Deams comes from the first Hip Hop generation of the Netherlands. He is a legend in Dutch Hip Hop and it was a pleasure and a great opportunity to meet up with him. Back in the days he was going to all the rap battles in the country, winning almost all of them.
After that he went on to do shows in New York. That is where he met the legendary Gang Starr crew. Not only did he get signed to their label, he also became very good friends with rapper Guru and DJ Premier and even lived with them for a while.
After the release of his debut album 'Mad Game' in 1996 it got quiet around Deams. But now he's back to change all that. In 2008 he released the single 'State Your Game' featuring Big Daddy Kane to be followed up by 'The Legacy EP' in 2009. On this 7 track EP Deams worked together with the likes of Jeru The Damaja, De La Soul, Ice T and Chuck D.
IBMCs got to talk to Deams in the youth centre in the South East of Amsterdam where he does some social work with the youth in the neighbourhood. We asked him about his history and the history of the Dutch Hip Hop scene, what keeps him busy nowadays and his plans for the future.
Could you introduce yourself?
Deams: My name as an artist is Deams and I come from the first Hip Hop generation in the Netherlands. I was one of the first to be working with Hip Hop at that time and basically I did everything: graffiti, breakdance, MCing and the latter is what I continued with afterwards. There is a lot to say but I think my biggest accomplishment is having been signed to Gang Starr Productions. I performed in New York at the New Music Seminar, which was big news here in Holland at the time, maybe more than it would be nowadays, because not many people were doing anything with Hip Hop yet. To make a long story short, I am one of the first, of the first Hip Hop generation in Holland.
How did you come in contact with Hip Hop for the first time? What were the first artists or tracks you listened to?
Deams: Wildstyle. The album, Wildstyle.
Where did you hear that?
Deams: I just found it on vinyl. There was no Hip Hop on the radio in Holland and we didn't have the internet yet. Later, in the mid 80's, there was a radio show called 'De Wilde Wereld' (The Wild World) on the VPRO radio station that played some Hip Hop tracks now and then.
How important is the history of the Hip Hop culture to you, but also to new artists?
Deams: Of course it is very important to me, but I don't know any different, because back in the days everything was there. Graffiti, MCing, DJing, beatboxing, breakdancing, it was all together. You didn't know any better. Most of the Hip Hop parties then had all the elements together. Not what they call rap nowadays… Because now it is actually only rap, it's not Hip Hop anymore.
How did you start making your own music?
Deams: I just went all over the country to the rap battles to make a name. I didn't lose any of them. Oh yeah, only one. That was against Skinny Scotty from Den Haag, that was the only one, and that was actually just because I was from Brabant and the Hip Hop was mainly coming from the big cities. So I just went to all of the battles and made sure I murdered everyone, you know, just to make a name.
And what about recording your own tracks?
Deams: We didn't do that yet in that time. I recorded my first record in '88 and at the time I wasn't even aware of the fact I was recording an actual record.
It was just about doing your thing on the stage?
Deams: Exactly, but the thing is, nowadays everybody has their mobile studio. If you have a laptop with some production software and a microphone you can do everything at home. Back in the days it was a big deal to even set foot in a real studio. That's why there is a big difference with MCs now, many of them have a lot of skills, the skills keep getting better, also because there is more examples now, but the difference is that most of them are studio rappers nowadays. You notice the difference when they are live on stage. That is a whole different story. Back in the days it was all about the live performance. The audience was a lot rougher also. You had to be good on stage or you would literally get kicked off.
That's what missing at a lot of shows nowadays, the quality control.
Deams: Yeah well, sometimes it was a bit violent, though. The quality was more raw. People knew that so they made sure they wouldn't get kicked off. So everybody was trying to be on top at the live shows, and that's the difference with many MCs today. They are good in the studio with recordings, but live not really. Back then that was the priority. Nobody had any releases, so there was no other way to make a name.
Who were your biggest examples back then?
Deams: LL, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, Rakim, KRS, Chuck D, Ice T, that generation. They were the trendsetters. Everything you hear nowadays comes from one of them. The whole gangsta rap genre is Ice T, Schoolly D and later NWA. The whole conscious rap thing comes from Chuck D and KRS One.
So how did you manage to move from the Dutch battle scene into America?
