MC Solaar

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MC Solaar
MC Solaar in 2009
MC Solaar in 2009
Background information
Birth nameClaude Honoré M'Barali
Born (1969-03-05) 5 March 1969 (age 55)
Dakar, Senegal
OriginSaint-Denis, Île-de-France, France
Years active1988–present

Claude Honoré M'Barali (French pronunciation: [klod ɔnɔʁe ɛmbaʁali]; born 5 March 1969), professionally known as MC Solaar (pronounced [ɛm si sɔˈlaʁ]), is a French rapper of Senegalese and Chadian origin. He is one of France's most famous and influential hip hop artists. Some consider him the best French rapper of all time.[1][2]

MC Solaar is known for his complex lyrics and distinctive flows, which rely on word play, lyricism, and inquiry. He is one of the best in France. In the English-speaking world, Solaar was signed by London-based acid jazz record label Talkin' Loud and recorded with British band Urban Species and rapper Guru, who was a member of New York-based rap band Gang Starr. Solaar has released eight studio albums and one live album. His eighth studio album, Géopoétique, produced by Alain Etchart and mixed by sound engineer David Gnozzi, won best album of the year at the Victoires de la Musique awards in 2018.


Early life[edit]

Claude M'Barali was born in Dakar, Senegal, to parents from Chad. When he was six months old, his parents immigrated to France where they settled in the Parisian suburbs; initially in Saint-Denis, subsequently Maisons-Alfort and finally Villeneuve-Saint-Georges. When he was twelve, he went to live with an uncle in Cairo, Egypt for nine months where he discovered the Universal Zulu Nation and became fascinated with the rapping styles of Afrika Bambaataa.[3] Upon his return to France, he passed the baccalauréat. The constant support from his mother was one of the reasons that he was able to pass the baccalauréat and still make music. He coined the stage name "MC Solaar" during his adolescence from his graffiti tags "SOAR" and "SOLAAR".[1]

MC Solaar describing his early influences before a London gig in 2011, to radio producer Pete Shevlin

He studied languages at the Jussieu university campus and was a postgraduate in philosophy. He released his first single in 1990. MC Solaar went to Paris in the summer of 1991 with his friend Jimmy Jay in hopes of succeeding in the music industry. Success came quickly when his first single, "Bouge de là" ("Get Out of There"), based on a sample from Cymande's song "The Message" (1973) became a hit in the early 1990s. Many rappers who came out of Africa at the time spoke a lot about slavery and other topics in order to bring the history of their people into light.[4] Nevertheless, the song went platinum in France and reached #5 on the national charts.

1991–1997: Early success and Prose Combat breakthrough[edit]

After the success of "Bouge de là", Solaar went on to support the American rap group De La Soul when they performed at the Olympia in Paris in September 1991. At the close of 1991, Solaar released Qui Sème le Vent Récolte le Tempo which went on to sell over 400,000 copies in France.[1] With the success of his debut album in France, Solaar embarked upon extensive tours of Poland and Russia. In December 1992, he performed in twelve countries across West Africa, where his French rap style proved popular with African music fans.[5]

MC Solaar released Prose Combat in 1994. It sold 100,000 copies in the first week of being released and became a bestseller in 20 other countries. In February 1995 he received an award for Best Male Singer of the Year at the 10th edition of the French "Victoires de la Musique" awards. Also in 1994, MC Solaar appeared on the Red Hot Organization's compilation album, Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool. The album, meant to raise awareness and funds in support of the AIDS epidemic in relation to the African American community, was heralded as Album of the Year by Time.

Solaar returned to the studio in 1997 with longtime friend and producer Jimmy Jay to record his third album, Paradisiaque. The album was another success, which led to an extensive European tour starting on 9 January 1998 at the Zénith in Paris. MC Solaar toured internationally, including Germany, Japan and the United States. He was included as a guest on American rapper Guru's "Jazzmatazz" project and one of Solaar's songs was included in the Tommy Boy rap compilation in the United States.[1]

Early in Solaar's career, it was important for him to share the struggles and the different hardships for black people that had emigrated to France and tried to make a better life. Most of his music was dedicated to enlightening the population of a specific deeper message that connected to him in his life. "[...] he addresses the conditions under which Black people have emigrated to and settled in France. In the piece "Leve-toi et rap," he describes his Chadian parents' migration from Senegal to a Parisian suburb, the main stages of his teenage years and how he finally came to discover rap."[4] In an interview, MC Solaar described the feeling of making a song and the thought process while just writing any part of lyrics that go into his music. "I write quickly, because of the music, he tells me. It's much easier if you have the music, the rhythm, but I am fast. First, I have taken in "everything". Do you never write before the music? Ah. I used to, he admits. But when I met the music, I changed."[2]

