Philippe Fragione was born on September 17th, 1968 in the 18th arrondissement of Marseilles. Born into a family of Italian immigrants originating from Naples, the young Philippe and his brother Fabien lived in a nearby suburb with their mother who worked for EDF (the national Electric Company).
Philippe wasn't really interested in school although he seemed really curious and wanting to learn. At the age of 8, he received an encyclopædia that he read from beginning to end. He was really keen on dinosaurs and then on ancient Egypt. There he found Akhenaton (the other name of the Pharaoh Amenohotep IV) which would later become his pseudonym.
Rap at 17
Until he was sixteen, Philippe, also known as Chill, split his free time between his friends, football and reading. After a trip to his father's family who lived in New York, Philippe discovered rap music. From that day on, his view of life changed totally. He was then living with his father, an employee of the national health services and while only seventeen, told his father of his desire to do rap music. He nevertheless carried on his studies but quit during his first year in biology.
His meeting with Shurik'n Kheops and Imothep would enable him to form a group. In 1989 under the name IAM , they released a self-produced cassette. In 1991 the group's first album "De la planète Mars" came out.
Indisputably the leader of IAM, Akhenaton quickly became a spokesman of choice for the media due to his charisma, his ease to express himself, his astute sense to know when and how to criticize, but also his sincerity and his frankness. He knows how to defend the colours of rap music as well as the colours of Marseilles. He often took part in political and social debates, thus giving his opinion on very diverse topics.
Very interested in religion, it was towards Islam that Chill turned. He converted to Islam in 1993 thus becoming Abdel Hakim shortly before his marriage to Aïcha, a young Moroccan woman.
Return to the source
With the national success of IAM's single "Je danse le Mia" in 1993, the boys from Marseilles became key figures of French Rap. While the group put a halt to its activities after a long tour, Akhenaton took advantage of this to release his first solo album in October 1995, recorded in part in Naples, the birthplace of his ancestors. "Métèque et mat" was a very personal work of art where you found the loquaciousness of the rapper. He evokes the mafia "La Cosca" the rebellion against the establishment "Je rêve d'eclater un type des Assedic" etc. On "lettres aux hirondelles", he took the liberty of sampling "Said et Mohamed" by Francis Cabrel . In addition, "Une femme seule" was inspired by the life of his mother. This first attempt quickly turned into a very clever move. Before going on to something else.
This solo work didn't shake his desire to continue the adventure with IAM because the notion of working as a group was essential for Akhenaton. He got involved in the production, founded a record label, Côté Obscur, and a record company, La Cosca. He of course continued his work with IAM.
Akhenaton and Kheops wrote the soundtrack for "Taxi", one of the biggest French cinema hits in 1998, by Robert Pires whose producer was none other than Luc Besson. In February 1999 they received the Victoire de la musique award for the best soundtrack of the year.
But what remained a major project for Akhenaton at the end of the Nineties was without a doubt the film that he co-wrote with his associate Kamel Saleh. "Comme un aimant" is a full length film that takes place in a district of Marseilles. Akhenaton wrote the soundtrack with Bruno Coulais, author of the soundtrack for "Microcosmos" among others. We also found the big names in Soul like Cunnie Williams and Isaac Hayes on the album. A young man from Marseilles, Bouga, sang "Belsunce break down" and the single quickly reached the top of the French charts.
At the same time that he was developing this project, Akhenaton worked on a record of electronic music. Under his direction, some fifteen DJs or composers indulged in the joys of working as a group. "Electro cypher" was released at the end of 1999. Rather electro-funk, this album was very influenced by the work done in the past by the German group Kraftwerk but also by that of the Zulu Nation of Afrika Bambaataa. Akhenaton once again enlarged his sphere of activity by involving himself more and more in the production of young talent.
On July 19th, Akhenaton released his second solo single, "AKH" before his new album "Sol Invictus" came out in October. Unlike "Meteque et mat" that the singer had produced entirely on his own, "Sol" bore the trademark of many other artists such as Chiens de Paille and Dadou from KDD. Most of its 18 tracks looked back on the past in a disillusioned and wistful way, dealing with nostalgic topics and displaying a rather 80’s sound. This record sold more than 175,000 copies.
