Rap is global. North American and British rappers are selling out shows in cities where a significant number of their fans don’t speak much English, if any at all, reminding us that hip-hop is a universal language in its own right. Bearing in mind that rappers have tended to be inspired by, and provided commentary on, the places where they’re from, it’s not all that surprising then that rap has evolved in disparate ways all around the world.
Rappers making this decision – to use rap as a means of representing their multi-layered identities – is the central narrative of Dutch rap. From Amsterdam to Rotterdam, there’s a talented rap community sprinkled throughout the Netherlands that’s bursting with global potential. A wave of new artists has emerged, leaving behind their inhibitions and channeling the country’s multi-cultural essence into their music.
Despite what the mosre nostalgic fringe of rap listeners thinks, Dutch rap today is extremely diverse – perhaps more than it has ever been. While some styles are more prevalent than others, you don’t need to dig deep beyond the surface to find true gems for both serious and casual fans; for those seeking lyrical firepower and technical skills as well as for those who just want to have fun. Below are 10 Dutch rappers who exemplify this niche, and it’s about time you put them on your radar.
Bokoeyoncé for @championeurope 🌸
Samuel Sekyre, better known as Bokoesam, is a Dutch rapper with Ghanaian roots. After his early success through mixtapes, singles, and his contribution to the extremely successful ‘New Wave’ project, the eccentric artist released his debut album Solo in 2017. Perhaps his most honest project so far, Solo is a collection of sonically diverse sounds, consisting of 19 tracks varying from trap beats to dancehall melodies.
Bokoesam’s come up has been crazy, and “Jij & Ik” is an addictive melodic hit with a catchy, carefree energy. While this one is definitely more melodic afro-swing than rap, his older tracks prove he can really spit too, and wherever Bokoesam goes next, 2019 is going to be a very exciting year for him.
ANDERE TIJDEN 21/6 🕰⏳
Idaly emerged onto the scene as one of the New Wave album members back in 2015, a distinguished hip-hop album that later received the infamous Dutch Popprijs award. His debut EP, Eindelijk, came out in 2016, followed by the impressively varied NU in 2017, both packed with a mixture of sharp comments on everyday life and witty boasts. Protégé of legendary Dutch producer Reverse, Idaly has built a reputation of his own, being coined by many as ‘your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper.’
Mixing bars, melodies, and a generally widescreen approach to songwriting, Idaly is an intriguing addition to any playlist of Dutch rap music. His relentless work ethic and collaborations with the likes of Jonna Fraser, Cho, and the aforementioned Bokoesam, have proved that Idaly has what it takes to dominate the Dutch hip-hop landscape.
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At just 20-years-old, Jacin Trill has already garnered fans in Belgium, France, and the United States. Jacin emerged out of the blue last year with “Kspreyopjebitch,” a song that drew the attention of fellow Dutch rappers for its happy, childlike, high-pitched mumble rap sound. The “King of Happyland” has one message for the world: no more bad vibes. The title of his debut solo EP Happyland (and its follow-up project, Happyland 2.0), says it all. When life hits you hard, Jacin Trill will show you the bright side of it.
The cloud rapper’s happy sound, care-free personality, and spacey videos got him recognition not only on Dutch soil but also internationally after a video of his song “Rozeswoesh” circulated around online platforms like WorldstarHipHop. His reputation as an example of “Dutch mumble rap” sparked the interest of American rapper Ugly God, which led to their joint single “Lettetznow,” solidifying Jacin’s presence in the American rap scene.
Born in Naarden to an Egyptian father and Dutch mother, Josylvio is a force to be reckoned with. The 26-year-old rhymer gained notable attention upon the release of his 2015 single “Le7nesh” and its follow-up, his debut album Ma3seb, in the same year. The full-length was huge, earning him a nomination for the prestigious Edison award. He released his second album Twee Gezichten in 2017, with the project’s lead single “Westside” now certified platinum. Both records were produced by veteran producer Esko, whose ominous melodic flourishes complement the booming drums and provide a perfect backdrop for the MC to deliver his raw bars.
Citing West Coast rappers like Tupac as key influences, Josylvio’s sound marks a return to a gritty, street-rap style paired with hard-hitting flows as he highlights Holland’s take on women, drugs, and the police. After founding his own label, Hella Cash, at the top of this year, Josylvio released its first album under the same name, which features the likes of Sevn Alias, Kevin, and Yade Lauren.
Latifah WITH all the diva things.😤😘
Latifah, aka the go-to “Princess” of contemporary Dutch rap, first garnered attention in 2015 through her baritone delivery on a 101Barz freestyle session, which racked up millions of views. After two years of remaining relatively low-key, rapping on a few loose tracks and guest features, Latifah released her first EP, On My Way, where she explores her role in a male-dominated industry.
