What You Need to Know About The Brussels Hip Hop Scene
There are a lot of young talented artists from the Belgian metropolis you should catch a glimpse of. Brussels is Belgium’s multilingual capital. This doesn’t only come into play in the daily city life, it also has a remarkable effect on the music scene. For decades Brussels based artists preferred the French language and every now and then recorded a couple Dutch versions of their songs - think about the legend himself Jacques Brel for instance - but times have changed. Nowadays Brussels based hip hop artists rap in French, Dutch and English.
Text by Erkut Gultekin
If you’re familiar with Belgium’s politics, you know the relationship between the French and Dutch speaking parts of the country is complex. Basically, if Flanders and Wallonia were on Facebook, their relationship status would say 'it's complicated'. Maybe they could learn a thing or two from the hip hop artists. Instead of dealing with the different languages as a barrier, they use it as something that actually makes them bond together. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what colour your skin is or in what language you rap as long as you can make yourself understood... That seems to be the attitude of the contemporary Belgian metropolitan rapper. The music they make could therefore be seen as a universal language on its own.
Brussels based student Erkut Gultekin wanted to share his knowledge of the hip hop scene of the Belgian capital. After a random encounter with some freestyling MC's in the streets of Brussels he dove into the scene and is now a self-taught expert on hip hop from Brussels.
Roméo Elvis’s and Caballero’s "Bruxelles Arrive" is about to hit one million views on YouTube! Collectives like Stikstof, L’Or Du Commun and La Smala also appear in the video as a representation of the song’s chorus: ‘Bruxelles arrive, on est serré dans une caisse’, which translates into ‘Brussels arrives, it feels tight in this car’ – They wish to succeed in the rap game together and make themselves heard all around the world.
Erkut: After the yearly student festival Brussel Brost, my bilingual friend Tomas and I didn’t really feel like going to the afterparty which was being held at the Fuse. Instead we decided to start walking in a random direction. He played some beats on his Bluetooth speakers and so we started rhyming. It was gibberish at first but we had fun and that’s why we continued doing it. We didn’t really care much about people finding us weird and all. When we arrived at the Saint-Catherine square, we saw a group of multi-ethnic people doing the same with their Bluetooth speakers. They invited us to join them. Honestly they were way better and we just stood there admiring them like two fanboys. We were shy and felt ashamed at first but decided to just go with the flow and had a lot of fun doing the same thing we used to do just half an hour earlier. Apparently these dudes were Phasm and Berrykrimi's Kurt and to be honest I didn’t know that until Tomas had told me so.
The Berrykrimi duo chilling on a couch. Go check out their new album called "Elke dag"!
Erkut: The one thing I liked more than their flow was how they were playing with languages. It kind of gave their freestyles a whole different dimension. Phasm (Studio 87), a young talented producer and MC, preferred French for example. Kurt (Berrykrimi) then randomly switched to Dutch and afterwards another MC killed it in English. Randomly switching between codes in a conversation is a typical thing for the bilingual people of Brussels and apparently it even found its way into rap and hip hop.
Randomly switching between codes in a conversation is a typical thing for the bilingual people of Brussels and apparently it even found its way into rap and hip hop.
It was at that moment that I decided to deepen my knowledge of the hip hop scene of my student city. By that time I was already familiar with Stikstof, Roméo Elvis and Caballero but I realized that the hip hop scene of Brussels is far from complete without rappers like Hamza, Damso, Scylla, JeanJass and collectives like Red Cross, L’Or Du Commun and La Smala. Let’s not forget Soul’Art, the collective that won the award for ‘Rookie of the Year’ (Flemish hip hop Awards ‘15). Even though only one of the members of this collective (M13) is from Brussels, these young talents are definitely worth to be mentioned since they use a combination of French, Dutch and English in their lyrics. There are a lot of underrated Brussels based hip hop artists as well. Take "BREL" by YOUNG NATION 01's Axelence (prod. by UMI) as an example.
Damso’s "BruxellesVie" is a good representation of the hip hop scene of Brussels. The following line is interesting: ‘Je balance ma pisse sur les Champs-Elysées’ which means ‘I urinate on the Champs-Elysées’. Even though this line sounds aggressive at first, it’s actually genius: Damso refers to the Belgian Manneken Pis overpowering the French Champs-Elysées. Just like Roméo Elvis and Caballero, he’s trying to make the sound of Brussels known around the globe. (See below for the link)
Brussels has always done well in the hands of its talented artists. It seems like hip hop collectives and artists like Stikstof, Damso and Roméo Elvis (ft. Caballero) succeeded in confirming this statement. The future of the hip hop scene of the Belgian metropolis looks brighter than ever!
Appearances of Roméo Elvis, Caballero and JeanJass in the music video of Zwangere Guy's "Dokter Guy".