At the end of February 2020, DJ Snake brings together 40,000 spectators at La Défense Arena. A few weeks later, the Covid-19 put the world on hold. The artist discovers forced confinement, he who was used to going from halls to festivals, from one continent to another, aboard private jets. Two years of pandemic have passed. Saturday June 11, 2022, two days before his 36th birthday, the producer will gather more than 60,000 people at the Parc des Princes in Paris.
In less than 10 years, the former record seller from Châtelet-Les Halles, who DJed for his friends at parties, has become the most “streamed” French artist in the world with 37 billion listens on the different platforms. The magazine Forbes placed him 15th in its ranking of the highest paid DJs of 2019. His new title, Disco Maghreba tribute to his country of origin, Algeria, already has more than 18 million views on YouTube.
However, William Grigahcine – e his real name – went from afar. From a chaotic schooling in the Val-d’Oise to the thousands of spectators in concert around the world, franceinfo looks back on its incredible trajectory.
William’s life Grigahcine tipped several times. First, by discovering Hatred, the cult film by Mathieu Kassovitz. The boy is fascinated by the sequence showing the DJ Cut Killer mixing from his window, mixing rapper KRS-One, NTM and Edith Piaf. “I loved music, but I couldn’t see myself singing. There, there was no need for voices, it was just a mixture of sounds”he says in Paris Match.
The teenager from Val-d’Oise, son of an Algerian mother and a fairground father, who left when he was only two years old, dreams behind the decks. But his mother, who alternates the jobs of nanny and housekeeper, don’t roll on gold. The schoolboy then squats with a friend whose older brother owns turntables. They spend their Wednesday afternoon trying out the “cross fader”, the button to switch from one track to another, and “scratch”.
To afford his first platinum, he goes to the markets every Sunday morning and unloads the trucks. “I woke up at 6 o’clock and I went back there for noon to recharge everything. One hundred francs earned per market”he remembers in The world. He also takes advantage of the booms to practice – and hide his shyness. “I was afraid, it was my phobia of having to dance in front of everyone, of asking a girl to go dancing, so I hid behind the sound system and I put on sound for my friends and girlfriends”he confides on France 2. Ihe adopts a stage name: Snake, the snake, in reference to his ability to dodge the police when he tags, according to The world.
“It’s a shitty idea. I was 14 when I called myself that. It stuck.”
Little by little, the young DJ made a name for himself, hosting an R’n’B program on the FG radio (Frequence Gay) and parties in certain famous clubs in the capital (the Gibus, the Queen, the Bains Douches). The school? He doesn’t really care about that. Too dissipated. “I am someone who gets tired quickly, stagnating on the same program for weeks, while sitting in a chair, I can’t”he acknowledges in The world.
Supported by his mother, he drops everything before getting his baccalaureate. “Today, any parent who is told their child is going to quit school in ninth or so to make music would think it was suicide, but she let me believe in my dreams “, he explains on Canal +. Dreams that continue in Châtelet-Les Halles, where he becomes a record seller for 500 euros a month and meets his idols: Cut Killer, DJ Mehdi, Bob Sinclar, DJ Abdel… “This is the turning point of my life”, he admits to Konbini. The second.
At the dawn of the 2010s, thanks to the help of his manager at the time, he met Clinton Sparks. This American DJ and producer, who collaborates with Pharrell Williams or P. Diddy, wants to “place” the French’s musical productions. Without speaking English, but with his music under his arm, William Grigahcine finds himself on the other side of the Atlantic in the studio with Lady Gaga. He will be disillusioned. “You are hardly anyone. You’re in the studio with people, but you can’t really drive the session. You are told: ‘Do this’. It’s hard to make art to orderhe recognizes at the microphone of Konbini. You’re actually an intern.”
Return to France, without really more money, without really more projects, but not without hope. In the summer of 2012, he squandered his last savings on renting a recording studio in Boulogne. He leaves himself two months to succeed in music, before throwing in the towel, “move on, find a job to fill my fridge and pay my rent”, he says in “C to you”. He imposes a routine on himself: shower every morning at the local swimming pool, then relentless work sessions to post new sounds on SoundCloud, the platform for those who want to make their mark in music.
“Music is an inexact science. My life changed on artistic ‘I don’t care’.”
