FAVOURITES: Lefto selects 20 Belgian hip hop tracks that changed the game

Pictures by Annika Wallis

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After six very quiet months, there’s some light at the end of the tunnel. And while the event industry is gradually picking up some speed again, let's get back in the mood with some of Belgium’s best selectors picking their favourite tracks!

Lefto is considered to be one of the most important selectors this country has to offer. “This list is not about numbers, hits or success”, Lefto explains. “There can be only 20 songs, so don’t be mad if your favourite didn’t make the cut. This selection contains artists who have shaped the landscape of the Belgium rap scene since the early beginnings. Others have brought originality and inspiration or left an unforgettable mark on their respective scenes”. Also, Lefto added some upcoming talent to the mix, to give the final result some balance. Note: the 20 tracks are ranked randomly.

1. Rhyme Cut Core - Raw Break

"If you consider the Flemish rap scene, you can’t look away from Rhyme Cut Core, the dynamic duo TLP and DJ Grazzhoppa. They came out hard with a 12” called ‘Raw Break’ with a very recognisable sleeve. The sound was raw, the breaks were crispy, and the rhymes rebellious. No wonder it got signed by a British label in 1993. Two legends of the Belgian hip hop scene doing what they do best, hardcore rap"!

2. Preacha Mat / Big Shot - Le Mic Mon Mic

"It was 1999 when I heard this mixtape from the Brussels crew Big Shot. They owned a hip hop store in the Agora Gallery, right off the Grand Place. They were doing all the hip hop disciplines. The rapper, Preacha Mat (who is still one of my favourites) was ahead of his time with a sick flow and in-depth topics. He was always so underground. The mixtape was a reality check for many other rappers back then. A genuinely talented cat he was".

3. l’Or Du Commun ft Romeo Elvis - Apollo 

"These guys don’t need an introduction anymore. The l’Or Du Commun trio is dynamic on stage and they have conceptual rhymes. They represent today’s Belgian hip hop scene on an international level, and all members have strong solo projects".

4. SPREEJ - Lostboydemigod 

SPREEJ became famous with his sidekick Safi, and collaborated on many tracks for Antwerp’s Eigen Makelij label. This man is a Ghent-based rapper whose monotone voice is easily recognisable. Nonetheless, he is one of the most original Flemish rappers, in my opinion. With an excellent project called TFOH, this year was a comeback for SPREEJ. Lostboydemigod was the first single on that record. A few months later, I had the honour of working with him on an album that came out recently. If the Flemish hip hop scene had an all-star team, he would be one of the most valuable players.

5. Starflam - Putain de Songe 

"I pretty much grew up with one of the most successful rap groups in Belgium. Based in Brussels and Liège, Starflam is the anagram of Malfrats ('crooks' in French, ed). This 1997 album attracted attention with raps about the state of our country and daily life. This track by one of the members, Akro, deals with the struggles of being HIV positive. It's not the hit single of the album, but to me, it's the track that reminds me of that era, the time when I hung out with Akro and the whole Starflam crew".

6. De Puta Madre - Esto Es De Puta Mama 

"There weren’t many crews in Brussels around 1995, but one that made a lot of noise was RAB (Rien à Branler). Their sound was dusty, and the lyrics were trippy, but it was the soundtrack of the hood I lived in: Schaerbeek. This is an essential album for every fan of local rap. There are references to places in the neighbourhood; it just doesn’t get better than that. This track is a timeless classic, cooked up by Smimooz, P.Gonzales, Rayer and DJ Grazzhoppa on the ones and twos".

7.  Zwangere Guy - Wie Is Guy? 

"What could I tell you about this man that you don’t know already? This track is one of my favourite songs on his debut album, and it comes with an insane video. The lyrics are hard as f*ck, and the entire record is an instant classic in the scene. I’m happy I contributed to this record, too".

8.  Damso - Bruxellesvie

“This is an anthem for a generation of rap lovers in Brussels. ‘Bruxellesvie’ is a statement, it’s how we live; it’s how our city lives. Everyone uses this expression now. Damso reached higher grounds with this track, and got even bigger in France, where he also worked alongside French legend Booba”.

