First published on the Find magazine, but offline right now. They will be back!
You guys have been around the Dutch hip hop scene for decades. Where did it all start?
S: A friend of mine introduced me to hiphop in 85. He brought some hiphop (tapes) to a soccer summer camp. The Fatboys, UTFO, Run DMC, Electros and such . He was a human beatboxer and one day he invited me to go with him to a radioshow that did an interview with some local rappers & beatboxers. That really started it off. I was already into graffiti, but now started to practice my beatbox skills. I hooked up with Rox, who was a rapper in a crew called The Beatfreaks. We used to bumrush drive-in shows and perform at discos. One or two mics, me doing some beatboxing and him rapping. Later I joined the Beatfreaks. First as a beatboxer during battles, but soon after that I started making beats on drummachines, making pause tapes and adding scratches to that. That’s where it all started for me: (radio)shows, battles, learning how to program beats, recording demos. In the 90s, I was part of L-West Productions, Wrecking Crew, AOK, More Serious & Sources Of Specialment.
N: The first albums by Souls of Mischief, Saafir, Casual, Del, the Pharcyde & Freestyle Fellowship really kicked things off for me. Before that I listened to hiphop but was more focused on skateboarding. I was introduced to hiphop in 89 by my old skate homie Ricky D. We used to listen to all the old tapes in his red Suzuki van, while driving to the skatespots and all that. Back then I wasn’t really into that Gangsta rap era, so the more alternative energy & originality, toying with syllables, and laid back vibe of the Hieros and the Pharcyde were really appealing to me. I always used to borrow instrumental vinyl from the local library, to practice and evolve my freestyle skills. My first group back in 93 was called BCP. That’s when I met my beatcreator DJ Smooth Cee. We made the first real songs together and founded Sunstreet Ingredients Productions. Which was a collective of mc’s creating dope music. We released lot’s of homemade tapes. I mean these tapes have become rarities!. I’m still looking for my own solo tape! Haha. Later on Ricky D introduced me to 4LG, who was in the group More Serious with Syah. That’s how I met Syah and he invited us to record at his studio. After More Serious decided to split up 4LG joined BCP and later on we became the group called N&Blatta.
S: I was pretty broke at that time. Living a thrifty life as a student, but fortunately one of the guys from my crew (Romeo) was a big spender when it came to hardware like samplers and mixers. I was allowed to use it at my place, so I was constantly focused on producing and mixing. I loved to invite guys over who were doing dope stuff, to pass on the opportunity to use the gear. That’s in a nutshell how N and I initially hooked up.
N: Me and my friends just didn’t have the facilities to really record and mix our music. Heck, I even used to freestyle in the headphones from my dad, plugged in the mic entry of his stereo installation at home… So for me it was really impressive to see all the production gear at Syah’s place. I was really inspired by him as one-half of Sources Of Specialment, my favourite hip hop crew from the lowlands at that time. Recording at their place? That was like being a kid in a candy store to me.
Can you tell us more about Sources Of Specialment?
S: That was me on production together with emcee Psychic Summit. The rhymes on our first album are for 90-95 percent freestyle recordings. Psychic was insane with imagery, metaphors, and experimental flows for that time being.
N: He’s without a doubt one of the best freestyle mc’s from the Netherlands – ever. Sources [Of Specialment] got the ultimate hip hop vibe: it expressed a certain sense of freedom. A casual and confident kind of feel, also when it comes to the productions. Psychic has always been a super friendly, enigmatic, elusive person; kind of disappeared from the scene in the late 90s. In fact I hooked up with him a few weeks ago. He’s doing good, proud father of 3 children and he still freestyles.
S: Every ones in a while, we discover a few tracks by Psychic in the outskirts of the internet, deeply underground… Maybe that’s the charm: the myth around him.
Coming from the Far East of the Netherlands, far from the rise of hip hop in cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Eindhoven, how was that like?
S: I’ve always had issues with the attitude of some people: “those ‘farmer guys’ live far away from Western inner cities, so they don’t know shit about hip hop.” That was a common prejudice. It was a big motivation and incentive to show everyone we did know what’s up.
There was a movement going on with crews from the North and East like Zombi Squad, Two Out Of Millions, Sources Of Specialment, L-West Productions and compilations like Exiles From The Neverlands, Blockbuster & North East Connections.
An East Coast versus West Coast beef in the Netherlands?
