Paul Van Haver, better known as Stromae is a Belgian singer-songwriter. He has distinguished himself in both hip hop and electronic music. He first became famous with the song “Alors on danse” which remained at number one for several weeks in numerous countries throughout Europe.
He was born in Brussels to a Rwandan father, whom he only got to see three times in his life, and a Belgian mother. At the age of eleven Paul Van Haver already showed an interest in music and attended ‘l’Académie Musicale de Jette’, where he studied music history and learned to play the drums, this was his first experience with music theory.
In 2000 he appeared as a rapper called Opsmaestro, though he later changed his stage name to Stromae (a syllablic inversion of “Maestro”, a practice called verlan). It was with this name that Van Haver became successful.
At the age of 18, he founded a rap group called “Suspicion”, along with rapper “J.E.D.I.” in Eichof. They produced the song and music video “Faut que t’arrête le Rap…”, though later, J.E.D.I. decided to leave the rap duo. In order to finance his private school education, Van Haver worked part-time in the hospitality industry, but his school performance wasn’t up to standard. It was only later, when he registered at Institut national de radioélectricité et cinématographie, that he released his first album “Juste un cerveau, un flow, un fond et un mic…”.
During his study at the film school of Brussels, Stromae decided in 2007 to concentrate fully on his musical career. This resulted in his debut-EP “Juste un cerveau, un flow, un fond et un mic…”. In 2008 he signed a 4-year record deal with “Because Music” and “Kilomaître”.
In 2009 Paul worked as a young trainee at the musical radio station NRJ in Brussels. Vincent Verbelen, Music Manager, was impressed by the talent of Stromae’s first single ‘Alors on danse’ and decided to air it for the first time on NRJ. The response from listeners (including important personalities ranging from Anna Wintour, Jean-Claude Vandamme, to French president Nicolas Sarkozy) was one of extreme enthusiasm and Stromae’s career was launched. Sales quickly rose to number one in Belgium in just a matter of weeks.
Vertigo Records, a label of Mercury Records France (Universal Music Group) signed him for a worldwide licensing deal soon after this.
By May 2010 the track Alors on danse had reached number one in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Greece, Germany, Austria, Turkey, Switzerland, Italy, Denmark, Romania and the Czech Republic.
On September 2, Stromae collaborated with Kanye West in a remix of his hit Alors on danse. In 2010, he was nominated for “Best Dutch and Belgian Act” at the MTV Europe Music Awards.
Of his music and its influences he has said : ” I was in a little group doing rap music. I thought that rather than copying the French sound, I’d focus on a more American style but give it a European spin. And then I rediscovered 90s Eurodance. For a long time we were ashamed of that sound but in fact there’s a lot to discover, it has its roots in everything from house to salsa. I also really admire Jacques Brel – he has been a huge influence on me – but also all sorts of other stuff, Cuban son, and the Congolese rumba which I heard as a child; that music rocked the whole of Africa.” Also, Stromae insists he wanted to collaborate with up and coming rap group Swag+5 featuring rapper T-Jay. Finally, the collaboration did not take place but Stromae is a big fan of the American based group. The critic Molloy Woodcraft : ” He combines 90s electro synths and beats with a laidback delivery to mesmeric effect”.
He is one of the ten winners of the European Border Breakers Award 2011. On February 9, 2011, his debut album ‘Cheese’ (with hit single “Alors on danse”) won the award for Best Dance Album at the Victoires de la Musique.
On May 23, during the recording of the French TV show Taratata, Stromae did a mashup of Alors on danse and Don’t Stop the Party with the Black Eyed Peas. Stromae also announced he would perform for the first act of two concerts of the band on June 24 and 25, 2011 at Stade De France. Stromae had previously met will.i.am at the NRJ Music Awards in January. will.i.am told him that he liked “Alors on danse” and said he wanted to collaborate with Stromae.
In 2011, he received one nomination for “Best Belgian Act” at the MTV Europe Music Awards. The first single “Papaoutai” from his upcoming second album was digitally released on 13 May 2013.