“If we dig it, we’re going to spit over it.” Brussels-based rap phenomenon Le 77 on the past, the present and the future

Beatmaker Morgan had a shift and one-half wordsmith Felix “Félé Flingue” had a doctor’s appointment. Fear not, we still managed to catch the other two members of Le 77 – Pierre, better known as Dr. Peet and Rayan, the band’s manager – in the comfort of their home at, you’ve guessed it, number 77, before they were set to jet off on a Christmas tour through France, which they managed to snap for us.

Photographer Joke de Wilde (c).

This house is where it all started, from your in-house studio to the idea for your name. How did you guys end up here in the first place?

Pierre: I started rapping when I was 17, back in the days when I was still running with my local crew Alma One, along with Morgan. We’d been mates since we were 12, making music and skating around our ends in Woluwe. Fast-forward a few years later, Morgan and I started studying at INRACI, and that’s where we met Rayan. We all dropped out eventually, but then Morgan and Rayan started a stage management course. And that’s how the rest of us met Felix (Félé Flingue), one of Morgan’s old schoolmates. We’d always been making music – from my solo project, to Morgan’s productions and Felix’s time at L’Or du Commun – messing about in Rayan’s mum’s basement, or his and Morgan’s makeshift studio in Uccle once they moved out. So that’s how it all came together: constantly hanging out together, eventually moving into this Laeken address two years ago. And of course, we built another studio here too, in our basement. But having said all that, it was never our intention to start our own crew when we moved in here.

Rayan: Right, we just wanted to live together, that’s all. We’d party and make music all-week round, not thinking too much into it.

Pierre: Right, it was only once I brought them on my Peet release that we eventually said, “Fuck it. Let’s not put this on the solo release, and actually set up a proper group.” We haven’t stopped since.

None of you are actually from Laeken?

Rayan: No – I’m from St-Josse but went to school in Uccle. Same for Felix, though he’s got Ixelles and Linkebeek roots. Morgan’s from Evere, and Pierre’s from Kraainem.

Pierre: And you can hear that in our stuff – Felix especially is all about repping the ends. 1020, 1070. Brussels pride. In a way, our house represents mirrors our universe – it’s just banter. You’ll find truth in our lyrics, but there’s also plenty of absurdity. We’re still young and just want to live life to the fullest – so naturally that comes out in our music.

Let’s talk basics: how would you guys describe Le 77 and its sound?

Pierre: Ec-lec-tic. Bawler. We’re all about energetic, dynamic music. But obviously, we’ve all got our specific influences: I’m very much into soul, funk, jazz and all of that. And rap-wise, I mainly grew up on conscientious rap, like IAM, Kery James and Youssoupha. Morgan sometimes incorporates electronica in his productions, which isn’t really my style – but he still makes plenty of bangers. Felix on the other hand has clear American influences, especially old school stuff. He’s a true digger, dropping names you’d never even heard of.

Even listening to your first release C’est le 77, there’s so many contrasting elements, from dirty south and G-Funk to jungle and amen breaks. And there’s clear influences from cult film Friday in the video for Helly Hansen.

Pierre: Exactly. Like DTR is pure drum and bass. We all bring our tastes to the table, but also don’t limit ourselves: regardless of whether it’s a drum and bass, old school or trap instrumental, if we dig it, we’re going to spit over it. We don’t give a fuck.

“I think it’s so important to respond to every single message we receive through our social media channels. Even the haters. I’m going to reply, because at the very least they’ve taken the time out to message us in the first place.”

An attitude that’s all too clear in your music videos, from house-party visuals to your basement studio home-videos.

Pierre: True. Most of our Freestyle videos were filmed here – besides the one in our local corner-shop –, as well as 77 4K. But that’s from our early days, when we didn’t have the means to create a more elaborate video in terms of visuals… Also, we just weren’t giving too much of a shit. I mean, 77 4K was filmed on an old Samsung!

Rayan: Felix is the visual mastermind – he’s the one that comes up with these great concepts for the videos. Like Black Angus: he handled the lighting, and had a clear idea of how he wanted it to come out. Same goes for M10. Ladybawler’s a bit special, because that was a directorial collaboration between him and Emilien Vekemans. He’s got the vision and the drive.

Pierre: He’s always been into visuals arts, even as a kid. I think his mom did mosaics or something. And it’s not just the videos, he handles our entire image. The visuals for C’est le 77 were handled by local artist Zephyr as well as the graphic design studio Kool Kids Club. And that was all Felix’s doing.

Moving on to the recent Bawlers release, how has that been going?

Rayan: Super well. We’ve already been getting positive feedback, especially for our music videos.

