Some have already obtained small successes, spending years in the shadows, waiting for the right moment to shine and others have barely left their bedroom studios. Some aim for headlining festival stages, others aim for nothing in particular – but all of them have developed a sound with the potential to turn heads. With this feature, we shine a light on some of the most exciting new musical talents our tiny country has to offer.
The Brussels-based Eddy Ape
isn't your typical rapper. He's a little bit of everything. “I’m a
Belgo-Congolese jazzman. There aren’t many like me around here”. Together with
his partner in crime Ekany, the rapper dropped a head-turning collaborative EP
last year, but in 2020 it’s all about pushing his solo career forward. With his
new release APEWORLD out this week, Eddy Ape is a breeze of fresh air in a hip
hop scene that can take itself too seriously sometimes. Time to meet him in
person, before he blows up.
What differentiates you from others?
“I don’t like to compare myself to others, but if I have to, I would say I’m not just a rapper; I’m a singer too. I never had this ‘traditional rapper background’. Since I was a kid, I listened to soul and jazz because my parents were into that. If there is anything that sets me apart, it’s that I always take influences from those styles with me in the hip hop I make”.
When did you realise you wanted to take rapping to the next level?
“I started making music because of my best friend’s cousin, Ulo, who I was a big fan of. He had a crew around him, he posted cool videos, he sold-out shows, etc. This left a big impression on me, and I was analysing his every move. Slowly, I realised I could take my chances too, the only difference being that I throw a little singing in there".
How did it go from there?
“Maybe this is the moment to talk about my trophy wall. Everything I achieve, however small it is, I’ll get something that remembers me of that moment, like festival bracelets, tickets, etc. This is to say that every gig, every shoot and every video is important to me. All those small steps make a big leap forward together. Last year, things finally came together. I dropped my first real EP together with my DJ and friend Ekany; we hosted a big night at VK in Brussels, and ISHA asked me to be his opening act for his tour after La Vie Augmente 2”.
I want to touch people with music. I don't care if those people are from a particular niche or if they are a mainstream TV audience.
And what about your collaboration with Salvatore Adamo (a legendary chansonnier, ed.)? Tell us how that unlikely partnership came to be.
“Of course! For last year’s April Fools’ day, Adamo wanted to announce that he was starting a rap label. By a chance of faith, his management got in touch with me. Next thing I know, I’m meeting the legend in the flesh, actually hitting it off incredibly well. We ended up making a new rap version of his classic hit ‘Les Filles du Bord de Mer’. What started as a joke, developed into something serious. Eventually, we were invited to perform this collaboration live on The Voice Belgique, which was the first time I was able to reach so many different people. I know that’s not very street of me, but like I already said, I’m not that typical rapper. I want to touch people with music, and I don't care if those people are from a particular niche or a mainstream TV audience. Adamo gave me that opportunity, and he gave so much useful advice. I can’t stress enough how grateful I am for that”.
The larger hip hop scene in Brussels looks stronger than ever. How much do you feel like a part of that?
Brussels still feels like a village sometimes. Once you’re into the same music, you see the same people on all the events. It's no abundance of different venues, like in Paris, for example. This facilitates the connection between all the local artists, making the scene move forward together, as opposed to a bigger city where everyone needs to fend for themselves. It's nice to see people are finally giving a chance to Belgian hip hop now”.
It’s still quite rare to see collaborations between Dutch-speaking and French-speaking artists, but you have also been working with Flemish rappers like K1D and Glints. Have you learned anything new from them?
I met K1D at an after-party one weekend. The day
after, I was invited to his studio already. Sometimes it feels like Flemish
artist work with a greater sense of urgency: you meet on Monday, you're in the
studio on Tuesday, the track is mastered by Saturday, and you're sharing the
stage the next weekend. Last summer, I was having a drink in Antwerp with my
friend Faisal, who introduced me to
his friend Glints. Just a couple of weeks later, I was invited as a guest on
his shows at Pukkelpop and Fire Is Gold. That kind of drive was an
eye-opener to me."
If you stay true to what you stand for, your message will always resonate with someone.
What does a rapper need to bring his career to a higher level?
“You need to stay authentic. Never try to be something you’re not. From small projects to big ones, if you stay true to what you stand for, your message will always resonate with someone. People will always sniff out a poser”.
Is that the advice you would give to your younger self?
I would tell the young Eddy Ape to stay focused and stop the bullshit. It took some time for me to realise becoming a rapper isn't as straightforward as it seems. Let's say I was easily distracted. I'm making up for that now (laughs). I would also tell him not to let anyone get between you and your goals. The first step towards getting anywhere in this game is by believing in yourself".
Your new EP, APEWORLD, has just dropped. Which version of Eddy Ape can we hear on that one?
“This release is the first proper solo project I’ve ever done. There are so many ideas in my head, and APEWORLD finally allows me to show all my different sides in a single project. There is some trap, some classic hip hop, some slow tempo stuff. I didn’t follow one certain direction; it’s about showing everyone who I am. At the same time, we’re working on doing as many shows as possible, so that I can stay connected to the people who listen. The biggest one being the Botanique headline show on Thursday March 19, where I’ll perform with my full band. Hope to see you there”!