recently signed by Pollen Records – a Montréal label that also works with R&B singers Nissa Seych and Odreii – the rapper-singer is about to release two projects. One is his debut album, recorded alongside his 3 Heures Production collective.
The strong buzz surrounding the pair is indicative of Québec’s audiences readiness to listen to less “purist,” more diversified, and open-to-the-world forms of rap. But despite said buzz, artists like Ya Cetidon can’t take anything for granted… yet.
“When I give shows outside of Montréal, like in Québec City or Sherbrooke, I can see something’s happening,” he says. “People know the lyrics, and they do the dance moves with me. Past that, it’s up to the people who make the decisions [in the industry] to be open-minded. We’re not a market as big as France, but the audience is dynamic, it’s there. Urban artists just need more opportunities. The time has come to present another side of rap, because rap is an art form that has many faces which are not all well represented.”
Parazar believes it’s also the artists’ responsibility to present themselves adequately. “I feel that if you have a well-formed artistic vision and you do things right, doors will eventually open,” she says. “For each door that opens, another one will close, but more will open as well. You need to focus on your vision and not be afraid to try new things.”
Motivated by this desire to open doors, both artists will get onstage during the Rendez-vous Pros des Francos showcase, to be presented outdoors, before an audience of industry professionals and the general public. This SOCAN-sponsored showcase has featured artists such as MB, Naomi, and Fredz, in previous editions. “It’s the type of experience that can give you a lot of exposure and experience,” says Parazar. “But even though we know we’re playing for industry pros, we have to keep the same vibe, and give the same energy to the audience.”
“No doubt that you need to keep the same energy and be yourself,” agrees Ya Cetidon. “But we also can’t pretend that this type of show doesn’t come with added pressure. I’ve never in my life rehearsed a show as much as I have this one.”
Because it’s true that beyond networking, the key to success is pure, hard work.