Pierre: I wouldn’t say we’re heading into a completely new direction, but rather an evolution from our previous work. We like to stay current and up-to-date with new sounds. If we hear a new fresh style that we dig, we’re going to have a go at it ourselves. So we’re pretty versatile in that sense. But always keeping in mind the continuity of things. So yeah, Bawlers is decidedly more aggressive and edgy, in comparison to C’est le 77 which was a lot more chill.

True, you guys have been blowing up, especially on social media. How are you handling all of the attention?

Rayan: It’s fine for the time being, we’re still able to take on all the press offers we’re getting. Visibility is visibility. It’s in our favour to try out different things, to learn what works and what doesn’t.

“I’d say we’re the next generation to come, here to steadily carry on the torch.”

Right, so you’re all about learning from experience; from trial and error.

Rayan: Exactly, that’s how we are in real life, so it’s only natural that it’s reflected in our work too. For instance, I think it’s so important to respond to every single message we receive through our social media channels. Even the haters. I’m going to reply, because at the very least they’ve taken the time out to message us in the first place.

Peet: I just send heart emojis back.

Rayan: We’re not your big-headed rappers, and people can sense that in our social media presence.

Do you guys feel like you were part of the rebirth of the Belgian rap scene?

Pierre: Not really. Like I said, I’ve been making music since I was 17, and have always been confident that it would work out. So we were all present to see the scene grow, even explode in these last few years – but we weren’t getting the same exposure as your Roméo’s and Caballero’s. Partially because we didn’t have the same means that we do today – it’s only now that we’re able to convert content into heavy-duty stuff. Like using concert footage to make proper music videos. So it’s slowly beginning to change, but we’re still largely considered “underground”. Still lurking in the shadows. I’d say we’re the next generation to come, here to steadily carry on the torch. I mean, France is just waking up to us now, for example. We still have a whole country to conquer.

Rayan: We’ve just started working with a French booker who’s only recently discovered us, and so far it’s going well. We’ve already got around eight or nine shows booked in France.

Why do you think France has been so slow to wake up to the Belgian scene?

Rayan: We were actually asking ourselves the same question last week while in Rennes. I don’t think it’s a matter of them looking down on us per se, otherwise they wouldn’t even bother to listen or book us in the first place. I think they’re just finally at a stage where they want to expand their horizons – which is great news for us. The same applies to Belgium’s linguistic divide: we never use to listen to Flemish rap, just like Belgian-French rap was non-existent on their radar. It’s only thanks to guys like Zwangere Guy that the barrier started disappearing.

Pierre: I think people are becoming less concerned with lyricism in rap. It’s about the raw energy, the vibes of the song as opposed to what’s actually being said. And that’s universal.

It’s arguably a bit uncommon to consider the manager of the group an equal member.

Rayan: My place in Le 77 is naturally quite different from the others: I’ve always been obsessed by music, digging for those new sounds. And on a technical level too – I currently do freelance jobs as a sound and lighting stage manager. And sure, I did make some music back in the day, but I don’t have the same rigorous patience as the others do. By the time I met these guys, they were already deep in their music. Once they started working on Le 77 more seriously, I took care of a couple of their videos, and seeing as how once the first release C’est le 77 came out there was so much to be taken care of, I took it all upon myself without even thinking too much about it. Replying to tons of emails, setting plans up, putting things into place. And that’s how I slowly took on the role of manager, learning the business as I went along.

“I’ve always been obsessed by music, digging for those new sounds.”

Pierre: It all came about naturally. Everyone kind of found their roles within the group, you know? It’s not just about the music – we also need to think in terms of management and communications. And Rayan does it so well bless him. I mean, imagine if one us of us had to deal with that – it’d be a mess. Plus we need to be able to just focus on our music.

Rayan: I know my place isn’t to be another creative individual in Le 77, but to be the frank, all-seeing third eye who’s able to give an objective take on whether something’s a good idea or not. End of the day, they’re going to do as they like anyways, so overbearing management doesn’t work with us. I just make sur things are put into place, so they can do what they need to.

Any words of advice for a young blood looking to get into the game?

Peet: Do what you want, man! It’s cliché, but just be yourself and never give up. It’s just a matter of drive – if you want to make rap, then just do it. It’s not really my place to give any concrete advice in the first place. And be your own person – there’s nothing worse than a copycat.

Rayan: Of course we’ve had our fair share of mistakes and setbacks, that could’ve been easily avoided. Like unnecessarily being behind on schedule for our first project. But these are mistakes that we won’t be repeating again. We always dust ourselves off and jump back on our feet.