Deams: There was this foundation called Popmuziek Nederland and they sent me to a music congress in America called New Music Seminar to do a Dutch showcase. It was me, All Star Fresh and the Urban Dance Squad, of which I was a member before. That was my first time in America and that's where I met Gang Starr.
How was it to be a part of the Gang Starr family and to perform with them?
Deams: That was great. It was a legacy over there. And I was a part of it. Not that I was really boasting about it, I was already hanging out with them a lot, so I was quite used to it. And it wasn't strictly business, I was living with them and we were all friends.
How was the reaction in Holland after you got signed at Gang Starr Productions?
Deams: I don't know. Holland really has two faces. They are not so fast in giving compliments. They grant you some slack, but at the same time they don't. You can't stand out from the crowd. Act normal, that's crazy enough, that is the motto in Holland. Except when it's Carnival. Then they go crazy, or at the Soccer Championships, then all restraints come off. In the beginning this bothered me a bit, but now I'm in it for so long. I noticed this already when I was part of the Urban Dance Squad. They never got the real respect they deserved from the media and everything. While actually Rage Against The Machine wouldn't exist if it wasn't for them. But that is Holland. So I don't really know. Sometime I hear kids now, years later, like 'Yo, I bought your record back then', but back then they didn't say that. That's why I like the American mentality better. There they have the winners mentality.
In what other countries did you perform next to Holland and America? And you performed with other international artists as well?
Deams: France, Belgium, England, Spain, Yugoslavia, Swiss… that's about it. In that time I was opening for a lot of different acts, like Ice T, Boogie Down Productions, LL Cool J.
Do you listen to rap in other languages than English or Dutch?
Deams: Mainly French rap. Personally I don't really like the Dutch language. I don't understand French, but I think it sounds really dope. I like the older groups like IAM and NTM. I know MC Solaar personally, but he went more into the pop music. And Raggasonic, also very good.
I think the bigger a country, the bigger the mentality. Hip Hop was already on a higher level there. Now it's starting to grow here to, with all the labels and media attention but in France it's like that for a longer time already. There you have groups that sell like a million or two million CD's in their own country.
What do you think about international Hip Hop Projects for example New School Rules, one that you also participated in.
Deams: They are good initiatives, but more often than not it's just not exactly it. You notice they didn't do enough research. The same with this VPRO documentary on the 20 year history of Dutch Hip Hop that was on the television a while back. I was a part of that. I thought they didn't do their research well enough and that's a shame. Then I think, take the time to make it perfect, if you do a big project like this, then do it right, you know. But it's a good initiative and there is something happening anyway.
Our project, IBMCs, is about uniting the international Hip Hop community and researching and promoting the music from all over the world. Can you tell us something about your plans on working with international artists or projects? You're working on an album now?
Deams: Yes, the album is coming out in two parts. It's actually two EP's, maybe a bit longer. An EP is standardly about 7 or 8 tracks, but it will probably be a bit more. I'm working on it right now. It's gonna be with the same artists that are on the Legacy EP, but different productions. Maybe there is gonna be another act too, but I'm careful with naming anyone until the deal is final. It would be very dope to do something with LL, Rakim or Kool G Rap, but also some new guys maybe.
How did you get to work with all of them?
Deams: We just stayed in contact through the years. I have always been careful with asking for favours. I know Ice T already since I'm seventeen. We just stayed in contact. I've been to all these guys, their houses, so it was real personal contact. So in the end it was just a matter of a phone call and an email.
Are you going to release The Legacy EP on vinyl too?
Deams: The EP is only available online. Just the single 'State Your Game' and the 'Boombap Experience', with remixes, is released on vinyl. That's a kind of collectors item. It's the plan to release the next material on CD too, because I noticed there is a big demand for it. If it's up to me I will release everything on vinyl again.
So it's gonna be an album, divided into two EP's?
Deams: Yes, that's an idea I have only since two weeks. On the EP people didn't really get to know me, except on the track with Chuck D, when you do a track with him you don't have another choice. But the rest was actually just braggin and boasting, MCing. Now there will be some more songs on which you will get to know me and my vision on the world and spirituality.
So the idea is to divide it, one EP purely about life, but not too heavy of course, and then the other one with the hardcore Hip Hop shit. On the first one I will also put some songs with radio potential. That wasn't my idea with the Legacy EP. I didn't make anything with the idea to put it on the radio, I just wanted raw shit. And that's how I want the other version of the two EP's to be also, again with collabos with all those artists from the Legacy EP. As raw as possible.
