French-Argentine rapper Keny Arkana rose to fame as a member of the politically charged hip-hop collective La Rage du People before mounting a solo career in 2004. Her albums slowly climbed the charts in French-language markets, reaching a peak in 2011 with L'Esquisse, Vol. 2 and repeated with its sequel, 2017's L'Esquisse 3.
Born in Boulogne-Billancourt in 1982, Arkana spent the vast majority of her childhood in Marseilles. The product of an impoverished family, she bounced around a series of foster homes and spent a significant chunk of her teen years as a runaway. She began writing lyrics and poetry at 13, later rapping with the Mars Patrie and Etat-Major collectives and making her recording debut on the latter's 2003 Volume 1 EP.
A year later Arkana co-founded La Rage du People, a group with strong ties to the growing French alter-globalization social movement, which advocates democracy, economic justice, environmental protection, and human rights over material reward. Her debut solo single, "Le Missile Est Lancé," effectively outlined her anti-capitalist and antiwar stance. It served as the first taste of her debut full-length, 2005's L'Esquisse. Subsequent guest appearances on mixtapes, as well as records headlined by Soprano, Kayna Samet, and Alonzo, further established Arkana as a rapper of rare talent and political commitment.
In 2006 she issued her sophomore effort, Entre Ciment et Belle Etoile, highlighted by the single "La Rage," a cut inspired by the civil unrest that gripped France the previous year. Despite Arkana's refusal to promote the album via mainstream outlets, it turned into a word-of-mouth smash, certified gold soon after release. The album was followed by 2008's Désobéissance and 2011's L'Esquisse, Vol. 2, which was her highest-charting effort to date. The pensive Tout Tourne Autour du Soleil arrived the next year. Following 2016's Etat d'Urgence EP, Arkana hit another chart peak with L'Esquisse 3, which entered the Top 50 in Belgium and Switzerland, peaking at number ten in her native France. ~ Jason Ankeny & Neil Z. Yeung