Some have already spent years in the shadows, waiting for the right moment - 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 emerging new talents our tiny country has to offer.
This time we return to the capital for another talent the hip hop scene blessed us with. Most of you will know Ritchie Santos as the DJ who regularly turns Bloody Louis upside down with his fast blend of French trap, rudimental beats and tropical dancehall. In addition to his growing list of gigs, Mr. Santos is also tour-DJ for Damso! Needless to say his frequent appearances caught the eye of many hip hop loving music fans. That’s exactly what happened to us, so we decided to throw him some questions to get to know this Brussels native a little better.
How would you describe your sound to people who have never heard of you?
"I would say: eclectic, fresh, tropical and arraganta (slang for extremely arrogant, red). Hehe."
Where did your story start? How did you get to the place you are now?
"Well I first co-organized a university party called “It’s good to be us”, from which I later worked behind the scenes of “This Is Bengal” and “Mad City’. During this time, I started putting my mixes online, which led to a lot of booking enquiries I had to refuse because I didn’t feel comfortable yet. It’s only when the “NWA Safe” parties asked me to play in a very small venue I accepted an offer. The rest is history really, hehe. I basically got here because of 3 things: opportunity, passion and consistency."
What are the qualities a DJ should always strife for?
"To have that ‘special’ touch. To actually like the music that you play. To read and sometimes teach the crowd with a great selection and with smooth transitions."
What has been the craziest gig you’ve ever played?
"I don't really know; last season was pretty crazy in general - but the peak has to be the Drake after party at Bloody Louis. Obviously, DJ-ing in the same room as Drake causes some stress, but the satisfaction after it was over was incredible. We were on another level."
Which DJ is your main inspiration?
"Many! The OG's Brucie B, Ron G, DJ Screw, DJ EZ, Ron Hardy and Larry Levan. When it comes to selection, DJ Slow was the first guy I saw mixing trap, bass music, dancehall and house - all in the same set. Skill-wise, Simon Le Saint always leaves quite the impression on me. Additionally, like many others, I love Jarreau Vandal’s shows! But to be honest, in this game we can't really say who's the best. There are DJs who only mix at home or in tiny bars who are better than me. The most important thing is to know your worth, focus on yourself and try to be better the next time."
Never thought about producing music?
"I sometimes make little mashups and edits for my shows or mixes. One day, when I’ll have more time, I'll take this producing thing more seriously."
What is it like to DJ for a superstar like Damso?
"Thanks to Bloody Louis and WECANDANCE I’m already somewhat used to larger crowds, but when you see 10.000 people singing to all the lyrics, it really is something else. I feel blessed to be on tour with him. On a personal level I’ve known him from way before his superstar status. He is a friend, part of the family, so working with him feels very natural. I truly wish the best for him and his career. I was there before started to shine, so I'll be there the day he decides to retire!"
How do you feel about the current state of hip hop in Brussels / Belgium nowadays?
"It's cool, there are a lot of good rappers who are trying to make it big, shout out to all of them. But I feel the media coverage is quite bad. The media needs to stop talking about hip hop like it’s a football club ‘FC Belgian Rap’ (laughs). Each artist has his own personality and deserves his own coverage, without just being a hyperlink in an article that talks about hip hop in general."
What do you want to accomplish in your music career?
"Running a record label that’s a force to be reckoned with in the music industry. I’d like to stay behind the scene, but also influential – like, somewhere between Puff Daddy and A$AP Yams. Additionally, I’d love to continue to DJ for the love of music, obviously."