Abd al Malik, born Régis Fayette-Mikano (born 14 March 1975 in Paris), is a French rapper and spoken word artist of Congolese origin. He has also authored books in French, and directed a film adaptation of one of his books.
Régis Fayette-Mikano was born in the 14th arrondissement in Paris in 1975, the son of a Congolese high-ranking official living in Paris. When he was just two, the family moved back to Brazzaville, Congo, where they lived from 1977 to 1981. Upon his return to France, he lived in lower income house projects (HLMs) in Neuhof in Strasbourg studying at Collège Sainte-Anne de Strasbourg. After his parents divorced, he lived with his mother in a family of seven children. Despite suffering from dyslexia, he was part of the church choir. Delving for a while in petty street crimes, he was greatly affected by death of some of his friends and immersed himself in reading literature. A school teacher encouraged the young Régis for admission to private schools like the Lycée Notre-Dame des Mineurs, and eventually to Université Marc Bloch with a double major in Philosophy and Classical literature.
In NAP: New African Poets
Talented in words and music, he formed with his brother Bilal and his cousin Aissa, a rap group they called New African Poets also known by the abbreviation N.A.P. Other members included Mustapha, Mohammed and Karim, all from the neighborhood where he lived. Most of the group come from the Neuhof quartier of Strasbourg.
Having converted from Christianity to Islam, he took on the stage name Abd al Malik. This was an adaptation of his birth name Régis, being derived from rex meaning "king" in Latin whereas Malik means "king" in Arabic.
NAP released their first maxi Trop beau pour être vrai, produced by Sulee B, on High Skills, a label founded by Deez Nutz to promote local Neuhof hip hop talents. In 1996, they released the album La Racaille sort 1 also on High Skills, selling over 25,000 copies. Based on this, NAP were signed to BMG, and their 1998 album La Fin du monde with participations from Wallen, Rockin Squat (from Assassin), Radical Kicker, Shurik'n, Freeman (from IAM), Rocca and Faf Larage. A third album followed in 1999 called À l'intérieur de nous also with BMG.
After break-up of the rap group with the beginnings of the 2000s, Abd al Malik engaged in a solo career of rapping and hip hop. His musical style incorporated elements of rap, hip hop, jazz, slam poetry and sufism with usually very serious and intricate thought and lyrics. He also alluded to more traditional Francophone artists like Jacques Brel and Claude Nougaro in cultured rich texts filled with emotions. He released the self-produced Le face à face des cœurs in 2004 with limited chart success. But with his follow up Gibraltar, it was a big success with his deconstruction of notion of rap while staying in hip hop genre.
In 2006, he won the Prix Constantin, an annual French music prize awarded to the best album of an artist who has come to prominence during the course of the past decade. In 2007, he presented his new project for fighting functional illiteracy in the Béni-Snassen collective with contributions from New African Poets (NAP), Wallen, Bil'in, Hamcho, Matteo Falkone and himself. The result was 2008 album from the project titled Spleen et Idéal. In January 2008, he was decorated with French chevalier Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the then Minister of Culture Christine Albanel during MIDEM (Marché international de l'édition musicale).
Abd al Malik has been very active in writing as well. In 2004, he published his autobiographical book Qu'Allah bénisse la France (meaning May Allah bless France), about his childhood in Neuhof in a mono-parental family of seven kids, about his schooling, tough life and musical beginning. The book won Belgian Laurence Trân Prize in 2005.
In 2009, and following trouble in the French suburbs, he authored La guerre des banlieues n'aura pas lieu about life in the impoverished French banlieues inhabited largely by France's immigrant populations. The book won the Prix de littérature politique Edgar-Faure, a prize for political literature in 2010.
In 2013, he published a book, L'Islam au secours de la République.
He also announced that a film was in preparation titled May Allah Bless France! (Qu'Allah bénisse la France), based on his autobiographical book of same title. The film premiered at the Festival du Film Francophone d'Angoulême in August 2014, and won the FIPRESCI Discovery Prize at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.
In 2013, he engaged in a tour entitled L'art et la révolte, a tribute to the famous French writer and philosopher Albert Camus. It is a musical arrangement in which Abd al Malik sings, raps and recites texts from Camus or largely inspired by Camus, accompanied by classical orchestra mostly based on Camus' L'Envers et l'Endroit (English title Betwixt and Between).
In 1998, he married French Moroccan singer Wallen, with whom he had a child in 2001.
In 1999, Régis Fayette-Mikano converted to Islam taking the name Abd al Malik. He is greatly influenced by teachings of Hamza al Qâdiri al Boutchichi, a Moroccan spiritual leader and philosopher of Qadiriyya.
Books and publications
2004: Qu'Allah bénisse la République, 208 pages, Éditions Albin Michel
2009: La guerre des banlieues n'aura pas lieu, 180 pages, Éditions Le Cherche midi 180 p.
2013: L'Islam au secours de la République