N: There wasn’t any disrespect from our side, but everyone felt like they had to prove themselves towards the masses from the West. An urge to fight the prejudices. We’ve always had a huge amount of respect and love for hip hop from any city. It was more like an ‘underdogs from the North-East’ type of thing.
Fast-forward to the present: InDepth. What differences do you both bring to the table that form the roots of InDepth’s sound?
N: I’m really influenced by raw music. I remember going to Monsters of Rock concerts back in the days, so old heavy metal is a big source of inspiration.
Next to that I can really go ape shit on krautrock, progrock, 70s soundtracks from Italy, ballads from the 80s, the analog synth stuff… I absolutely love filthy drums, and the darker melodic atmopheres.
S: At first I didn’t know that side of you. It really surprised me that time when after a few beers you went nuts on Whitesnake’s “Slide It In.” That isn’t my thing at all. I’m more into jazz, digging for atmospheric, sometimes sweet samples. Some funk too, but I’m not a big fan of the [distorted] electric guitar.
Jazz meets raw metal influences… Isn’t that a match made in hell?
N: It’s not really my thing when Syah crafts clean, polished beats. Then I miss that raw, edgy sample. But Syah can also create the dusty psychedelic moodier layered organic groove stuff. That’s where we find a balance to create a typical, progressive InDepth sound.
Innovation is a recurring theme in your music. What’s exactly progressive and innovative about InDepth’s work?
S: That we’ve reached a point of no return where we’re so ‘in depth,’ that we don’t even know what in the hell we’re doing anymore. [laughter] All jokes aside, I think our music is progressive because we never think or reflect about who should or could be our listener. We don’t have a target audience. There’s no such thing as “The stereotype InDepth Fan.”
N:We will always experiment and to be honest that’s what hiphop supposed to be. One big experiment.
Try to reinvent yourself on every song and don’t let your voice, flows and sound become your trademark. I mean to us this is mind music and takes place in us. We never made music for the people because you can’t. My biggest fans and critics are my wife, my kids, my friends.
Hiphop is in our hearts, right where it belongs. Huge with endless ideas and possibilities, but we keep it small.
S: We do try to get our music out there, promoting it on the internet, but that’s really not the fun part. Way back in the early 90s I thought the internet would change the world for the better. No more record labels telling you what to do, but being in control yourself. That turned out to be far from todays reality. I mean when you’re an underground artist.
N: Some call it the real world… “The internet”, which made everything more difficult and cheapened everything as well. What it means to be a musician has been changed a lot. People stopped buying music and anyone with a laptop can make a song. Even when the song is not done it’s on the social media for free download and the “artists” start spamming the shit out of it. Rappers and hiphop are Instagram accounts, views, likes and hits nowadays. The internet did not make music more democratic. Blogs only wanna post what will drive traffic, what drives traffic is accessible.
Which means twitter shitty updates about nothing. I mean it’s a dayjob, even we wanted to keep up within some sort of scene we would go nuts. We don’t have that time.
S: Nah, we’d rather focus on being in the studio and making music. Creating……..
Evolving, figuring out new gear and instruments, learning new tricks, basically a journey without a target or goal. Me personally, I want to do… beats. But I don’t want them to become, just beats. Raps are essential, content also. Scratches only if it adds to the song.
Most of the InDepth stuff are little puzzles. During the get togethers in the weekends, we make sketches. It’s all about the vibe of that moment. N starts writing while I continue on the beat. We record new rhymes, figuring out new flows, techniques, finding certain melodies. We never liked the verse/ chorus verse/ chorus 16 bars stuff.
To us a song needs more. That’s why I often work for days on the song after all vocals are recorded. Often that’s when the real song structure gets created. it really doesn’t matter where we record or do the mixdowns. We both own dope studios.
N: As far as lyrics content and meaning. It’s the truth wrapped up in how I feel. Which can be dead serious, weird, funny, abstract, offending, but always fucking real! By all means we’re aware that overall our music is no easy listening. We want you to think and have no thoughts. Only Feel! To most that’s to much to ask and walk away. Which is cool, we did not invent the Robot and this explains our small but definitely caring fanbase. I remember performing on a small stage on a Queensday celebration. In the middle of the set I decided to spit some spoken word. Social criticism, a straight-forward delivery; really heavy shit. After our set a couple of 60-somethings approached me to ask if I could please never do that ever again – way too heavy for the sunny, celebratory occasion.
