Since a few years, hip hop’s reign over Belgian nightlife has increased steadily – and that’s in no small part because of scene figures like Jules Thys, responsible for his exceptionally fresh DJ-sets on events like Les Ardentes, WECANDANCE or Trillers. You might know this dude as Jewels - although the friendly people of Limburg may prefer his unofficial name: ‘The King of Litburg’ (A title after his cleverly named mixtape series, ed.). The rising hip hop DJ spins all over the country, but remains firmly rooted in his home province, where he co-ran a banging nightlife event series called Grensloos. These nights quickly grew into the primary local hip hop night, uniting Limburg with a shared love for trap, rap and and everything in between. But after half a dozen events, Jewels decided to part ways with his beloved party and start over from scratch. That new start has a name now: Karaat (KRT). But before we dig any deeper, we figured it was best to let this trap lord do the talking himself.
Hi Jewels, let’s start with the question a lot of people are dying to know the answer to: why did you decide to stop with Grensloos and start a new club night?
"Grensloos was a collaboration between me and a nightlife agency. We came to a point where it was better to part ways, because we had different priorities and visions. We tried to make it work, but differences were too big to bridge. In any case, I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity they gave me. I have learned a lot about throwing events, about who I am and about how to translate my visions into a reality."
‘Karaat’ is a name that’s very much in line with your artist alias. What’s the idea behind this name?
"It’s a name that blends in easily with the world of ‘Jewels’. I wanted to create something timeless, yet still one hundred percent ‘me’. I do admit, I like shiny accessories, so yeah! Props to Davy Denduyver, who really perfected the visual outlook of this new chapter. I’m glad to work with talented people like him."
Karaat will take place at Muziekodroom (Limburg) - what are the assets of this venue?
"It’s a more suitable venue for live performances, which is the direction I want to head into. Additionally, there’s space for a second room, where I can continue to give opportunities to younger DJs I believe in. All-round, it’s just a really solid venue. I’m looking forward to working with them!"
What about doing events in other cities in Belgium?
"I always love to play in Ghent, Antwerp, Brussels and Leuven. Grensloos started because I kept seeing people from Limburg in those cities; and I wanted to give them something closer to home. Now that this chapter is over, it would be cool to let this community grow even more in the future, but my main focus is on Hasselt now."
To what degree is hip hop alive in that little corner of our country?
"It’s very much alive! We’re not really centrally located and we don’t have a large city, so we’re always going to be overlooked; but I don’t think that we’ve ever seen a hip hop movement grow as quick as here. DJs and crowds really cling to each other. It feels like everyone is striving for the same cause: using our shared love for hip hop to put Limburg on the map. It’s bigger than music itself."
Which rising hip hop artists and DJs are the ones we need to look out for according to you?
"There’s a whole lot. N9899 is a great dynamic duo, Euro Matraque Posse has the potential to become a unique act, Yooth brings genuine baile funk vibes and Bcote just made a great album. I always gave them the opportunity to play at Grensloos - and I got even bigger plans for them with Karaat."
As for DJ-ing, you released your second King of Litburg tape a little while back. How do you feel your sets have evolved over the last years?
"It’s been almost five years since I released my first trap/bass mixtape, which convinced some promoters to let me warm up for Kaytranada, Stwo and Sango. I was heavily influenced by the ‘future bass’ movement back then, but now it has evolved more into ‘underground’ trap. When people started referring to me as ‘King of Litburg’, I felt it was a good idea to name a mixtape series after it. You should check them out and go hear them for yourself if you haven’t had the chance. The third part will be handed out at Karaat; first come, first served!"
Who are the promoters, DJs and artists you draw inspiration from?
"I’m inspired by my close friends: Jef Willem (aka Eagl) for what he does with his community-building, Brahim Tall (aka Grover) for what he does artistically and by the guys from Kurious for their hard work. I always looked up to people who do different things and value their independence."
Where do you want to see yourself in 5 years?
"When I’m 27, I’ll be the dressing room DJ of the LA Lakers (laughs). On a more serious note, I want to continue shaping my own environment, create content with my friends – and ultimately being able to turn it into a living. I just finished a course on social media, I’m currently educating myself on graphic design and I’m growing more confident with producing my own music every day. I do have a lot of specific goals too, like playing Dour Festival or Woo Hah!"
So, spill the beans: who will grace the Karaat lineup on March 3?
"This is only the first part, but here we go: DVTCH NORRIS, Onze Zaak, myself Jewels, Eagl and Grover. Family business! There will be a second room, more names will follow soon."