He has tidied up his apartment, stopped the concerts, but in his head it’s still jostling. Julien Barthélémy, alias Stupeflip, releases “Stup Forever”, an album where humor crosses swords with anxiety. Meet.
The intention was to please him by reconsidering his ” career “. Failed: he “hate the word”, we barely stop the interview started. The term was nevertheless very practical to evoke with Julien Barthélémy twenty years of music under the name of Stupeflip, four albums of paranoid, horrifying and funny rap, enriched by a fifth, Stup Forever, to discover this September 16, which delights us as much as the previous ones. But Julien Barthélémy is formal: if he is certain of one thing in his life, it is to be “really anything but careerist…”
How to prove him wrong? Stupeflip is perhaps one of the greatest musical misunderstandings of the 2000s. The author of a surprise hit in 2003 (I can’t smoke weed, with Jacno), since then alternating back and forth between success and purgatory. A UFO of French rap, surrounded by a certain cult by his followers, but too clownish, too rock, too pop to be taken seriously, despite his unfailing integrity. something antisocial “who hits the belly”, but makes children laugh with its texts stuffed with blind poodles and chocolate mystery. What immediately bring down the credibility of an artist. A project, finally, of collective appearance (he has always invited his friends MC Salo and Cadillac), while it is the work of a single man, from the music to the covers, all designed by his tortured trait.
That of his new record features him as Don Quixote perched on his mule in a disturbing dark night. His face is half hidden by a dirty plaster mask, which he wears on all occasions in his life as an artist. His costume is to match: T-shirt and slashed pants. On the previous ones, he piloted a sinking spacecraft (Stupeflip, 2003), where an army of broken arms straight out of Hieronymus Bosch’s hell led to the front (narcotic religion, 2005). The iconography of hope has no place in Stupeflip. On the moral side and future prospects, we thought the case folded as usual, going to meet him in his den of the 13ᵉ arrondissement. Second error, Stupeflip is better. “Better and better even”assures us Julien Barthélémy.
The proof, he tidied up his apartment. Well almost. On the work table of his bedroom-studio, which he leaves only in cases of extreme necessity, are piled up the trivial evidence of the hours and months spent, alone in front of his computer composing everything: cigarette butts, tobacco crumbs, empty cans, tangled cables, scribbled lyrics and coffee-stained mugs. Nothing scary: “In 2003, when Paris Première came to film us, it was so dirty that they thought we had rented the apartment, for the legend. »
Stup Forever took him five years. Five years of assembling little bits of stuff: excerpts from films gleaned from the Net, samples of symphony orchestras repeated in a loop that he had to replay entirely on his computer, for lack of budget to negotiate the rights. Made by sweat, economy and stubbornness, Stup Forever wants to “a tribute to 90s rap”, his favorite period; that of Wu-Tang Clanof Dr Dr Where A Tribe Called Quest. He never dropped out of this holy American trinity, even if he regrets today the “virilism” of the first two. “It really pisses me off, like this ultra-capitalism they defend, but hey, it’s the pulse that I prefer. » With that of punk rock, his other teenage passion, when he scoured the concerts of Rage Against the Machine or Red Hot Chili Peppers, when they were on top.
Stupeflip was then in his twenties and was coming out of Arts-Deco after a chaotic schooling: an early orientation towards boilermaking air conditioning, narrowly avoided in college. “As I was gifted in drawing, I passed a competition for access to the Lycée d’Arts Appliqués Duperré which allowed me to enter Arts-Deco. Finally, I finished with bac + 5 without having the baccalaureate, and I have enormous respect for guys who have a boilermaking CAP. »
“To continue the concerts would have destroyed me, physically, mentally.”
The right to failure, to weakness, Stupeflip has made it the heart of his unique work. Principles that he applies first to himself, scuttling with remarkable awareness each of his successes. Some examples ? In 2014, he decided not to give concerts anymore after a triumphant tour which was to open the doors of the Zénith, or even a Bercy. Going from thousands of screaming people to landing alone in a hotel room had exhausted him. “It’s called the emotional lift and I never want to experience it again. To continue would have destroyed me, physically, mentally. » His fans beg him; he has so far proved inflexible. “Obviously we are good, on stage, we are acclaimed there, but it is an adulterated link, an artifice, like a drug. Jacques Brel, who vomited before his concerts, thought so too. » In 2017, he broke the record for musical crowdfunding in France: 430,000 euros collected in a few days to finance his fourth album and the clips. “This sum displayed made me sad, it was the result of all the suffering of the concerts. I will never start again. I don’t even want to talk about it. »
If he accesses a new wisdom with the fifties, in recent weeks, Julien Barthélémy has still spent time watching the reactions of his audience to the first titles unveiled on the Internet. And this restless nature is convinced of it, “they will be extreme”. Stup Forever, however, remains faithful to the doctrine erected since his first album: a surprise cover filled to the brim with punk-rap and self-mockery, this time accompanied by a rather unusual cool reggae bonus. Title people who get angry, the song is a nod to the reggae-rap of the Neg’Marrons group, which made France dance in 1995 (“Currency rules the world”), but above all a hymn to an existence rid of all unhealthy ambition. Like this life “gloomy” that he proudly claims for twenty years, without going out, without traveling, without shopping, without a social life to expose on the networks. “When I worked in graphic design, my bosses kept telling me: ‘But Julien, everyone wants to make money.’ It’s wrong, I’ve always made sure it doesn’t work too well. »
r Stup Forever (Dragon Accel / Modulor), released September 16.