IAM (band)

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This article is about the French band. For the American band, see I Am (American band).
IAM à l'Olympia de Montréal.jpg
Background information
Origin Marseille, France
Genres French hip hop
Hip hop
Years active 1989–present
Labels Côté Obscur, Hostile Records (France), Polydor, Virgin
Website www.iam.tm.fr
Members Philippe Fragione (Akhenaton)
Geoffroy Mussard (Shurik'n Chang-Ti)
Eric Mazel (Khéops)
Pascal Perez (Imhotep)
François Mendy (Kephren)

IAM (pronounced as English "I am") is a French hip hop band from Marseille, formed in 1989, and composed of Akhenaton (Philippe Fragione), Shurik'n (Geoffroy Mussard), Khéops (Eric Mazel), Imhotep (Pascal Perez), and Kephren (François Mendy). 'IAM' has several meanings, including 'Invasion Arrivée de Mars' ('Invasion from Mars', 'Mars' is frequently used as a metaphor for Marseille in IAM's songs). Another meaning is Imperial Asiatic Man, while AKH often refers to L'homme Impérial Asiatique.


Africa and Ancient Egypt[edit]

One of IAM’s central themes in its songs is Africa. The group is one of the pioneer French rap groups and draws heavily on allusions to Africa, and particularly to ancient Egypt, in its music. Their 1991 song "Les tam-tam de l'Afrique" was one of the first French rap hits and the first song to deal expressly with the issue of slavery [needs citation]. Using a sample of a Stevie Wonder song, "Les tam-tam de l'Afrique" focuses on the “abduction of its inhabitants, the Middle Passage, and the plantation system in the Americas.”[1]

IAM promotes an ideology that is based upon images associated with ancient Egypt, primarily upon the mythical allusions to pharaohs.[2] By 1989 the group developed a unique rap style, mixing French beats and lyrics with Middle Eastern and Egyptian influences. Their stage names are of Egyptian origin; one of the group members, Eric Mazel, goes by the name Kheops, an allusion to the Egyptian pharaoh who built pyramids.[3] This connection with ancient Egypt allows IAM “to assert connections to the contemporary Arab world in an indirect way.”[4]

Indeed, this "pharaoism", as French rap music specialist Andre Prevos calls it, represents an attempt to negotiate and maintain a cultural identity in the context of a social scene rife with racist and discriminatory ideologies.[5] Because of the Islamophobic tendencies of much of white French society, references to Arabic origins and Islamic fundamentalism are part of a highly socially contested discourse on identity politics in French music. Thus, by employing 'pharaoism' to hide these references to and elicitations of the Arab world, IAM successfully articulates its connections with the "Franco-Maghrebi"[6] cause and establishes an important social space for itself. The pharaoist aspects of IAM'S rap help the group stay in touch with its origins where some non-white French people have assimilated unquestioningly into the surrounding French culture. Therefore, the group's rap is both politically charged and defiant, as it attempts to subvert notions of racial superiority by "[proposing] multiracial alliance as an alternative to the 'old' [French] politics."[6] Most importantly, rap provides IAM with a place to address social issues and speak out against racial intolerance where the group can actually be heard. In fact, the first single release from their second album, "Je danse le Mia", "went on to prove an enormous hit on the French mainstream", according to French radio station RFI Musique.[7] In this way, the use of 'pharaoism' as a mystical and coded strategy for the injection of Arabic and Egyptian lyrics, ideas, and sentiments into the music is what makes it commercially viable. Otherwise, if the music were any more outright in its references to Arabic origins, white French conservatives might identify it with Islamic Fundamentalism's grips over North African diasporatic communities living in France and try to censor it and impede the cause it stands for.

"'Les tams-tams de l'Afrique' was one of the first hits of French rap and dealt expressly with slavery. Using a sample of 'Past Time Paradise' by Stevie Wonder, this track focused on the plunder of Africa, the abduction of its inhabitants, the Middle Passage, and the plantation system in the Americas."[1]


IAM have a long history of collaborations with the American Hip Hop group, the Wu-Tang Clan. IAM have sampled an Inspectah Deck lyric from the Wu-Tang Clan song, "C.R.E.A.M", which states “Life as a shorty shouldn't be so rough” in their 1998 single, "Petit frère". Additionally, they have featured a number of Wu-Tang affiliated artists on their 1997 single “La saga” and later members Method Man and Redman on their 2004 single "Noble Art" the video was directed by New York-based artist "Brad Digital". They were also featuring in the song of RZA "Seul face à lui". These Hip Hop groups have a number of similarities, probably due to the fact that IAM member Akhenaton has listed Wu-Tang as one of his five favorite MC's of all time. One notable example is that both groups have connections to Islam. The Wu-Tang Clan are known members of the Five Percent Nation and often include Islamic references in their music. On the previously mentioned IAM collaboration, “La saga,” rapper Prodigal Sunn states that “IAM, sunz of man from the royal fam, never ate ham, never gave a damn,” referencing the dietary restrictions that Muslims have to follow. Similarly, French rappers IAM have used their music as an anti-Islamophobic tool. IAM also collaborated with US rapper Lucas on the song, Spin The Globe, with rappers from 5 different countries spitting in 5 different languages showcasing the universal appeal and voice of hip hop.[8][9]



Year Album Peak positions Certifications


1991 ...De la planète Mars Gold
Ombre est Lumière
  • Volume 1&2 (1993)
  • Volume Unique (1994)
1997 L'école du micro d'argent 3  – 5  – Diamond
2003 Revoir un Printemps 1  – 1 2 Platinium
2007 Saison 5 2  – 4 15 Gold
2013 Arts Martiens 1 60 4 4 Gold
IAM 10  – 25 25


