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5 Years of rhymes and gunfingers – an interview with MC Mota.

5 Years of rhymes and gunfingers – an interview with MC Mota.

Not many MCs in Belgium can say they have been nominated in the ‘Best MC’ and ‘Best Track’ category on the Drum&BassArena Awards or hosted a sold-out Sportpaleis 4 years in a row – but Koen Meuris aka MC Mota can. The young Limburger has a natural talent for the art of MC-ing, which extends to far more than just hyping a crowd or spitting some bars over the music. In order to celebrate a half decade of spitting bars and fire, Mota is throwing a wild party at Club Vaag on Saturday. We had a little chat with the man to see how crazy the ride has been so far. 

5 Years of MC Mota already! What has been your most memorable gig so far?

Oof, that’s a tough one! I’ve had the privilege to experience so many highlights over the course of these past 5 years, so it’s hard to pick just one! Playing at Tomorrowland or Rampage at Sportpaleis is always something really special. It gets better every time! Performing at Sziget Festival with Maduk and closing down Rock Werchter in ‘The Hive’ with James Marvel last summer were also 2 big winners. Sharing the Laundry Day 2013 mainstage with Murdock and Jenna G in front of 40,000 people was an out-of-this-world experience. Another really special one actually goes all the way back to late 2011 during my first year as a ‘master of ceremonies’ (which is what an ‘MC’ stands for, red). I hosted Meddik (now one half of M&T) at a ram-packed Muziekodroom in Hasselt for ‘Nacht van de Jeugd’. Since it was the very first time I played for such a big, crazy crowd, this will forever be one of the most memorable gigs of my career.

But, if I have to pick an absolute number one, I’m going to have to go with playing alongside personal hero Dub FX at Ancienne Belgique last year. A couple of days before his show at AB, he sent me a message to invite me to join him and his band on stage for a little back2back freestyle intermezzo. My little guest performance only lasted about 10 minutes, but it meant the world to me! Vibes were on point and the crowd went crazy. Dub FX has been one of my biggest inspirations since the very start, so it’s safe to say I was incredibly honoured and humbled to perform with him. It was an emotional experience, something to never ever forget. 

You have received a lot of recognition from the international scene, which is no easy task given you’re not a native English speaker…

Saying that I’ve received “a lot” of international recognition might be overstating it a bit… However, I am satisfied with the amount of exposure I’ve received so far. I really feel I’m only just starting to expand my international fan base. Releasing tunes that reach a certain level of international popularity are a very good tool to do that. Ever since my track ‘Way of the Warrior’ with James Marvel reached the number one spot in the Beatport drum and bass top 100, the international scene has been paying attention to me a lot more. Being a resident for events like Rampage and Liquicity, both internationally renowned concepts, also helped to get me nominated for a Drum&BassArena Award in The UK. I even reached the top 5, which in turn facilitated a larger international following.

There’s still a long way to go, though – but it’s always really cool when you’re playing abroad and an enthusiastic fan approaches you and asks you for a picture or an autograph! The English language itself luckily never really has been an obstacle for me. I’ve always been absolutely terrible at math, but quite good at languages. The fact that I’m graduated as an English teacher definitely helps! I just find it easier to lyrically express myself in English. Rapping in Dutch, more particular in my Limburg dialect, is a bit of a struggle for me. I feel it would be easier to flow in a more fluent dialect like they have in Antwerp or Western Flanders, but I’m not sure… I’d really love to be proven wrong by a true lyricist from Limburg! Maybe that person could give me some pointers to help enhance my dreadful Dutch rapping skills! Accents, in any language for that matter, have always fascinated me. To me it’s the ultimate, intangible cultural heritage. Therefore, I consider it a great compliment when people from The UK ask me: “whereabouts in England are you from, mate”?

Who are the MCs you look up to for inspiration?

As I mentioned before, Dub FX has always been one of my biggest inspirations as an MC. His vocal versatility and the fact that he’s able to use his voice as actual multiple instruments still leaves me in awe every time I see him perform. It inspired me a great deal to try to become a different kind of MC. One who doesn’t just settle for rapping and hyping the crowd, but also adds something extra to the table.

