Born in Goma, DRC, Innoss’B won Vodacom’s “Super Star” national TV hook-up at the age of 13 before honing his style with a mix of Congolese urban music, r’n’b, and drill… As evidenced by its destructive tube, Yo Pe. Meeting with this former star child, at the Femua in Abidjan, last May.
Contagious and languid, like a virus that sticks to the brain and hips, never to let go again, the synthetic chorus of his tube Yo Pe – 200 million YouTube views thanks to remix of Tanzanian star Diamond Platnumz – hovers like a dangerous epidemic on the crowd Femua, in Abidjan, from May 10 to 15. To top it all off, her hips, a jacket raised to allow her backside to express itself freely, prove to be formidable.
The big stage of the festival of Magic System, he masters it superbly, from the top of his 25 years and his fragile figure. Peroxid hair, smoky glasses, a thick silver chain around his neck, royal blue trousers and a sequined jacket, the Congolese Innoss’ B, remembers from afar, in his management of the tightrope walker and his choreography, his idol Michael Jackson. And then there is, in his show, that essential ingredient, humor, when he picks up his unstoppable hit, Naomi Campbellape, asymmetrical, a wobbly top model …
The day before, we had met him by the pool at an Abidjan hotel. In civilian clothes, the young singer-dancer, accompanied by his older brother in the role of manager, seems to oscillate even more on this ridge line between childhood and adulthood.
Joy in the ghetto
It all starts in Goma, a town of two million people in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in North Kivu, a town between Nyiragongo, one of the largest active volcanoes in the world, and Kivu. huge african lake. Innocent Didace Balume grows here, in a “a very ghetto corner, the first neighborhood at the entrance to the city from the airport“, a landscape of dirt roads, bristling with wooden and mud houses. Benjamin of a sibling family of six children, he grew up in joy: “At schoolhe says, I was in the top five. I enjoyed hanging out with my classmates… And I loved the theater, acting, the sketches we learned for the end-of-year parties…”
Above all, this son of a church singer and a dancing father (“finally, apparently, he was never seen dancing, as he was shot in the knee.“, he says) likes to immerse himself soul and body in music. In shorts, he sings as he breathes. His first vocals, he pushes them to church, school, rehearsal studio… while at home, it grooves too! Especially thanks to her grandmother, who does not hesitate to follow the dance steps of children or sing with them the choruses of world stars. “She was trying to fit into our universehe describes. She was improvising little vocals, like the gimmick ‘hey, hey, hey, hey, heheeee!’, Which I incorporated into Yo Pe… I owe her millions of views!“Like the Jackson 5, he rides the Balume 4 with his brothers:”During our concerts in the streets of the ghetto, riots were created!“
Everything takes off when he participates in the national TV show “Super Star”, the Congolese “Star Ac”, organized by the country’s main telephone operator, Vodacom. Thanks to his virtuoso and sensitive covers of Michael Jackson (Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough, The Way You Make Me Feel…) And of Lokua Kanza, he won the public vote. The key? $ 25,000 and a collaboration with Senegalese-born American r’n’b singer Akon, his mentor. From this era, there are still videos of the little Innoss’ on stage, 13 years old, with his mastery of dance, rhythm and breathtaking singing. And also interviews with all his teeth out, a bright look, where his crazy love of music exudes through all his pores.
Yet the star child refuses to be grayed by the intoxication of the peaks. He needs time, without too much fuss, to “rediscover, redefine“, and also to refine his style, afrocongo: a cocktail of Congolese music, afrobeat, RnB, hip hop, drill, amapiano, sung in Swahili, Lingala, French and English…
Around him, his team is organized in tight ranks: a small “company” where his older brother holds the position of manager, two others that of composer and director… “We have to keep the money in the familyhe scoffs. Very quickly, he works with prestigious names, Damso or Koffi Olomide. And his tube Yo Pe (“you too” in Lingala) becomes a viral bomb, which provokes a “yo pe challenge”, and answers dance, all over the world on social media.
Innoss’B takes advantage of this notoriety to come to the aid of its country. On the instability of his region, North Kivu, ravaged by conflict since 2004, he does not mince his words: “The war must stop. We all want a change. We need leaders to hear us… It is now urgent to point to the positive side of Africa, not this poverty and conflict that sticks to our skin… Musically, the whole planet has its eyes on us!”
Similarly, with his non-profit association Innocent Foundation, the young man rescued those affected by the volcanic eruption of 2021. Thus, he built ten houses on Kalesha Street, Green Lake District of Goma, to relocate the victims. Innoss’B, mature, on the threshold of a long career, all in effective choruses and addictive choreography, definitely does not forget the land that saw him born…
Innoss’B Mortel-06 (M Soul Records) 2021