The self-proclaimed diva recalls the huffy, hedonistic bravura of old-school rappers added in with a heavy dosage of female empowerment. Latifah exudes confidence in any kind of beat she’s thrown into; her self-assuredness is so evident that it’s almost confused with arrogance. The rest of the world is still catching up, and Latifah’s got a lot to say.
The Life of a Teenage Rockstar Ep is Loading… 🔋⚡️ #TLOATR
Leafs, aka Leafs Sensei, was only 15-years-old when legendary producer Ramiks discovered the young talent and took him under his wing. Shortly thereafter, he signed to Dutch label Noah’s Ark as their youngest signee to date. His moniker is inspired by the Leaf Village in the fictitious world of popular anime “Naruto.”
Leafs’ debut EP, Feals, would not have given away his age has it not been for the overt enthusiasm and overdose of positive thoughts present in his music. The optimistic energy he radiates is highly contagious, appealing not only to his peers but also to fans of various ages across the country. Now the Almere-based rapper with a penchant for punchy metaphors and wise-cracking one-liners is preparing for an even bigger 2019.
Shimmy shimmy ya @yagamot0
Hailing out of Bijlmer, Ray Fuego is a hard man to define. Sonically, his music blends rap and trap, but there’s a raw spirit that runs through it all, a punk energy that makes it hard to look away. In 2014 he released his EP Bummy Boys and shocked the Internet with his highly graphic, uncensored videos. His sinister music reflects the widespread frustration among the marginalized youth, as he spits in an incomprehensible mix of English, Dutch and a whole lot of invented words.
While he expresses revolt and an anti-system attitude, that’s not where he stops – Ray shows us that his community is more than drugs, drinking, and sex. Alongside his collective, SMIB, he inspires younger generations of ‘outcasts’ to create and do what they want to; to live life how they want to live it.
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Hailing from the Southern region of the Netherlands, producer and rapper Ronnie Flex first started making beats at age 14 and hasn’t looked back since. Born to a musical family (his mother is a singer and his father is a producer), Ronnie grew up listening to a healthy balance of Dr. Dre, DJ Premier, Biggie and Motown, who he now cites as major influences. This background, as well as his time spent studying at the Pop Academy, led Ronnie to develop a wide array of musical skills, which he expresses through not only producing, rapping, and singing but also by collaborating with artists outside of his genre, namely Dutch band BLØF and French popstar Marwa Loud.
Ronnie Flex’s first major hit, “Drank & Drugs” featuring Lil Klein and Jack $hirak, triggered his ascension into stardom as he claimed his territory at the top of Dutch charts. 2017’s RÉMI is an exceptional album, from and about a young artist who has to deal with having all eyes on him. The ugly side of success is a constant theme throughout his music, as Ronnie illustrates the loneliness that success brings along, making the feeling tangible for his audience. His latest EP, Nori, testifies to his unrivaled versatility as he channels his inner Lil Pump to create an exceptional trap project. Backed by Top Notch and an ever-loyal fanbase, the 26-year-old is set to reach new heights.
The ever-versatile Sevn Alias switches effortlessly between street-inspired bangers with heavy bass and influences from U.K. grime and dancehall. The son of a Surinamese father and a Surinamese-Antillean mother, Sevn grew up in Amsterdam-West among Moroccan youth. This led to a heavy use of Arabic terminology in his music, which proved to be a unique selling point, especially during the early stages of his career.
Dutch label Rotterdam Airlines discovered the young rapper’s potential and offered him a contract, after which he began to gain mainstream attention from records like “Kifesh” and “Summer 16,” which underscore his distinctive low-toned voice and controlled flow. Since then, Sevn has continued to top the Dutch charts and also founded his own record label, 1OAK (One-of-a-kind).
His second full-length, Picasso, is best consumed in one sitting, a collage of blunted lyricism, drawled spoken word, airy beats, and moments of beauty that emerge from late night hedonism. Sevn’s ability to innovate is not only visible in his vocals, but also in the production – whether he lays bars on heavy bass, catchy afrotrap rhythms, or even 2-step instrumentals, Sevn shows no hesitation.
Geen plan B in life, is alleen maar afleiding voor m’n plan A
Hailing from the Southeast of Amsterdam, Bijlmer-based artist Yung Nnelg is notorious for his unparalleled work ethic and attention to detail. Originally from Ghana, this young rapper speaks candidly about his incessant hunger for success, constantly being on the move and Dutch identity as separate to that of the Netherlands.
Nnelg is constantly on the lookout for new sounds and ways to incorporate different elements into his music, illustrated best through his growth on Contra (meaning ‘against’) and Serena, both released in 2017. His ability to translate this out-of-the-box mindset is also apparent on his accompanying visuals, where he brings his wild imagination to life. We have our sights set on this captivating MC who is as visually-arresting as he is lyrically captivating.
You can catch Josylvio, Bokoesam, Latifah, Idaly, and Jacin Trill at Appelsap Festival, hitting Amsterdam on August 11.
For more in this series, check out 10 Filipino Rappers to Know right here.