Some have already obtained some small successes, spending years in the shadows, waiting for the right moment 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 a lot of heads. With this feature we shine a light on some of the most interesting new talents that our tiny country has to offer.
Those of you with a keen eye for the Brussels’ rap scene surely know that young kid with the visor and the low voice who’s been putting out all that fire lately. For everybody else, meet Stéphane-Antoine Eklou aka Lord Gasmique. The 20-year-old rapper has an unmistaken talent for spitting the heaviest of bars, yet his flow is always layered and well put together. After being hailed by some large fish in the pond like Roméo Elvis as one of Belgium’s most promising hip hop talents, it’s clear his future lays in the recording studios and the festival stages. Before the end of the week, Lord Gasmique’s debut EP, ‘Mieux’, hits the digital shelves and on April 11, he will present all that new new on his solo headline show at Ancienne Belgique. Not too bad for a rookie, right? Time for an interview before this talent will be out of reach.
Hi my Lord. In an earlier interview we have read that Lord Gasmique is your alter ego, the character you take on when you come on stage. What’s the difference between Lord Gasmique and Stéphane-Antoine Eklou?
Stéphane is perhaps a little calm and reserved, while Lord Gasmique can be loud and clear. I keep both separated because this is a way to escape my own reality. It’s a way of expressing things I couldn’t say myself. I’m keeping a lot of things deep inside my mind – and it’s up to my other half to spew these out.
What was the first moment when you realized: “I can do this music thing, I can go for a rap career”?
I first got into rap around 4 years ago because of my homeboy Deuf. He was rapping with the guys from the neighbourhood (Forest-Uccle represent). I was interested, but I wasn’t listening to real hip hop at the time. He showed me all the good stuff that was coming out: La Smala, JeanJass & Caballero, Roméo Elvis, Lomepal, etc. It was a revelation for me. The thing that really hooked me were the possibilities to play with language. I had always been obsessed with the French language, writing texts and reading a lot, so creating my own rhymes and lyrics made sense. One day I showed him the very first verse I had been working on and he was like “wow, this is too hot, there is potential in here”. Coming from the guy that got my into rap, this really meant a lot to me. From there, I just continued writing a lot of tracks, et voila.
Which subjects do you like to rap about?
I rap about life. There’s really no other subject I can rap about, otherwise it wouldn’t be genuine, right? Life, death, love, hate, war, peace, etc. As long as it’s an observation from my perspective, anything’s possible.
Which track are you most proud of so far?
Well, there have been a lot that I’m proud of that haven’t come out yet. But when we’re talking music of mine that’s out already, I would say ‘Sans Limites’, which was on the soundtrack album of the movie ‘Tueurs’. As I’ve just said, I usually get my inspiration from the life around me, but now I had to start with the movie in mind, which was an approach I had never done before. I felt some kind of personal connection with the story of one of the characters in the film, so the result was incredibly satisfying. I was really proud of myself. That said, I’m proud of any other track of mine that does well (laughs).
What’s up with the visors you like to wear? :)
That actually started with a friend of mine who manages the streetwear brand Tree’s. He had so many boxes of clothing laying around and I just tried out a visor one day, because I had never actually tried one before. It looked good on me, so I’ve never looked back since. Some people don’t even recognize me if I’m not wearing one!
Phasm seems to be your go-to producer. What’s it like to work with him?
Eternal love and respect for Phasm. He’s done so much for me and my development as a rapper. He’s been around for a long time, working with so many different artists and he even has a history as a heavy metal drummer. Now he owns a studio, makes beats, raps, etc. By doing all this, he has such a complete and professional view over the process of producing hip hop. That’s why it’s always such a delight to work with him.
You and Roméo Elvis go way back, right? In September you released a track with him in September. How did that come to life?
It’s actually quite funny how I met Roméo. He used to work at the supermarket in Uccle, right next to my school. During lunchbreaks, we would go there to buy something to drink. At the time, I was only starting to get into rap music – and Roméo was one of the first guys that really left a mark on me. The first and only fan picture I ever took with another artist was with him in that supermarket! He was already picking up some steam by that point and we got in touch because we had a lot of mutual friends. One day he shared a freestyle of mine, which really gave my beginning rap career a much needed boost. Fast forward to a few years later and we’re in Phasm’s studio writing a track together.
Which other rappers or producers would you like to work with in the future?
I’d love to work with anyone, really. It doesn’t even have to be hip hop, as long as they truly represent their music. However, I think this guy Aftertheparty is probably one of my absolute favourite on top of this list. Dear everyone, please take notice of this guy.
The Brussels rap scene seems very collegial and everyone looks like they are close to each other. Is that what it really is on the inside?
I’m lucky to be from Brussels. Everyone really has a feeling of love and pride for our hometown. We’re together out here, there’s really no other way than to work together as a family. Additionally, it’s such a small city, so everyone knows each other. That helps to create a collegial atmosphere. We’re all supporting each other’s work, whether that’s music or art, we’re always out together having a good time. It’s really one of the best places in the world to work.
You’re doing a headline show at Ancienne Belgique in April. For many, this solidifies your status as an important artist in Belgium. How does that feel?
It was a major honour to receive an invitation from that venue. It’s an institution right in the centre that everyone passes by every day. It’s quite surreal to see my small name in between all those big artists on their bill. I’m sure my whole crew will be there to turn up!
What does a Lord Gasmique show look like?
Well, I haven’t perfected my live shows just yet, but I always try to divide them into two parts. The first one is always a little calmer to ease people into my vibe and the second half is just pure energy! Throughout the show I always perform exclusive new tracks. I’m not the type of rapper that drops a million freestyles and mixtapes every year, so I keep a lot of material for my live shows. When people see me perform, they’ll hear stuff they have never heard before and they will see how hard I’m working on new music every day. Additionally, this also allows me to test out new tracks with an audience before I drop them later on. It feels good when people come ask stuff like “when is that track coming out?”, because I know I’ve done a good job then.
The ‘Mieux EP’ is dropping soon, what can we expect from that EP?
Well, that EP’s is like my sonic identity card. I haven’t had the chance yet to show all my different sides and colours and this is the first peek into what I have in store. I really think I’ve innovated myself a few times over on this EP. Me and Dee Eye have spent quite a lot of time in the studio for this release, so I can’t wait to see what people will think!