Des Rois, des Pions et des Fous, the fourth solo album by Stress, one of the top francophone rappers in Switzerland, more or less follows in the same direction as its chart-topping predecessor. Fans will want to hear the handful of front-loaded highlights, but the latter half of the album is unfortunately dicey, weighed down by too many duds. Renaissance (2007), Stress' previous full-length effort, marked new heights of success for the Lausanne rapper. He topped the Swiss albums chart for the first time, and he reached the Top Five of the singles chart for the first time with lead single "Avenues." Des Rois, des Pions et des Fous is a similar album to Renaissance in several ways, once again teaming Stress up with hitmaker Yvan Jaquemet, backup vocalist Karolyn, and some big-name guest features (Soprano, Diam's, Nega). Jaquemet, aka Yvan Peacemaker, is Stress' longtime producer, going all the way back to the days of Double Pact, a pioneering Swiss rap group the two were part of during the 1990s and early 2000s. Their partnership endured over the years as Stress embarked on a solo career and collaborated with Jaquemet on his debut album, Billy Bear (2003), and each of its follow-ups. The production work of Jaquemet on Des Rois, des Pions et des Fous is impressive as usual. Sure enough, he opens the album with the requisite bangers "Rester de Marbre" and "Shoote!" He then intersperses them with a couple Karolyn features in the pop-rap idiom, the jazz-inflected "Tous les Mêmes" and the rock-inflected "Saint Profit," and then pulls a delightful surprise with "En Ton Nom," a beatless track on which Stress raps over a looped Led Zeppelin sample of Jimmy Page's acoustic guitar picking. As Des Rois, des Pions et des Fous progresses, however, the material gets dicey. There are scattered highlights to be found among the later tracks, most notably the storming lead single "V" and the Diam's feature "Plus Rien Ne Nous Touche," but there are also duds like "Billy la Rockstarr."
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AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier