The embodiment of hardcore hip-hop in France for decades, NTM (aka Suprême NTM) were comprised of Didier Morville (aka Joey Starr) and Bruno Lopes (aka Kool Shen). Both born in 1968, they grew up in the French department of Seine-Saint-Denis, where they went to school together, but had no special connection until 1983 when they both attended a dance show in the Trocadero (including American dancers showing their ability to breakdance and smurf). They were together from then on, and trained themselves in these dances with the Actuel Force group. The TV show H.I.P H.O.P., which aired in 1984, just strengthened their resolve, which really took root in the suburbs, where nothing else was designed to keep the kids busy.
Graffiti was the next form of expression they tried, using trains and stations on the line 13 (which went from their town to Paris) as their canvases. They integrated the NTM posse, formed by the DRC (Da Red Chiffons) and the TCG (the Crime Gang). Later, the posse grew larger upon joining with the 93 MC, and the crew became 93 NTM. So, at first, NTM were mainly a group of writers, not predestined to be MCs. It was only their acquaintance with the Assassin posse that got them into music. Their first step into radio was through Radio Nova, on the Deenastyle show hosted by Deenasty and animated by Lionel D. They grew rapidly in technique, as their rage was already there but needed better forms. A few months later, they opened a Souris Déglinguée concert at the Olympia. In 1990, they dropped "Je Rappe" on the Rapatitude compilation, which gave them their first massive exposure to the new generation of musicians on the French rap scene. And while on tour with other artists featured on the compilation, they signed with Epic, a Sony subsidiary.
Their first maxi was called Le Monde de Demain (The World of Tomorrow), and was released that same year. The lyrics prefigured the events that would take place a few months later in France, including anger in the suburbs and student demonstrations ("So now go see in the suburbs, you who command in the higher sphere/Don't take this like a game, my call is serious/Because the youth changes, this is what disturbs you"). The record sold more than 50,000 copies. In 1991, they began their first tour, Authentik, which would become the name of their first album, released in the middle of the year. In July, they appeared in New York with Son of Bazerk at the CMJ New Music Seminar. During this trip, they recorded some remixes with Kirk Yano. They finished their tour in 1992 in Paris at the Zenith, where the house was packed and the audience wild. They began the pre-production for their second album at the end of the year, after the release of a single, "Boogie Man."
The album 1993 J'appuie Sur la Gachette... was a commercial deception, and produced a controversy with the title "Police," which led to an investigation. In this song, they told their own truth regarding law enforcement, and a lot of radio stations would subsequently boycott NTM. Despite their difficulties becoming more widely known for their talent, they became known instead for their uncompromising positions: the dimensions of rap music were still too big for the French ears and market. In 1994, they entered a studio in New York to prepare their new album. In February 1995, the first single, "Tout N'est Pas Si Façile," was released, and the album followed the next month. DJ Clyde was now featured at the controls, and the lyrics were as subversive as ever, still demanding equal rights for all. The single "La Fièvre" was a huge hit and received wide radio exposure -- considerable revenge for a group that had been banned less than a year previously.
The album was a commercial success and NTM's best album to see the light thus far, yet still very underground in its philosophy and rawness. The following tour won them additional recognition, being scheduled in the most popular festivals and concert halls. However, controversy is never far away when you dare to tell a disturbing truth. In a concert organized by SOS Racisme in the south of France, the police present in the concert hall lodged a complaint against NTM for verbal assaults on policemen. The result was an initial court order sentencing them to three months in prison plus the banning of their work in France for a six-month period. However, a second court decision reduced the sentence to a large fine. But the debate was now unavoidable: can a group be condemned for its violent comments, while the group is arguably telling truths shared by a lot of people who live in the suburbs?
NTM's final album, revealing more maturity in the rap game than many rappers can even contemplate, was released in 1998. On the first day following its release, the album sold 40,000 copies, a very impressive figure in France. Singles like "Laisse Pas Trainer Ton Fils" and "Ma Benz" combined NTM's still remaining rawness and subversive side with the knowledge of the street and its effect on youth they had learned through the years. Here the two MCs are at the peak of their talent, having found ways to express all the rage inside, yet being both wild and wise. This combination is the trademark of NTM, who first began breakdancing and spraying graffiti on trains and then channeled their energy into music that became an expression of wisdom. After this album, both MCs created their own labels, Joey Starr's BOSS and Kool Shen's IV My People, continuing to release new material for themselves and their posse. ~ Vincent Latz