Sincere, Frank, Vulnerable – De Groene Amsterdammer

Stien den Hollander alla S10 at Carre, Amsterdam, December 17, 2021

Pablo Bergen / ANP

Sometime in 2006 he spoke record boss Kees de Koning with rapper MC Melodee. She informally told him about her plan to release her debut album soon, which she quickly switched to and created an EP by rapper Nina. At least, that’s how Melodee remembered it after her when I interviewed her. Nina’s debut came a bit earlier than mine and could be pushed as the first Dutchman. woman mc’, she said. “That gave him a lot of media attention at the time.”

The remarkable thing about this quote is not so much in De Koning’s strategic move: there must be truth to the Melodee story and that’s not that surprising, publishers are simply looking for a ‘hook’, label bosses and managers are looking for a single point of sale and vent that.

What is amazing: how extraordinarily unique she was at the time, a female rapper. And above all: the only thing that she has kept all these years. girl’s debut the hardest it appeared in early 2007. Brainpower had already had its biggest hits; Extince has already begun to belong to a crop of older rappers; The Youth of Today had already made a breakthrough (with debut album pearls before pigs, the cover of which shows the trio feeding fodder to three scantily clad women. Back then that could still be dismissed as cheeky irony, now at least one angry hashtag about this. trends become a Twitter topic. Delving into hip-hop history automatically means descending into a pool of disguised and less-disguised sexism.)

Each and every one of these artists made full use of the freedom of hip-hop, the freedom of movement that this youthful genre had patented in those years. but a rap women? That was still an anomaly in 2007.

So, in a way, little has changed: Dutch hip-hop is still dominated by a masculine, completely masculine sound. MC Melodee has regularly released new works in English since 2007, but his audience has always remained select and his impact has been limited. Later the hardest Little was heard of Nina at all. She participated in several television programs, presented on Joop van den Ende’s 65th birthday, both probably as a result of editorial meetings in which it was pointed out: ‘There is a woman missing, what was the name of that woman who rapped?’ Nina’s new music never appeared again. It would be years before de Koning’s Top Notch label, no doubt the birthplace of Dutch rap around 2007, would bring the work of a female hip-hop artist back to market.

S10 (Stien the Dutch) She was six years old when Nina’s debut appeared. She grew up in Hoorn and had a happy childhood, as she stated on several occasions, although her puberty was extremely turbulent. She had heard voices in her head since seventh grade. She ended up in a manic depression, she was committed to a mental health care facility for weeks, she suffered psychosis, and these themes color her early music.

Already at sixteen, S10 debuted with Antipsychotics (2016) – A powerful experimental EP that she made alone in her bedroom and found its way online, before being picked up by the Noah’s Ark record label. That is understandable, because it is almost impossible Antipsychotics to hear without hindrance. Without restraint, but thankfully also without self-pity, he describes in detail his mental struggles. “Put me solo, make me even sicker / ‘Cause then I’ll set the whole damn clinic on fire,” she raps herself. psychosis† “Psychosis, diagnoses, overdose/ I don’t need your advice anymore.”

on Positive, Lake spoken word than rap, S10 remembers that at the age of fourteen she is actually locked up in an isolation cell after a suicide attempt: ‘A space where they put a madman. (…) And you have to wear an insulating dress. A dress, yes, because if you come with your own clothes, they think you are a danger to yourself.

Male rappers are sometimes very personal too, but there’s an air of toughness about it.

There are many more such quotes from S10’s early work, sincere to the point of awkwardness, often delivered skillfully and frankly. But there is always something incomplete in the writing of the lyrics: then crucial elements like the musical accompaniment and the voice disappear. And in the case of Antipsychotics They fully contribute to the penetrating atmosphere. In that debut EP, it was noticeable from S10’s clear and depressed voice that her depression had barely left her body. The songs were, without exception, intense and unadorned. In a world of hip-hop dominated by fairly flat stereotypes, it was a breath of fresh air: finally someone moving away from the swagger that is the norm among many rappers; someone who reuses hip-hop for the most personal adversities.

