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Grand Corps Malade

(Updated on September 02, 2014)
Grand Corps Malade © Julien Mignot

Grand Corps Malade, who rocketed to mainstream fame in 2006 with the release of his debut album, "Midi 20", has become a cult figure on the French slam scene. He has played a leading role in popularising this distinctive form of urban poetry, setting his rhymes to impeccable musical backing.

Fabien Marsaud was born in Le Blanc-Mesnil, a suburb north of Paris, on 31 July 1977. But he grew up in a neighbouring suburb, Saint-Denis, where his father worked as a clerk at the local town hall. His mother was a librarian who encouraged her young son to read from an early age, but Fabien actually preferred records to books. He would spend many an afternoon going through his parents’ record collection, listening to French ‘chanson’ classics such as Barbara, Brassens and Renaud. But he was also a committed rap fan who soon succumbed to the prevailing influence of NTM (the star French rap group who came from his home Seine-Saint-Denis region).

Fabien, a tall lanky teenager, proved to have great talent on the basketball court. He actually envisaged a career in sport at one point, working towards becoming a P.E. teacher. But in July 1997, while he was working as an instructor at a children’s holiday camp, he suffered a serious accident after a bad dive into a pool. Fabien was rushed straight from the pool to the hospital but the accident left him partially paraplegic. He underwent a long and painful process of physiotherapy after his accident and eventually learnt to walk again, although to this day he still limps and walks with a stick.

Slam debut

In 2003, one of the friends Fabien had hung around with since his childhood days got him listening to slam, an urban poetry movement that had emerged in the U.S. some twenty years earlier. Blown away by what he heard, Fabien was inspired to start writing his own slam material and he went on to make his public debut in front of the microphone performing live at Le Théranga (an African bar in the 17th arrondissement in Paris). Fabien wasted no time in finding himself an appropriate stage name: Grand Corps Malade (which roughly translates as ‘Tall Sick Body’). Working with the slam collective 129h, he began appearing at just about every slam night organised in Paris and the neighbouring suburbs. In 2004, he formed ‘Le Cercle des poètes sans instru’ and the following year he went on to set up an association called ‘Flow d’encre’ (Inkflow), organising writing workshops far and wide.

Fabien’s talent for wordplay and his impressive recital skills soon attracted him a growing fanbase.

2006: Debut album "Midi 20"

Recorded on an extremely tight budget with a small group of musicians in just twelve days, "Midi 20" proved to be a surprise hit with the public. The album shot straight to number 8 in the official album charts the week of its release and went on to climb to number 3. Grand Corps Malade was catapulted into the public spotlight and French slam - which for many years had been a totally underground movement -  was suddenly catapulted onto the musical mainstream. Meanwhile, "Midi 20" went gold within a month of its release and ended up selling over 600,000 copies - an impressive feat for a debut album by a previous unknown!


2007: Two ‘Victoires de la Musique’ awards

By the start of 2007, Grand Corps Malade had created quite a buzz. Fabien Marsaud’s newfound celebrity was confirmed at the 22nd edition of France’s ‘Victoires de la Musique’ awards. At the awards ceremony, organised in March of that year, the young slammer from Saint-Denis walked off with not one but two trophies, winning "Best Album by a New Talent" and "Best Live Show by a New Talent." Following this triumph, Grand Corps Malade went on to appear at a number of major music festivals including Les Vieillies Charrues, Solidays and Les Francofolies de Montréal.

Although Grand Corps Malade kept up an intensive live schedule following the release of "Midi 20", he still managed to find time to put in an appearance on various albums including the Georges Brassens tribute compilation "Putain de toi."

In March 2008, Grand Corps Malade released a second album, entitled "Enfant de la ville" (City Child).

When his schedule allowed, the artist spent some of his free time running slam workshops in schools, prisons and even old people’s homes.
In July 2008, he was made a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres.
Actively concerned by inner city problems, Grand Corps Malade released an album in October 2010, entitled “3e temps”, with lyrics focusing on social and political issues. The video clip accompanying his track “Education nationale”, which denounced the shortfalls of the French education system, was viewed 500,000 times on the Internet before finding its place in the opus. The singer, who had become the father of a boy a few months earlier, was inspired by the happy event, and even before the birth wrote the title “Définitivement”.
In early 2011, he set off on a new tour with venues including the Casino de Paris from 28 to 31 March.

In 2013, he released his fourth, 13-track studio album Funambule.
Source : rfi

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