1997–2004: Cinquième As and Mach 6[edit]

Solaar released Cinquième As in 2001, to critical acclaim and Mach 6 in 2003. In the album's third track, "Lève-Toi et Rap", Solaar describes his parents' move to France as well as his own roots growing up in Villeneuve-Saint-Georges and Cairo.[4] Critic Dan Gennoe attests to Solaar's "flow et vocabulaire" by noting "the flow of his words is staggering, as are the low-slung grooves that they roll to; deftly vaulting all language barriers."[6]

In 1998, MC Solaar embarked on a tour beginning at the Zénith de Paris. The concert he presents is a show with DJs and dancers (as the hip-hop dancer Bintou Dembélé) which overpasses the musical frame.[7] The cover of Cinquieme As depicts Solaar topless, and draws comparisons to captives about to be taken onto a slave ship. However, a look at the inside cover reveals Solaar to be in a wrestler's costume, along with the other men in the picture.[8] As Veronique Helenon discusses in her article concerning the French hip hop scene, references to Africa and "blackness" are a very important part of Solaar's music. Solaar recognises and pays tribute to the African presence in France by using boxing and wrestling references. Senegalese boxer Battling Siki is referenced in the album's booklet. Although Siki won the light heavyweight boxing championship in 1922, he still faced racism from journalists.[4] This image combined with songs concerning colonial oppression and the migration experience from Africa to France show Solaar's "blackness," something that is extremely important in the French hip-hop scene. For example, in his song "Les Colonies", Solaar discusses the similarities between the oppression of Africans by colonialists to the modern day exploitation of "third world" countries. "Cinquième As" includes lyrics in French, English, and Spanish, which represents his ideals that rap should be inclusive of all people.[2] In early 2004, his 2001 song "La Belle et Le Bad Boy" was featured on the final episode of the U.S. television series Sex and the City. The MTV series "The Hills" featured the song as well.

2005–present: Chapitre 7 and international acclaim[edit]

"Da Vinci Claude", the first single from Solaar's album Chapitre 7, was launched in March 2007. The album was released on 18 June 2007. MC Solaar is best known outside France for his work on Guru's Jazzmatazz project and as a featured artist on the Missy Elliott track "All N My Grill". His collaboration with her propelled him to higher popularity in the U.S market. The single "Le Bien, Le Mal" (The Good, The Bad) has been a hip hop/dance crossover hit and has received playtime on MTV, which characterizes his work this way: "His fluid phrasing makes up for his lack of English, and the production on his solo work (by DJ Jimmy Jay and Boom Bass of La Funk Mob) surpasses that of most of his hip-hop contemporaries."[9]

MC Solaar is one of the few French rappers having success in the English-dominated American hip hop culture. American rapper admitted he prefers MC Solaar to American rapper Tupac Shakur.[10]

Personal life[edit]

MC Solaar studied humanities in highly selective preparatory classes (hypokhâgne).[11] On 7 December 2003, MC Solaar married Chloé Bensemoun and on 7 May 2004, she gave birth to the couple's first child, a son named Roman.[5] In 2007, she gave birth to a daughter named Bonnie. They divorced in 2012.


MC Solaar has been a member of the Les Enfoirés charity ensemble since 1997.[12]



Studio albums

Year Album Peak positions Sales Certifications[13]

1991 Qui sème le vent récolte le tempo  –  – 6  – 37
  • FRA: Platinum
  • SWI: Gold
1994 Prose Combat  – 28 6 81 12
  • FRA: 2× Gold
1997 Paradisiaque 1  – 6 96 8
  • FRA: Platinum
1998 MC Solaar 9  – 14  – 19
2001 Cinquième As 2  – 2 98 5
  • FRA: 2× Platinum
2003 Mach 6 2  – 12  –  –
  • FRA: Platinum
2007 Chapitre 7 5  – 6  –  –
  • FRA: Gold
2017 Géopoétique 1  – 3  – 14
  • FRA: Platinum
2024 Triptyque: Lueurs célestes  –  – 11  –  –

Live albums

Year Album Peak positions Certification

1998 Le tour de la question - Album live à L'Olympia 8 19  –

Compilation albums

Year Album Peak positions Certification

2010 Magnum 567  –  –  –

Maxis and EPs[edit]

