Photos: Dennis Duijnhouwer
Holland has always been a hidden gem in the world of hip hop but of late a number of artists have come to the forefront with panache and verve. Pete Philly and Perquisite are a duo whose first album, Mindstate, was a concept album that ran through the gamut of emotions and their latest album, Mystery Repeats has garnered critical acclaim across the board.
Abjekt caught up with Pete recently to discuss everything from growing up in Aruba to being bothered when shopping for groceries.
Pete, you’re from the Caribbean, when did you move to Holland?
When I was 6.
Do you bring any Caribbean elements into your music?
Not really, however I do dance on stage like a latin artist would rather than a hiphop artist.
Why do you rap in English rather than in Dutch?
English was the first language I spoke with my friends/classmates on Aruba when I was little, I grew up speaking 3 languages, English is just one of them. It never occurred to me I should/could rap in Dutch too.
Does it help to broaden the way you rap and write music?
Writing songs is a really unconscious process, so I wouldn’t know..
Were you always a fan of hip hop as a kid?
Yes, but mainly a fan of good music. I listened to a lot of rock, metal, drum and bass, house, soul and R&B too..
Who were your favourite groups/rappers growing up?
Biggie, Pac (I know it’s a cliche), Busta, Meth, Snoop, De La..
Were there any Dutch hip hop groups that you loved as a kid or was it mostly American artists?
Mostly American artists, but that’s changed for me. European groups like Saian Supa Crew (France) and Ocho di Brucho (Spain) inspire me more than U.S artists.
When and how did you meet Perquisite?
I met him through a mutual friend, I just quit this PFunk band I was in to do solo stuff. We started making some tunes together as a side project, it blew up so we kept at it. Now, we are mostly known for our live performances, when we started as a studio duo.
He was studying Architecture, did you have to persuade him to be a full time producer or was it something that he was planning on doing anyway?
No, I didn’t really persuade him, the thing just started rolling and he had to choose to either do it right (meaning quit his studies) or not do it all, he chose the first option.
Does his being a cello player help him when he writes his compositions?
Sometimes, though the basis of his production is really composing with samples which is different from composing music by writing the arrangements, he does do both though.
Like your fellow Dutchmen C-Mon and Kypski, you like to perform with live musicians. Tell us about who they are and what they play…
Kasper Kalf: Upright bass, Ruben Hein: Piano, Rhodes and backing vocals, Remco Keijzer: Tenor Saxophone, flute, Soprano Sax, EWI and Flute, DJ PCM: turntables and backing vocals, Perquisite: Laptop, Beats and Cello.
Do you prefer having a band behind you when you rap? Are there times when you like to just go on stage with Perquisite as a DJ/MC team?
Perquisite isn’t a DJ so that wouldn’t work. I’ve done both. As long as the people I share the stage with posses the same musicality and sense for creating shows then I can do something electronic or something acoustic. What I like about the formation Perquisite and I have put together is that it is a mix of both those ideas. Best of the MC/DJ thing and a Liveband.
So let’s talk about your first album together – Mindstate. It’s an album where every track represents a different emotion. How did you invent this concept?
I was going through a lot of different emotions around that time, I needed to document them. Plus it felt like a cool concept.
Was it difficult trying to find lyrics to match emotions? