“I know Julien Mari, not Christmas” … what’s left of the rapper in Saint-Jean-du-Désert, his childhood town

“I still see him leave in his twingo to play security guard. Sometimes he worked at the Stade Vélodrome and clapped people at the entrance. On Saturday, tens of thousands of people will be clapped down to watch his concert,” Michel puts into perspective. As a 55-year-old, Michel knew Jul. It was his building neighbor. The same block, the 21st, him the 3rd, Jul, his brother Mat ‘and their mother Nat’ the first. “Well, I know Julien, not Jul. . “Understand the child, the teenager and the man he has become; not the artist. As he strolls through the small streets of his HLM Louis Loucheur complex in the Saint-Jean-du-désert district, twenty small, well-kept four-story blocks with a beautiful alternation between white and ocher-colored facades, Michel rewinds his memories.

“He made me crazy”, “the truth is missing”

It’s now five years ago that Julien Mari, the greatest French record-selling rapper, left her neighborhood for a villa that we imagine cozy on the heights of La Ciotat. “The truth is lacking in the city; he came along. Not just him, his family too, his brother, his mother… ”, regrets Michel, who used to hear the artist apprentice from his window. ‘He made me insane, but I always told his mother, who feared for his future, that he had a gift. Everyone here describes him as a giant hardworking, polite and kind, discreet, reserved and almost unhealthy shy. “Honestly, a good guy,” sums up Marie-Claude, 75, former chairman of the Tenants’ Association of this city in the southern districts of Marseille, where life is still good. In her phone, the lady searches and shows some pictures of the neighborhood genius. She understands that he has gone elsewhere. “It was becoming unmanageable. Girls came to sleep in front of the door of his block, ”says Marie-Claude. “Others came in and called on all floors,” adds Michel. “Besides, it’s like winning a lottery. The first thing they tell you is to go. But I’m sure he’s suffering from it. In the beginning, he sometimes came back to sleep alone in the apartment, which was still rented out but which the family no longer inhabited. He needed this. »

Further in the district, which has kept its soul from an old village stuck in Marseille for a period popular with citizens and industrialists, residents of the church square remember Jul and his team who made “òaï” (the bazaar in Provencal). “I’m a big mouth and I did not mind telling him that,” says Michèle, an 85-year-old resident whose apartment is on the corner of the square. “Even one day I said to him, ‘Stop your fireworks – he made one – you’re poisoning yourself there,'” laughs Marseillaise. “Well, he always remained polite, he honked gently at me when he saw me during the day.”

The kids in the neighborhood also have their share of memories. Marlon, 15, is taking the little ones on a scooter this Wednesday afternoon while he waits to go to football. “He came every time with big cars, like the Lamborghini. Once he came back filled with boxes full of clothes from his brand, gold and platinum. He unpacked everything in the square and called everyone to help himself. This generosity, “For every new record, he slipped one into the neighborhood’s boxes. When he recorded his clips here, at the end of the day, he would pamper everyone with pizza,” he cites as an example.

“There is no more Christmas here”

Evidence from the past that shows the rapper has definitely turned the page on his neighborhood. A fact that leaves a bittersweet taste for his old childhood friends. “There is no more Christmas here”, shortcut “Microb”. Sitting late in the day at the local bar with their lemonade grenadines, “Microb”, “Karim de Saint-Jean”, “KTS” and “Azdin” was part of the first circle of Christmas’ debut. “We were there to give him strength in the beginning, now Julien is gone, he is living his life, good for him”, they comment soberly. However, the team remained united. In 2018, the year after Christmas’ departure, the troupe created its own label: La Puenta is recording (taken from the neighborhood’s nickname: Saint-Jean-la-Puenta). Led by Mehdi YZ, rapper of the generation just under Christmas, who also has relative success with two albums and about ten million streams on Spotify. “It’s the Mehdi team now,” we smile.

Necessarily, we implicitly understand that Christmas in the neighborhood has not always only had friends. “Jul la p * te”, we can still read in a discreet marking mark made a long time ago, it seems, on the sign indicating the neighborhood grocery store. With the last word crossed out by the same marker that wrote these letters, though it can still be guessed. But no one here speaks ill of him. “In truth, he is still a local guy who has been successful and who is a model. Even if he does not come anymore,” we conclude. Love, glory and memories, that’s what’s left in Saint-Jean- du-Désert by Julien Mari Jul writes his story.

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