 9.  Jean Jass & Eskondo - Mind Break

“I could give you another track by JeanJass, or a track with sidekick Caballero; but this is one of my favourites. It’s featured on JeanJass’ DJ and producer Eskondo’s compilation ‘Mind Breaks’. It’s well written, and it has excellent production. It’s jazzy but packed with punchlines. It’s JeanJass at his finest”.

10. Berry - Seizoen ft. Ronnyhuana 

“Another rapper with a monotone voice (yes, I know) but with a nice, blunted flow and dope Flemish lyrics. Schaerbeek’s Berry has been prolific for some time now, dropping projects on the regular. He’s essential for the diversity of styles in the Flemish hip hop scene, dropping rhymes and fun metaphors on soulful breaks and loops. A true original in what he does”.

11.  Mellow P - Mathematische Flow 

“Back when I was living in Ghent - back in 2004 - I had the chance to witness Mellow P’s momentum, ‘Steekproef’, a mixtape filled with dope productions and sick flows in a local accent. He had a little buzz going in town, and I consider him (I still do) as one of the best Flemish rappers who quit the game way too early. I’m not sure what he is up to these days; he was a funny character".

12. Le 77 - Bawlerangers ft Zwangere Guy & Blu Samu 

“Here’s one of my favourite bands from Brussels. Le 77 are a bunch of very talented, very productive and very funny cats. They have so many songs and great videos. I chose this one because it’s not only a good track that features my favourite local female rapper (Blu Samu) and my neighbour (Zwangere Guy), but this track might have the best video ever made in the history of Belgian rap”.

13. Rival - Le Crime Paie

“1999 saw the debut album of Rival, a rapper from another crucial hip hop crew from my hood, CNN. These guys were both famous for their graffiti and their music. When ‘De la rue à la scene’ came out via a major record label (Sony) it made a lot of noise. Rival is one of the most influential rappers of his generation, and on his record, my favourite is this track”.

14. Frenetik - Trafic

"Frenetik is an up-and-coming kid from Brussels who has made some quick moves recently. There are not many singles out there. There's a Colors session, and this track, which comes with a nice video. This man might be the next in line, better be prepared".

15. Swing - Cours de Danse 

“Swing is one third of l’Or Du Commun, and he too released his debut album, back in 2018. The first time I heard this track was at Dour Festival when I invited the whole crew and Swing performed this solo song. It has been my favourite track ever since. He’s such a versatile rapper with subtlety, finesse, soul and a touch of love”.

16. Romeo Elvis ft Caballero - Bruxelles Arrive 

“Here’s another anthem coming from one of the most successful rappers in Belgium and abroad. This track sounds like a road trip with your most talented friends in a car that’s too small. This track was recorded as a B-side, and it might be Roméo’s most famous bootleg. It features other talented cats JeanJass and Caballero too”.

17. Eigen Makelij - Expertise 

“Around 2008, Eigen Makelij was an important label in Antwerp. It was an all-star team of mostly local rappers. ‘Expertise’, produced by Nag, and featuring Ghent rapper SPREEJ alongside Saalk, Rakke, Cloos and Nag himself might be my favourite track on the label. I could never make an essential rap list without having one of their releases in this selection".

18. STIKSTOF - Frontal 

“I’ve seen this crew grow year after year, and they became essential in the Flemish rap scene. Composed of rappers Jazz, Astro, Zwangere Guy, and DJ Vega on the decks, they released a beautiful piece last year, which came with amazing videos. They deserve to be where they are, and the younger generation is really into it. ‘Frontal’ was one of the main singles, and is also the name of their record label”.

19. Krewcial - Krewcial 

“When I heard Krewcial’s debut album in 1999 I was already convinced he was ahead of his time. When he got signed by legendary UK label BBE around 2004, it was certain that he was one of a kind in Belgium. His sound was fresh, his lyrics were always on point, and the album ‘25/8’ is a beautiful release. His talent was recognised by international artists such as The Roots and the Living Legends crew, which means a lot”.

20. Autumn - Midi Pile 

"Autumn equals Veence Hanao on the mic and Noza on production. Like many other special rap groups, they were always underrated, but back in 2006, they had some buzz in Brussels. They created some of the best tracks we had ever heard in town. I'm not sure what Noza is doing these days, but Veence Hanao has been working with Le Motel and released a beautiful project 'BODIE' in 2018".