Another personal hero is MC DRS. A deep, soulful voice, always able to deliver strong lyrical content, accompanied by some occasional singing. I will consider myself a very lucky man if I even come close to his level of writing someday!

And last but not least, SP:MC! A man with a crystal clear voice and an impeccable flow. Able to get any crowd going, while delivering high quality lyrical work without ever overdoing it. It’s incredibly inspiring to see him do his thing and it always motivates me to try and take my own act to the next level.   

Well, those are all international artists. In Belgium, it seems that MCs are thinning out more and more. What’s your stance on the current situation here?

I’m not sure if I agree. If anything, I feel there are more MCs right now than ever before. Ten years ago it just wasn’t a very common thing to have an MC on a DJ set in our country, so there never really have been many Belgian MCs to begin with. Today, drum and bass has gained a lot in popularity and the concept of MC-ing has grown with it, but out here they’re still quite scarce. That said, there’s an abundance of DJs, though! The reason for that is that everybody can become a DJ if you have the right equipment, but not everyone can become an MC. You can buy a mic, but you can’t buy the sounds you produce directly with your voice. Not everybody masters their vocal chords or the English language (which is still mostly used in drum and bass) well enough to be able to lyrically express themselves in such a way that is convincing enough to get an entire crowd moving. Since you’re constantly in direct contact with a large amount of people to build a metaphorical bridge between them and the DJ, it takes huge amounts of energy and quite a bit of charisma. In short, it’s not for everyone. Given there is still no abundance of MCs in places like the UK, it makes me very happy to see that more and more Belgian kids prefer to go down the vocal road instead of aspiring to be a DJ like everybody else. 

What do you hope to achieve within the next 5 years?

I’ve had the privilege to do some amazing things up until now, but I’m also very aware that I still have a lot to learn and that I’m not even close to the level I want to be on. This is however quite normal since this should always stay a continuous creative development process. I certainly never dared to dream that I would get so many awesome opportunities in such a relatively short time span - and for that I am eternally grateful!

One of the goals I really set out to achieve this past year was having a big release on a major drum and bass label. Today I’m very excited to say that this dream will become a reality in the next month or so! On top of that, I will play Let it Roll for the first time: the world’s biggest and craziest drum and bass festival (located on an abandoned airfield near Prague). I’d also love to record my own album somewhere within the next 5 years. It would be awesome to drop a couple of hip hop tracks on there as well.

Another ambition of mine is to join a fun gang of artists or a party concept on an international tour and travel several countries in a row for a longer period of time. Australia and New Zealand are very high on my wishlist because they have a big drum and bass scene I still need to discover - and let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to go there?

The ultimate goal, however, is to work together with a bunch of top notch musicians and producers and start a live project where I can not only express myself myself as an MC, but also as a singer and potentially play the trumpet or the guitar a bit every now and then. The kind of stuff I used to do a lot more in the past, but haven’t really got time for anymore these days. I want it to become something versatile and dynamic, just like the music we’d bring. Therefore, our program wouldn’t be limited to just drum and bass... I doubt that’s something I can achieve within the next 5 years. But then again, if you would’ve told me 6 years ago I’d be playing numerous major events throughout the country and abroad, in front of tens of thousands of people, alongside some of the biggest names in the game, I would’ve never believed you and called you crazy! So, ‘never say never’ I guess, we’ll see. In the meantime, I’m just going to stay grateful for the opportunities I’ve received and keep working hard to keep doing what I love doing so much.  

What can we expect of your celebration party at Club Vaag?

Top notch DJs, providing top notch vibes on a top notch Funktion-One soundsystem! All of this accompanied by an insane lightshow at one of Antwerp’s finest clubs! You can also expect some brand new Mota music to be dropped in the process! I’m so ready for this!

MC Mota celebrates 5 years in the game on Saturday, February 25, at Club Vaag in Antwerp. All information can be found here. For tickets: here please.

*Header by Phillippe Wuyts. Picture by Vlad Solovov