The Monday travel song: Demain c’est loin by I AM

I propose to start every new week with a song that takes us somewhere in the world.

This week, my Monday morning playlist takes us to the South of France in the city of Marseilles, or, as the band sometimes calls it, “Planète Marseille”, with Demain c’est loin from I AM.

Released in 1997, Demain c’est loin (literally: Tomorrow is far) is a diatribe about the violence of life in Marseilles in the 1990s, as well as one of the most beautiful poetic texts that French rap has ever produced.

It is a very long song (9 minutes) with 2 monologues of 4,5 minutes each of the two band’s main rappers, first Shurik’n then Akhenaton.

The text takes you on a journey in the streets of the tough neighbourhoods of the city, describing all what can be seen and felt – violence, drugs, misery, corruption, friendship, football, alcohol, police, prison, street, racism, riots – all in I AM’s characteristic mixture of elevated metaphors and harsh but never vulgar slang.

The song is a rhythmic piece of art as well, with a repetitive, unremitting beat enriched by real-life sounds that illustrate the lyrics, as well as a tireless flow where the use of anadiplosis, which consists in starting many sentences with the last word of the preceding one, gives you the impression that you keep moving, but never really progress.

The title Demain c’est loin literally means Tomorrow is far away, and these are the last words of the song: I don’t think about tomorrow / because tomorrow is far away.

The song is extremely tough and it deeply touched me when I was a teenager, and I keep thinking of it as an incredible masterpiece.

An overview of the lyrics:

L’encre coule, le sang se répand ; la feuille buvard
Absorbe l’émotion, sac d’images dans ma mémoire
Je parle de ce que mes proches vivent et de ce que je vois :
Des mecs coulés par le désespoir qui partent à la dérive

Des mecs qui pour 20 000 de shit se déchirent
Je parle du quotidien, écoute bien, mes phrases font pas rire
Rire, sourire, certains l’ont perdu, je pense à Momo
Qui m’a dit “à plus” ; jamais je ne l’ai revu

(…)

Dans les constructions élevées
Incompréhension, bandes de gosses soi-disant mal élevés
Frictions, excitation, patrouilles de civils
Trouille inutile, légendes et mythes débiles

Haschich au kilo, poètes armés de stylos
Réserves de créativité, hangars, silos
Ça file au bloc 20, pack de Heineken dans les mains
Oublier en tirant sur un gros joint

I can attempt a translation into English, although it will never sound as sophisticated and is probably an insult to the original text. Let’s keep it to a literal translation then:

(Shurik’n’s first two verses)
The ink flows, the blood spreads, the blotter paper
Absorbs emotions, a bag of images in my memory,
I talk about what my loved ones live and what I see:
Dudes in despair who are drifting away

Dudes who are torn apart for 20 grands of hash
I talk about the daily life, listen well, my words shouldn’t make you laugh
Laugh, smile, some have lost it, I think of Momo,
He told me ‘see you’, I never saw him again

(…)

(Akhenaton’s first two verses)
In the middle of the tall buildings,
Misunderstandings, a gang of so-called ill-mannered kids,
Frictions, excitement, plain-clothes patrols,
Jitters for no good reason, idiotic legends and myths

Hashish by the kilo, poets armed with pens,
Creativity pools, sheds and silos
There’s some action in the block 20, pack of Heineken’s in the hands,
Forgetting all about it thanks to a big joint

Have a great week!

This post is part of a weekly event called The Monday Travel song. You can participate, too, by doing the following:

  • Create your own post every Monday and title it The Monday travel song: xxx by xxx
  • Include a link to a song (YouTube link or other)
  • It must be a song which is linked to a geography. For example, a Russian song, a Chinese song, a Scottish song… (it can be from your own country every now and then, but remember the purpose is to get others to virtually travel!)
  • Your post doesn’t have to be long, but do tell us a little bit about the song… for example by telling about the lyrics, about the composer, about the style…
  • Include a link to my own Monday travel song in your post tag it “Monday-travel-song” so others can find it too
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