PORTRAIT – Before being one of the most influential rap specialists, Mehdi Maizi, in charge of Hip-Hop content at Apple Music France, went through the preparatory period before joining Skema, a business school.
Nothing indicates that Washington Street hides French offices of the apple brand. Nothing but a Haussmannian building on the Champs-Élysées with frosted doors without a plaque or logo. It is at the end of a corridor with covered walls that exhale fresh paint that Mehdi Maizi “discusses” with the greatest French urban artists: Alonzo, Vald, Jazzy Bazz, Orelsan… Mr. Morale & The Big SteppersKendrick Lamar’s latest album, is filming in the Parisian studio of Apple Music where the rap specialist receives.
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Mehdi Maizi, 36, has been Apple Music France’s “Head of Hip-Hop” since 2020. A work of titan: it is the most consumed music in France, especially by 15-24 year olds. He doesn’t listen to everything “it’s impossible”. For insiders (more than 500,000 followers on its Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube accounts), the disturbing feeling of being in a video is great. In charge for the American firm of everything related to French rap, his pleasant face and his laughing eyes embody all the content: interviews, playlists, partnerships with artists (like Damso) and labels. Multicap, therefore. “Without rap, I would surely be a consultant”he confides, before telling us about his journey.
A literary lover of history
As a child, he dreamed of being the adventurous archaeologist Indiana Jones, whose smile he exhausted himself imitating with his cousin whom he found in France. In 2000, his family left Algeria in the middle of the dark decade – a civil war which pitted the government against Islamist groups – while his father, a news presenter and “therefore symbol of the system in place”, is threatened with death. The family joins relatives in the Oise and his mother, a doctor, becomes a nurse. His parents divorced when he was eight years old. At the same age, this only son, “good student” with trifocal glasses loves school and is infatuated with history.
“The preparation framed me and I needed that. I was not ready for college, to be on my own, I could have been sucked in.Mehdi Maizi, Head of Hip-Hop at Apple Music France
To reassure his mother, the ex-host of “Rap Jeu” passed his baccalaureate at the Marie-Curie high school in Nogent-sur-Oise, in the Paris region, which then only offered the scientific section. “At the time we were formatted a little, the good students went to S. So I did S, when I was a literary person.” He dreams of writing a screenplay straddling Quantum Code, an endless day and furious. “I never wrote it down”, he jokes with his high-pitched laugh. Accepted in a post-baccalaureate business school, negative opinions gleaned from the internet dissuade his mother from letting her son study there. “In August, she called preparatory to find me a place”, he recalls. Direction Melun – “for me, it was like Paris” – and the Jacques-Amyot high school. “The preparation framed me and I needed that. I was not ready for college, to be on my own, I could have been sucked in”, explains the one who remembers having had 6/20 in the first DS of maths. He laughs, almost still shocked: “The teacher told me it was encouraging…”
At the end of the competitions, he joined ESC Lille and graduated in 2010, a year after the school became Skema, the result of the merger with Ceram. The time of his first evenings, at the time when techno and David Guetta reign. If he hates “low-cost US sibling species”However, “Mehdi” participates in campus life. Especially on the airwaves of “FM’US” where he told his first rap chronicles.
Because rap stings him. The first one “slap” the breath at 14: “Changes”, by Tupac, in colo. “When I return to France, I say to myself that I must be interested in this music. I make a compilation without consistency, I buy a lot of CDs, all my money goes there»remembers this hitch on the phone. “I liked rap for the texts”, philosophizes this father of a one-year-old daughter by looking on the ceiling for his rap gods and the years in which their albums were released. Today, he defines gender as “progressive, in the sense that it is constantly evolving”. “I had a bulimia to know everything, which is impossible. In fact, I felt like I was converting to a religion and I went a lot on the forums. Internet kid launches Omelet Sandwich, his first ‘ref’ blog at Obsolete Freestyle from MC Solar, “play journalist” and crossed the Rubicon during his studies: he applied to Abcdr du Son, a webmagazine created in 2000. “I wanted to be there”, remembers this rap addict. His first interview is with Dany Dan, an artist he idolizes.
“I had a bulimia to know everything about rap, which is not possible. In fact, I felt like I was converting to a religion.”Mehdi Maizi, Head of Hip-Hop at Apple Music France
His incredible journey – his favorite word – then winds between internships – like at Ernst&Young – and his passion. He officiates on OKLM Radio, founded by Booba, joins Deezer and Binge Audio before hosting programs for Redbull, among others, from 2019. “He always worked a lot more than the others”, confides Romain Manirampa, consultant in the development of artists and thurifer, like his friend, of the Belgian Hamza. Has her slight hair on her tongue ever curbed it? He opens his eyes wide. And sweeps: “No, that was never a problem for me.”“You have to be Jay-Z”, repeats at will Mehdi Maizi. Translation: to be the best.