  • Solaar Power EP
  • Inch'Allah EP


Year Single Peak positions Album

1991 "Bouge de là" 22  –  – Qui sème le vent récolte le tempo
"Victime de la mode" 32  –  –
1992 "Caroline" 4 31  –
"Qui sème le vent récolte le tempo" 39  –  –
1993 "Nouveau western" 4  –  – Prose Combat
1994 "Séquelles" 19  –  –
"Obsolète" 29  –  –
1995 "La concubine de l'hémoglobine" 42  –  –
1997 "Gangster moderne" 31 25  – Paradisiaque
"Les temps changent" 13 26  –
1998 "Paradisiaque" 41 28  –
"Galaktika" 64  –  – Cinquième As
2001 "Solaar pleure" 4 2 22
"Hasta la vista" 1 5 23
"RMI" 22 3*
2002 "La la la, la" 39 2*
"Inch'Allah" 1 16 13 Inch'Allah EP
2004 "Hijo de Africa" 32  –  – Mach 6
"Au pays de Gandhi" 37  –  –
2007 "Clic clic" 19 7*
 – Chapitre 7
2008 "Le rabbi muffin" 20 1  –
2017 "Sonotone" 3
46  – Géopoétique
2018 "Eksassaute" 60 40  –
"Aiwa"  – 33  –

*Did not appear in the official Belgian Ultratop 50 charts, but rather in the bubbling under Ultratip charts.

Collective singles

Year Single Peak positions Album
2014 "À quoi ça sert l'amour" (live)
(Lavoine / Zazie / Mathy / MC Solaar / Ségara / Les Enfoirés / Chœurs du Collège du Kochersberg)
105 Les Enfoirés album
Bon anniversaire

Featured in

Year Single Peak positions Album

1993 "Le bien, le mal"
(Guru feat. MC Solaar)
33  –  –  –  –  –  –  –
1995 "Listen"
(Urban Species feat. MC Solaar)
29  –  –  –  –  –  –  –
1999 "All n My Grill"
(Missy Misdemeanor Elliott feat. MC Solaar)
16  – 7
9 22 86 39 23


  • 1991: Pour Kim Song-Man - short film by Costa-Gavras
  • 2005: Mort à l'écran as Jonathan - short film by Alexis Ferrebeuf
  • 2011: Illegal Love voice over - documentary by Julie Gali

Live albums[edit]

References and footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Biography". Islandia. Archived from the original on 4 May 2007. Retrieved 12 December 2006.
  2. ^ a b c Berdeshevsky, Margo. "The Age of MC Solaar". Rattapallax. Archived from the original on 26 October 2006. Retrieved 12 December 2006.
  3. ^ "Q&A". CNN International. Retrieved 12 December 2006.
  4. ^ a b c d Helenon, Veronique. "Africa on Their Mind: Rap, Blackness, and Citizenship in France." In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Glmmobalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. by Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, London; Ann Arbor, Michigan: Pluto Press, 2006. pp.151-66.
  5. ^ a b "MC Solaar". RFI Musique. Archived from the original on 30 October 2006. Retrieved 25 July 2006.
  6. ^ Gennoe, Dan. Review: Cinquieme As,, accessed 20 March 2008.
  7. ^ "Un témoignage de Bintou Dembele: S/T/R/A/T/E/S. Trente ans de Hip-Hop dans le corps". Africultures. 99–100: 250–261. 2014.
  8. ^ Cinquieme As at
  9. ^ MC Solaar biography at
  10. ^ "Fallait préférer MC Solaar à Tupac pour être branché à L.A. dans les 90's - Greenroom". Greenroom (in French). 2016-11-01. Retrieved 2017-02-26.
  11. ^ MC Solaar – A me hante, retrieved 2021-12-21
  12. ^ "MC Solaar" Archived 2017-11-10 at the Wayback Machine (in French). Retrieved 23 February 2017.
  13. ^ a b "Les Certifications - SNEP". SNEP (in French). 2013-11-01. Retrieved 2017-12-26.
  14. ^ a b c d e f "MC Solaar discography". Hung Medien. Retrieved 25 July 2014.
  15. ^ a b c d e "MC Solaar discography". Hung Medien. Retrieved 25 July 2014.
  16. ^ a b c d e "MC Solaar discography". Hung Medien. Retrieved 25 July 2014.
  17. ^ ""Géopoétique" : MC Solaar, numéro un des ventes d'albums, détrône Michel Sardou". Retrieved 2017-12-26.
  18. ^ "Les albums 2017 : MC Solaar enfin de retour avec "Géopoétique"". Retrieved 2017-12-26.
  19. ^ "Le Top de la semaine : Top Singles Téléchargés – SNEP (Week 36, 2017)" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. Archived from the original on 24 September 2017. Retrieved 8 September 2017.

External links[edit]

Preceded by Victoires de la Musique
Male artist of the year

Succeeded by
Preceded by
by Abd al Malik
Victoires de la Musique
Urban music album of the year
Chapitre 7

Succeeded by
by Abd al Malik