Monday, April 6, 2009

Feature: U can't Dutch this

For this month's Time Out I wrote a piece on Dutch hip hop. Though I can't understand much of what their saying I've been really getting into it - good beats, intriguing flow and a down-to-earth vibe make it a little more tangible than T-Pain. Sorry T. Check out the video by The Fringe too with a little tribute to fellow Dutch artist Mondriaan - Or if you're Australian, Silverchair.

From: Time Out
U can't Dutch this... Or can you? Colin Delaney finds out Nederhop is keeping it 'realer' than ever.
In English language hip hop, the North American accent sets the standard, the British come with a ‘grimey’ edge, the Kiwis carry a Polynesian ease while the Australians boast a broad ‘ocker’ twang. On the international stage the French rap smooth, the Germans sharply, and Brazilians do it upbeat and playfully. But for the Dutch scene it wasn’t until the mid-90s that MCs began to rap in the local tongue – they mostly wanted to sound as American as possible.
Perhaps surprisingly, flow, style and rhythm roll effortlessly through the thickets of this nation’s guttural language. Dutch rap, or ‘Nederhop’ as it’s most affectionately known is getting more comfortable in its own skin, too, reflecting the way people live here, rather than trying to mimic the American style.
‘There’s a real Dutch culture in local hip hop now – that’s the most important change,’ says Lars Kelpin, project manager of the hip hop organisation, GRAP. ‘People are talking about all aspects of growing up, about family, difficulties, street life and politics and fun. There’s a Dutch proverb, “act normal, you're crazy enough”. We don't like our heroes driving around in Jeeps in 21inch tyres. We like it when they act normal. It’s part of Dutch culture, and that’s part of Dutch hip hop culture
GRAP coordinates the Dutch R&B and hip hop competition, Wanted, which ran through MARCH? And has its final showcase at Melkweg on 3 April. Now in its 13th year, Wanted has been an important launching pad for many current chart toppers, such as The Partysquad, Ali-B and Baas B. They may not be exactly busting across the borders, but at least they’re getting plenty of airplay nationally. Watching MTV or TMF, Nederhop is better represented than the current crop of Nederpop stars.
What accounts for its success? Get ready to cringe – ‘keeping it real’ – say the local experts.
‘People are really down to earth. That’s what I like about hip hop in Holland,’ says Kees De Koning, the head of The Netherlands’ premier hip hop label, Top Notch. ‘Dutch MCs are being very honest.’
As an example, he sites the current cross-over hit by Dio, ‘Tijd Machine.’ The rapper, says De Koning, is ‘talking about all the times he’s fucked up in life – he should have listened to mom; he should have called his girlfriend more; put out the garbage once and a while… This is one of the top hip hop songs at the moment. That says a lot about keeping it real, just being honest and not being a bigger-than-life comic book character.’ Radio DJ Vincent Patty AKA rapper Jiggy Dje agrees. ‘In America, a lot of rap is about money and jewels,’ he says. ‘We don't have a lot of that in Holland because it’s Holland. As soon as someone starts rapping about a lot of money everyone is like, “We know you don't have a lot of money.” It’s like, “Dude, if you've got so much money, why are you on a tram?”’
Local hip hop artists are also ‘keeping it real’ by rapping about struggle and overcoming racial prejudice or socio-economic adversity. The Opposites, an Amsterdam-based duo (so called for the duo’s appearance: one is tall and Anglo, the other short and Antillean) started out rapping in English but switched to their native Dutch. A recent hit track, ‘Sjonnie & Anita’ by describes two delinquents in an inter-racial love affair. It refers to the pair as ‘The Dutch Bonnie and Clyde’. ‘Mami is a lady from the hood,’ the lyrics read. ‘Loyal mentality; dangerous when necessary. Dad comes from the polder; he’s half from CuraƧao, half Spanish.’
Salah Edin, who also started out rapping in English has made a name for himself in the Middle East and the west by rapping in Darija Arabic., His rhymes question Dutch politics and society, and he’s not afraid of controversy. The cover art of his 2007 album ‘Nederland’s Grootste Nachtmerrie’ (‘The Netherlands’ Worst Nightmare’) featured Edin on the cover, looking a whole lot like the mugshot of Theo van Gogh’s killer, Mohammed Bouyeri. The rapper said it was meant to reflect, ‘the way the average white Dutch citizen sees me, as a young Moroccan Muslim radical.’
Of course, politically-charged or conscious hip hop has never been the most profitable side of the music business. Patty says that’s not really the point of Nederhop, anyway. ‘I talk to a lot of young rappers and the most important thing is not to get caught in a pipedream,’ says the DJ and rapper. ‘There’s not a lot of money in it so make sure you have fun while doing it. That’s where our hip hop origins are from – having fun with the little you have.’

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