A few months later in November 2002 Akhenaton released a "Black Album", which featured tracks that had been composed while the artist was working on his previous album and on film soundtracks. At the same time, "Live au Docks des Suds", the DVD that was shot during Akhenaton’s unique concert in Marseilles in April 2002 came out on the market.
While remaining busy with his solo projects, Akhénaton still made time for a new IAM project. From 2001 onwards, he intermittently worked on the group’s next album (eagerly awaited by fans up and down the country). Following a series of recording sessions in New York, Paris and Marseilles, "Revoir un printemps" finally hit record stores in September 2003. From this point on, the leader of Marseilles’s foremost rap collective resumed his status within the group.
At the end of 2005, the rapper brought out a two-CD album entitled "Double Chill Burger", featuring an extensive selection of his solo hits and eight previously unreleased bonus tracks.
Following the release of the new IAM album and the ensuing tour, Akhenaton locked himself away for a while on his own and began recording his new solo album. "Soldats de fortune" was finally released in March 2006 on the rap star’s own independent label, 361 Records. Fellow members of IAM all contributed to the album in one form or another including Shurik'n (who provided backing vocals on "Sur les murs de ma chambre"). Some critics hailed "Soldats de fortune" as Akhenaton’s most mature album to date, while others noted a certain return to Zen-like serenity. True to Akhenaton form, "Soldats de fortune" raised a number of topical social issues, although tracks like "Commode le Dégueulasse" lightened the tone with a touch of humour here and there. Akhenaton accompanied his album with a hard-hitting message, including a mini-booklet insisting on the importance of voting in the next elections which instructed fans on how to get their names on the electoral register.
The solo artist then took a break and went back to work with IAM to put together their fifth album, “Saison 5”, which came out in 2007, marking their 20th anniversary. They celebrated the event with a concert in Egypt at the foot of the Gizeh Pyramids in March 2008.
2011: "We luv New York" with Faf Larage
The following year, Akhenaton began working with another rapper from Marseille, Faf Larage, a long-standing acquaintance who happens to be the brother of Shurik’n. The pair put their flows together to work on a tribute to the city of New York, inspired by the sound of the legendary hip hop location. The label-free album, “We luv New York” came out in March 2011, distributed on the internet by Akhenaton’s own outfit, Me Label, created the previous year. Akhenaton and Faf Larage immediately set off to perform a series of concerts all over France.
In September 2011, the rapper began presenting a weekly programme on the radio station Le Mouv’, sharing his musical selection.
2015: "Je suis en vie"
After two albums with IAM in 2013, Akhenaton released his fifth solo collection, “Je suis en vie” in the autumn of 2014, this time on the Def Jam label. The 46 year-old once again revealed his maturity and wisdom in a set of compositions inspired by the life of the samurai Masashi, hero of Japanese literature. Fellow musicians like REDK, Shurik’n, Cut Killer and Faf Larage shared the microphone on the album’s plain-speaking tracks.
The album was a critical and popular success. With “Je suis en vie”, Akhenaton received a Victoire Award for best urban music of the year in February 2015.
A few months later, Akhenaton acted as a “historian” of hip hop, ensuring the creative direction of the exhibition “Hip hop, du Bronx aux rues arabes” (Hip hop, from the Bronx to the Arab street) at the Institut du Monde Arab in Paris. The event looked back over the musical genre from its beginnings in New York to its popularity in France and then Arab countries.
At the same time, the rapper found himself surrounded by controversy. He was chosen by Coca Cola to represent the brand’s advertising campaign on the theme of happiness with his track “Vivre maintenant”. Although he donated his fee to charity, some of his fans were outraged to see him working with a multinational brand. Akhenaton justified his act in a long text published on social networks, in which he explained that the fizzy drinks manufacturer was one of the few companies to have agreed to sponsor the exhibition presented at the Institut du Monde Arabe.