Why Traditional Hip Hop Still Runs Deep In Amsterdam

By Sumit Rehal

Spread The Word

This Winter, the Highlight Nation team took a trip to Amsterdam, Netherlands to explore the local sites, museums and of course the famous…natural greenery!

What took us by surprise was the soundtrack of our trip. Whether it’s LA or Berlin, when travelling in an Uber or raving it up in a local club, we’ve been hearing the same old shit on the radio over the last year in the form of Drake’s Hotline Bling or Drake’s One Dance or Drake’s Controlla. (Can’t remember when I’ve heard another hip hop artist apart from Drake on the radio).

Yet for the first time ever in a store, we heard The Pharcyde’s Passin’ Me By riding the waves in the background on our first day of our trip. Later on, the nasal of Q Tip emerged from speakers while one of us grinded our special purchases in the coffee shop. Even our Uber driver was cruising alongside the canals to Too Short’s The Ghetto. A trend of hearing old school hip hop started to emerge but it wasn’t just the old school that to colonise the sound waves.

Amsterdam’s love for hip hop was validated when we heard Kendrick Lamar’s B side, Cartoon and Cereal blaring on the other side of a bar door. CafĂ© De Duivel was the name of the bar and it was a hip hop only bar – 7 days a week! Bubbling under anthems such as Isaiah Rashad’s Shut You Down and Joey Bada$$ 95 Till Infinity provided ambience before the main DJ dug up the crates for the classics.

Ghostface Killah, Mobb Deep, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Redman, Gang Starr and Common are just some names that banged, who you would never hear on the dance floor in a central London bar. The bar was packed yet the atmosphere was chilled and tension free. People loved to talk about music and culture, which was refreshing as that sort of discussion isn’t a key topic during a night out on the town in the UK.

So why is the art form of hip hop music more valued in this European capital than it is in their sister cities worldwide? One mitigating factor could be the fact that Amsterdam is an art hub itself. Natives and tourists alike take pilgrimage to the centre of the city to see Vincent Van Gogh’s masterpieces.

This appreciation for art in general runs deep throughout the veins of Amsterdam, causing fans to appreciate music as an art rather than a past time. Veterans from the 90s and cult heroes in the present day are more prominent in general in Amsterdam because their style is more true to hip hop’s core form than the commercial style of the chart hits.

Another factor that is unique to Amsterdam is legalisation of cannabis. Weed consumers are not outcasted in Amsterdam while they are excommunicated in other societies. The positive weed culture is abundant in coffee shops where people socialise casually over a joint. A natural, fitting soundtrack to winding down with a fat one is of course mid tempo hip hop music.

There isn’t really a social environment where casual hip hop music fits in most other cities. The hip hop music that is usually played involves party anthems within clubs or love songs on the radio. The relaxed setting of the coffee shop is a match made in heaven.

London could really benefit from a hip hop social movement in an age of sensitive politics and social conflicts. Hip hop has no boundaries and has proven to bring groups of all levels together.

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