Basketball: Manu Key, a pioneer of rap on the bench of Vanves


The scene is played at the end of September in Boulogne-sur-Mer but it could be repeated in all the gyms where the basketball players of Vanves occur. In the middle of the warm-up of the players, assistant coach Manuel Coudray is challenged by a spectator who has come to "just thank him". Hard to escape from his past when you are a pioneer. For the one who has been since the beginning of the season Sylvain Mousseau's assistant has participated in the hatching of rap and hip-hop in France. In the 90s, Manu Key – his stage name – was one of the founding members of the Mafia K'1 Fry (African Verlant), a group of rappers from neighborhoods of Val-de-Marne. Composer, producer, arranger, big brother, Key discovered and collaborated with the greatest: 113, Kery James, Rohff …

To meet Manuel Coudray (48 years old) is thus to dive into the origins of the urban culture then stammering, of the beginnings of Radio Nova and MTV Raps of which the K7 VHS passed from hand to hand. At the time, the last of a family of four brothers lives alone with his mother in the city of Calmette in Orly. Every Wednesday, with his mates Mista Flo, Lil Jahson and DJ Mehdi, they "squat MJC neighborhood" and dream to emulate the US rappers. "We took ourselves seriously," he smiles.

Become friends with Kery James

Their reputation swells and attracts young people hurrying behind the windows of the improvised studio. Among them a certain Kery James, become more than a friend. "He was only 11 years old, we were 16 or 17, but he had already blackened an entire notebook of texts," says Manu Key, who discovered the magic of words through Renaud's songs. We represented the city and we knew that our music would develop even if we had a lot of trouble in the beginning. We lived odd jobs. To make ourselves known, we sent our first Maxis to the MJC of France and we organized our tours according to the answers. We had lied to the city to get a bus. I got my first check of 18,000 francs in 1997, it was huge. Her mother only then discovers her passion. His father, returned to Guadeloupe, will be informed in 2002. "I brought him the golden record of an album of 113 that I had produced, says the interested. I even had my card at Sacem. In all, 2 million albums will be sold through the various collaborations, 300 000 only for the Mafia K'1 Fry.

"It was a crazy life but despite the tragedy, the deaths, the traffic and the settling of scores, I do not regret anything," says Manu Key

Since 2007, the collective is dormant. "It was a crazy life but despite the tragic tricks, deaths, trafficking and settling scores, I do not regret anything, admits the father of two girls of 7 and 16 years. The music was a gift from heaven. But it's not over, it's just a parenthesis. "

A parenthesis which he takes advantage of to devote himself to his other passion: basketball. A sport discovered by chance at age 16 in a women's game played in the gym downstairs. There too, his flair allowed him to detect talents, including a certain Lahaou Konaté, become international French. While he had stopped school in college without saying anything to his mother, Key became Coudray again and returned to the benches to pass his degrees as a physical trainer and coach. "It's not easy, I'm with 25 or 26-year-old kids, but I'm fighting because there's something at the end," said Johnson's "Magic" fan. I'm asking Kery (James) for advice. when I have to speak in front of a jury. In France, nothing is done without a diploma except in music, so I have left it so far. I know that I have an atypical career with two passions, the first of which has become a profession. I hope to do the same with the second. My wish is to help kids, give them the keys to reach their dreams. As in rap.


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