  • 1989: IAM Concept
  • 2007: Official Mixtape
  • 2012: Assassins Scribes
  • 2013: Assassins Scribes 2

Live albums[edit]

Year Album Peak positions

2005 IAM Live au Dôme de Marseille 97 63  –
2008 Retour Aux Pyramides  –  –  –
DVD Live
  • 2007: Live au Dôme de Marseille (DVD)

Compilation albums[edit]

Year Album Peak positions

1994 Anthologie 1991-2004  – 31 43
1994 Platinum  –  –  –
1994 Anthologie 1 & 2
(plus Live au Dôme de Marseille (DVD)
 –  –  –
2008 L'Intégrale  –  –  –
IAM 20  – 96  –
2009 Galaxie  – 84  –
2013 Best of 2013 - 16 classiques 73 51  –
L'école du micro d'argent 2013 45  –  –


Year Single Peak positions Album


1991 "Red, Black & Green"  –  –  –  – ...De la planète Mars
"Tam-tam de l'Afrique"  –  –  –  –
1992 "Planète Mars"  –  –  –  –
1993 "Donne-moi le micro"  –  –  –  – Ombre est Lumière
1994 "Je danse le Mia" 1  –  –  –
"Le feu" 17  –  –  –
1995 "Une femme seule" /
"Sachet blanc"
30  –  –  –
1997 "L'empire du côté obscur" 14 31  –  – L'école du micro d'argent
"Nés sous la même étoile" 41 38  –  –
1998 "Petit frère" 50  –  –  –
"L'école du micro d'argent" 84  –  –  –
"Independenza" 19 18  –  –
2003 "Noble Art"
(feat. Method Man & Redman)
34  – 16 81
2004 "Revoir un printemps" 58  –  –  –
(feat. Kayna Samet)
 –  – 16 94
"Stratégie d'un pion" 69  – 8  –
2005 "Où va la vie"
(feat. Moïse)
24  – 17 68
2013 "Les raisons de la colère" 77  –  –  –
"Spartiate Spirit" 184  –  –  –
"CQFD" 107  –  –  –
2017 "Monnaie de singe" 47
 –  –  –
"Grande rêves, grandes boîtes" 191
 –  –  –
Other releases
  • 1997: "La saga" (featuring Timbo King, Dreddy Krueger and Prodigal Sunn)
  • 2004: "Second souffle"
  • 2007: "Une autre brique dans le mur"
  • 2007: "Ca vient de la rue"
  • 2007: "Offishall
  • 2008: "Coupe Le Cake"

Discography (Solo projects)[edit]

Year Album IAM member
1995 Métèque et mat Akhenaton
1998 Sad Hill DJ Khéops
Chroniques de Mars Imhotep
Où je vis Shurik'n
1999 L'palais d'justice Freeman
2000 Sad Hill Impact DJ Kheops
2001 Sol invictus Akhenaton
Mars Eyes Freeman
2000 Black album Akhenaton
2005 Double Chill Burger - Quality Best Of Akhenaton
2006 Soldat de fortune Akhenaton
2008 L'espoir d'un crève Freeman
2012 Tous m'appellent Shu Shurik'n
Year Film Film director IAM member
1998 Taxi Gérard Pirès Akhenaton
2000 Comme un aimant Kamel Saleh and Akhenaton Akhenaton


  1. ^ a b Helenon, Veronique. "Africa on Their Mind: Rap, Blackness, and Citizenship in France". In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. by Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 151-66. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press
  2. ^ Prevos, Andre J. M. "Postcolonial Popular Music in France: Rap Music and Hip-Hop Culture in the 1980s and 1990s." In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, 39-56. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.
  3. ^ RFI Musique - - Biography - IAM
  4. ^ Swedenburg, Ted. "Islamic Hip-hop vs. Islamophobia." In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, 57-85. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.
  5. ^ Swedenburg, Ted. "Islamic Hip-hop vs. Islamophobia." In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, 69. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.
  6. ^ a b Gross, Joan, David McMurray, and Ted Swedenburg. "Arab Noise and Ramadan Nights: Rai, Rap, and Franco-Maghrebi Identities." Diaspora 3:1 (1994): 3-39. (Reprinted in The Anthropology of Globalization: A Reader, ed. by Jonathan Xavier and Renato Rosaldo, 1)
  7. ^ "IAM." RFI Musique. April 2007. RFI Musique. 20 March 2008 .
  8. ^ Prevos, Andre J. M. "Islamic Hip-Hop versus Islamaphobia" In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, 57-85. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.
  9. ^ "Hip hop Islam". Al-Ahram Weekly. 2005-07-07. Retrieved 2008-03-19.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  10. ^ a b c d "IAM discography". lescharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 11 May 2013. 
  11. ^ "IAM discography". ultratop.be/nl/. Hung Medien. Retrieved 11 May 2013. 
  12. ^ a b c d e "IAM discography". ultratop.be/fr/. Hung Medien. Retrieved 11 May 2013. 
  13. ^ a b c d "IAM discography". hitparade.ch. Hung Medien. Retrieved 8 May 2013. 
  14. ^ "Le Top de la semaine : Top Singles Téléchargés - SNEP (Week 4, 2017)" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. Retrieved 28 January 2017. 
  15. ^ "Le Top de la semaine : Top Singles Téléchargés - SNEP (Week 7, 2017)" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. Retrieved 18 February 2017. 

External links[edit]