The project of South African singer/songwriter/producer Yannick Ilunga, Petite Noir's combination of African musical traditions and post-punk is the prime example of Noirwave, the style and cultural movement created by Ilunga and his creative partner, RhaRha Nembhard. Ilunga refined Noirwave's celebration of Africa's past and future with each Petite Noir release, from 2015's pioneering La Vie Est Belle to 2018's vibrant La Maison Noir/The Black House.
Born in Brussels, Ilunga moved with his Angolan mother and Congolese father to Cape Town when he was six, and grew up singing and playing guitar in church. After spending some time in the metalcore band Fallen Within, Ilunga's ideas of what music could be were changed after hearing Kanye West's 808s & Heartbreak, and he began experimenting with Ableton while writing his own songs. When he was still in his teens, he met and began playing guitar for township tech pioneer Spoek Mathambo. In 2009, Ilunga formed the chillwave duo Popskarr with Terrence Pearce, whom he met through Mathambo. Over the course of three years, Popskarr released a handful of singles, including 2009's "The Light" (which also featured Mathambo) and 2012's "Fighter."
During this time, Ilunga continued to work on his own music, combining electronics, guitar, and his wide-ranging vocals into what would become Petite Noir. With his creative director and romantic partner, RhaRha Nembhard, he created the Noirwave musical style and cultural movement. The project's first single, "Till We Ghosts," arrived in 2012 and soon earned acclaim; Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) appeared on a remix of the song. That year also saw the release of the single "Disappear." The following year, Petite Noir issued the single "Noirse" and opened for Solange on her 2013 tour.