Rap Blog: Merci beaucoup, Shawny Binladen

Rap Blog is a weekly showcase of a standout rap song.

L’Argent, the final film from French auteur Robert Bresson, doesn’t really have a main character: the title of the minimalist thriller translates bluntly to “Money.” Instead of a single protagonist, the film follows the journey of a forged Franc note from one hand to another, as the flow of capitalist economics connects people whose lives might otherwise never intersect. Of course, the new song “L’Argent,” an unexpected link-up between New York’s Shawny Binladen and French rapper Jwles, isn’t actually referencing that austere arthouse classic. But like Bresson’s film, their international alliance shows how the drive for money brings together the most surprising bedfellows: they may not rap in the same language, but the love of l’argent needs no translation. Whether it’s economic incentive or mutual admiration, the parallel worlds of English-language and Francophone rap seem increasingly set to coverage, from Parisian plugg to Quavo’s recent collab with French rapper BU$HI.

As one of the true innovators on the lawless edge of sample drill, Shawny Binladen is as New York as it gets, which is why it’s particularly exciting to hear him step out of his comfort zone on foreign exchange as one-half of G’s in Paris — which is, of course, short for Grinches in Paris, shouting out Shawny’s favorite cartoon trickster. Over a woozy flip of Moby’s “Porcelain,” Shawny spits in his quietly husky voice, even dabbling in a little French. Jwles’ flow is slithery and nimble, but his most catchy bars are legible even to those who don’t know the language. There’s something oddly hypnotic about the way he repeats the onomatopoeia “tat tat tat,” like a passcode knocked on the door of a secret clubhouse.