Back in the days it was all about the shows, but now it's so easy to download your music, how do you make sure people still buy your CD?
Deams: By delivering quality. That the first thing. The world actually didn't change that much since the beginning of humanity. It's still all just tribes. Many people like the feeling of belonging to a certain tribe. That's what you need to create with your music. That's why with the next material I will put out a comic book. It was actually already planned for the Legacy EP.
What do you think of the consciousness in rap nowadays, the subjects people talk about?
Deams: I think the ones that have a spiritual or social consciousness in their songs don't get enough attention. It's not interesting for the radio. Then you also have the guys that believe in all the conspiracies, that blame the Illuminati. Whatever you like, but I don't know if you should take it that far, it's just not interesting for the radio. They don't see it as their task to educate people. It's a pity though. Before there was more balance in this, you would hear Ice T and Big Daddy Kane and right after that they would play some Public Enemy or KRS or Lakim Shabazz. There was more balance than nowadays. It became more about the club music now.
You do see artists like Immortal Technique getting a lot of support on the internet.
Deams: That's the good thing about the internet. But you won't hear his music on the radio or TV. But people watch more music videos on the internet than on the TV nowadays anyway, but that is the people that look specifically. On the radio and television you only get to know the music that they play, so there always remain these certain circles in which you are known. If you want to reach more people you are gonna need the traditional media. But if you come out with things like Talib Kweli and Mos Def, or Immortal Technique and NYOIL, you're not gonna hear it on the radio.
Do you collect any music on vinyl?
Deams: Not anymore. Before I used to buy everything. In those time there was only vinyl, so I talk about a long time ago. I almost sound like a dinosaur, but I was there when the first CD came out. Everything was vinyl before, and that was cool. Big sleeves, lots of information. That's kind of passed nowadays.
How do you see vinyl now?
Deams: It's starting to come up again. In England you have pop bands that sell more vinyl than CD's now. There are also the digital record players now. And yeah, the vinyl is like a collectors item now, plus you have the artwork.
CD's are easier and handy and you have all the DJ's working with Serato now. I can understand they don't want to carry all those crates around anymore. But it's still a nice thing to collect so that's why you need to make sure you have the dope artwork on the cover, so that the people even want to buy it if they don't have a record player at home. I don't think it will ever disappear completely, but it will never be the same as before because then it was the only thing there was.
Same for the mixtapes. They didn't call it mixtapes for nothing, it was all on cassette. Do you still have a walkman? People nowadays don't even have a discman anymore. We can go on the street all day and not find anyone with a discman or walkman. It will never disappear completely, you will always have collectors that love the old stuff. Like if you check out the record stores here, they are still busy.
What is your opinion about the effect of the downloading culture now on the music industry?
Deams: I don't have a problem with it. Music is much more available for everybody now. For the big record companies it's fucked up, but they should have played into it much earlier, by lowering the price of the CD's for instance. Off course, if a CD costs 25 euro's and you can get it for free with a few mouse clicks, what are you gonna do? So it's up to the artists to connect with the fans, so that they will support them. It's not true that people won't buy any albums anymore.
And the internet is also very positive for many artists to come out. Back in the days, if you didn't have a distribution deal that was the end. Then your albums would just be available in a few stores, if any. No you have digital distribution companies. You can record something and two or three weeks later it's available all over the world via iTunes, Amazon, Rapsody, E-Music, etc.
It has also been studied that most people that download “illegally”, to call it that, that they are the ones who buy the most.
What are your favourite upcoming artists in Holland at the moment?
Deams: With international potential? A lot. Probz is good. CANE also. And then you have the guys from Gut Music, Mirage, Ollie. Nation of Elzhi I like. For the rest I don't really know so many English rapping MCs anymore. There is not so many anymore but in Dutch there are a lot.
Do you have message you want to share with the people?
Deams: Just enjoy Hip Hop in your own way. You know, the essence of Hip Hop is in yourself, so it's not about the way you talk, what slang you use, what clothes you wear, it's all mental. I do think, if you really love Hip Hop, check out the roots. We live in the information age now, so it's really easy to find. Then form your own opinion about how to carry out the Hip Hop into the world. You don't have to be a Hip Hop artist for that, you can be a writer or a painter, as long as you keep with the essence.
By: Krecy and Delta9 | IBMCs on Facebook