He pulls out the title Turn Down for What. The success is dazzling. Another turning point. “It’s a UFO, a piece of moron, there are four words, a rise, no chorus”, he decrypts on Konbini. Even Michelle Obama, then First Lady of the United States, nods on this title to promote her campaign against obesity.
He then continues with lean onwith the group Major Lazer, which brings together DJ Diplo, rapper Walshy Fire and Danish singer MØ. “He became an international star. It’s one of the biggest titles of the 2010s, analysis for franceinfo Marie Dapoigny, former editorial director of the electro music magazine Mixmag. I was working in London at the time and in people’s minds he had replaced David Guetta.” DJ Snake finds the sound paw that will make it successful.
“It is part of the heritage of EDM [Electronic Dance Music]a watered down ‘mainstream’ American version of electro that brings together popular genres of the 2010s, such as progressive, trap, dubstep and electro pop”comments the journalist. “He was part, with Diplo, of the group of artists who brought to electro pop and house a Caribbean touch called ‘tropical’, a problematic term because he participated in the acculturation of these sounds. C It’s been a very fashionable sound since the 2010s and regularly flirts with rap.”
It was still necessary to transform these two tests. This will be done with his two albums: Still in 2016 and Carte blanche in 2019. “These tracks exploded, but were people necessarily interested in knowing who was that DJ behind ‘Lean on’?” asks Marie Dapoigny retrospectively.
“Releasing an album next was a way to capitalize on his success and bring his own artistic vision.”Marie Dapoigny, music journalist
Whoever underwent work sessions with Lady Gaga can now set his conditions for the biggest American stars: Justin Bieber, rappers Travis Scott, Future or rapper Cardi B: “In the studio, I tell them, ‘I don’t want homophobic comments, no clips with naked girls and no anthems about drug use.’ It is not me”he details in The world. William’s life Grigahcine is now a rollercoaster that almost never stops. From the Arc de Triomphe in 2017 to coachella festival in California two years later, DJ Snake takes a jet like others take the subway.
It almost cost him his life. In 2016, the star is in Split, Croatia, for a concert. Journalist Mohamed Bouhafsi accompanies him. “Due to the weather conditions and an impossible wind, the concert is cancelled. We are blockedremembers the columnist of “C à vous”. The next day he was to be in Port-Barcarès. It was out of the question for him to miss this concert, because he absolutely wanted to perform in front of the French public.” The DJ motivates his team to take the plane back to Barcelona, the only airport to be able to welcome them at night. “The bus that took us to the tarmac was shaking in the wind, even his team was asking me to persuade him not to fly because it was dangerous and as soon as we took off, we almost crashed.” Everyone will land safe and sound.
Mohamed Bouhafsi befriended the DJ thanks to football and Paris Saint-Germain. “I knew the club’s news well when I worked at RMChe smiles. Our friendship started like that.” “Wherever I go, in Japan, in the States, in Brazil, people are waiting for me with PSG objects. I have become an unofficial ambassador”confirms DJ Snake at Parisianwho cherished the dream of performing in this stadium he has frequented since his adolescence. “After the pandemic, he wanted to come back on stage, it had to be ‘home'”supports the journalist.
“He’s one of the most generous guys I know. He comes from a modest background and he hasn’t forgotten that, he has kept his friends and he invites them to Hawaii, Los Angeles, Las Vegasdescribes Mohamed Bouhafsi. It’s as if there was a ‘turnover’ among his loved ones so that they share the moments he lives.” An image far from the one he can convey on social networks or the sets where he never leaves his sunglasses. “I started wearing them when I was mixing on stage in front of 50,000 people. It’s a way for me to protect myself”argues the artist on France Inter.
Today, DJ Snake spends more time in hotels than at home. But he does not forget his Algerian roots, to which he wanted to pay homage with Disco Maghreb. “He’s proud of it. insists Mohamed Bouhafsi. It was important for him to shoot the clip there. With this title and this clip, he has done more for Algeria in a single song than all the tourist campaigns put in place for 25 years.” On Saturday, he will also be proud to represent his city and his country.
“When we travel, we realize that we are not that bad in France.”
“There are still things that still need to be worked on, but we are not to be pitied, there is worse elsewhere and for this small country, to have the impact that we have had for centuries, whether in art, in the kitchen, in music, you have to be proud of that, of this flag, of these colors”he praises on France 2. He too now brings his stone to the building.