On quite some of your projects there are guest appearances by Living Legends and affiliates. What is your relationship with them?
S: Around 1995 we got in touch with guys from the Living Legends crew. Mystik Journeymen, Murs, The Grouch, Bizarro… did several shows in the Netherlands and sometimes they spend time in our studios. The first InDepth album was a collaboration with Moonrocks (Bizarro & Nebulus). Several hip hop blogs and magazines dubbed us “protégées of Living Legends,” and N’s delivery and flow used to be described as a mixture between Ghostface Killah and Dose One, so those comparisons had really helped us to gain more fans on American soil. Even though we were more experimental than the Legends, we did share the same passion for indie DIY-culture and musical progression.
Our second album got released through Access Hip Hop in 2003, Mark Onstad, the owner was also responsible for the Living Legends website. I think he started one of the first online independent hiphop stores, back when access to the worldwide web was still by dial-up services.
N: That time period was awesome for us.
There was a really inspiring DIY-scene emerging with european artists like Caveman Speak (BE), Stacs Of Stamina (SWE), and US collectives and groups like Anticon, Shapeshifters, Project blowed, Bored stiff, the Cuf, Low pressure etc.
Getting in touch with Living Legends through shows in Europe and mutual friends really helped us to be part of that movement. We’re really inspired by their independent state of mind: Control your own destiny, nobody is going to do it for you.
S: When I first met the Legends, I didn’t even have a proper microphone. But I used to bring my video camera with me to shows. It had a pretty good compressor and line-out, so I could record acapella raps on the spot. I’ve used those (in my sampler) on several projects. The first Sources Of Specialment album got three Living Legends features.
N: That’s where our focus abroad sprouted from. Before we released our second album on Accesshiphop we had already dropped a split vinyl EP with Debbie from Tuscon Arizona. Which we sold through Hip Hop Infinity. Which was the online spot next to Sandbox, BTS and ATAK for underground DIY hiphop back then. On our fourth release “Red sprites and blue jets” we hooked up with the Ecsape Artist from LA. I Love their music, I mean all their stuff is must have in your collection! This album features L*Roneous, Ellay Khule, Awol one, Gel Roc, The All Deadly Jizzm & 2mex. And oh I forgot La2thebay!. I have to mention Deeskee and LA2thebay.com. They were a big influence. Deeskee did so many great stuff. I mean bringing artists together and distributing their music. Looking back, it’s kinda ironic that on an independent level we’ve accomplished more abroad than in our own country.
S: We’re evolving on our own terms and make music for the long run. Still just few people know us in the Netherlands. There’s to much music people get caught up in it and we get lost in the shuffle. Haha we consider ourselves the slept on influence of your favorite now skool artists. We’re aging but always try to make some music that’s timeless. So It’s never too late.
What are the futureplans?
S: Doing what we do best, make music and have fun. We dropped our last album “Higher value”, when hiphop becomes more restricted about a year ago. But that could have been released today!. You can find it on Itunes or get it on vinyl.
N: We started a new group called “Shut eye horizon” together with Mr. Moodswing. (from MutiaraTEC) We released our album on vinyl a few weeks ago. Me and Moodswing first met at work. We talked about music and slowly recorded our first songs. He’s from a different era and almost 12 years younger then us. But fuck yeah he’s on some next level type of stuff, and musically this dude can think out of the box.
S: Kinda reminds me of the N&Blatta days we’re they be writing some new material and I’d be like “oh shit, are they really going there,” (laughs). It’s still rough experimentation, but we think it’s more accessible to a different audience.
N: Syah’s working on some electro stuff. I’m working on solo stuff, and recording lots of feature material for other people’s music lately. (Sorry for slacking guys)
I would love to finish an album with beats from myself and XCzircles, which in in the vaults for way to long. We’re working on a new InDepth EP…
S: We recorded a few songs already and we try to sort of freestyle everything and attempt to alter, extend, or break down every convention of what we did already. More improvisation and “in the moment” stuff.
N: We’re thinking about releasing it on cassette again. Cassettes are back in vogue and nostalgic as I am that should be encouraged. That’s why we founded limiteditemlovers.com in 2005. An underground Hiphop label & store with love for rare, homemade, limited edition, out of print, vinyl, goodies, tapes, apparel and extremely dope hiphop music.