Although the first songs of S10 Less than a decade old, his career can already be divided into several periods. In short: the oppressive darkness of his oldest work has been shaken off with each new project. Gradually there has been more lightness in his music, more room for variation: in the use of voice, in singing, in themes, in accompaniment. The gloom still lurks, it’s even regularly mentioned, but still: the outside world has clearly taken on more hues than just dark gray and black. S10’s handiwork is a report from someone who is becoming more and more resistant.

Although their music has somewhat left the dominance of hip-hop and is moving more towards the radio-friendly song of life, S10 still doesn’t sound formulated anywhere. Or predictable. Because he drinks from the same source he did years ago in his bedroom study: his personal life. Don’t expect reflections on environmental issues or the threat of war in S10, but texts on what rages within it and otherwise remains hidden. In a sense, their choice for the 2022 Song Festival marks the musical development of S10. It has never had such a large audience before, and the Eurovision song already released The depth sounds quite clever compared to his first work: accessible choir, catchy bass parts, no rapped couplets but just vocals. At the same time, the text had Antipsychotics can bear: ‘Are you ever afraid that it’s always like this? / Because it rains every day and I can’t see a hand in front of my eyes.’

It is already one of the most listened to songs of his work. Of course, that’s partly due to that smooth production and the context of Eurovision. You can also feel a certain irony in it: the less S10 raps, the more widely she is accepted. But aside from that, we’re getting more and more used to the sound of the S10. His attitude rooted in hip-hop, the women of the corner of hip-hop, the directness of S10. Or as she sings to herself on her latest single faceless: “If I can get used to you, I could love you.”

faceless by the way the first collaboration between S10 and singer Froukje, and probably not the last. Although the two started making music separately (Froukje Veenstra was born in 2001 and grew up in Nieuwkoop, South Holland), the same freedom can be heard in their work. Froukje has only been working professionally for a few years and is already one of the best in the Dutch music world. During the corona epidemic, he convinced with his honest, playful and hypothermic songs about the surrounding emptiness: ‘I don’t know what to say, I don’t know what to do / All I know, we won’t go back to then (…) I don’t remember who It was before it all began/ I don’t know what I am now, except young.’

Froukje sings, not raps. However, her songs resemble the best hip-hop: through the upbeat productions, through her genuine uninhibitedness. Her music appears on the Top Notch record label, in fact, as does Nina’s. the hardest† In itself that doesn’t reveal much, for years Top Notch hasn’t limited itself to popular rap music, but it does underscore that something is changing in the world of music. Because along with S10 and Froukje you can also mention artists like Bente (also Top Notch) and Linde Schöne (also Noah’s Ark). Obviously, there are innumerable differences between them, deep down, in style; he soon feels compelled to point to larger groupings or generational connections, because why not and why, and yet: something has definitely changed. Although Dutch hip-hop remains a masculine stronghold, female artists now make much of the most captivating music. Songs that sound freer than what many male counterparts do. Songs in which the tradition is no longer maintained so palpably, in which something is at all levels happens† It goes without saying that male rappers are sometimes very personal in their work, but there is always an air of toughness about it. S10 and Froukje break with that, with unadorned and vulnerable honesty: all things considered, they move, consciously or not, at the intersection of therapeutic discourse and diversity debate.

There has been a lot of talk in hip-hop circles about male dominance in recent years. FunX radio host Riza Tisserand gave a much-heard explanation in 2016 about female rap’s structural lack of success. “Either you have to sexualize yourself as an artist, men find it more interesting, or you have to look terribly masculine, but then you lose your male following.”

This is a reaction that often arises, even among die-hard hip-hop purists who listen to the work of S10 or Froukje: they don’t do real hip-hop, they sing too much, they have too few street stories. But therein lies the interesting part: whoever listens to an artist like Nina listens to a woman who explicitly tries to adapt to the hip-hop that surrounds her. Hair the hardest it’s hard, tough, bombastic, and therefore completely interchangeable; she could commercialized become the first female rapper, but above all she was one among many. MC Melodee’s work was also an extension of existing hip-hop, and over the years many artists, including men of course, have mostly adapted to the existing musical field.

The great merit of S10, Froukje and related artists: they evade it. They make music about what really matters to them, right now, in this world. This is what others, women and men, will soon want to imitate.

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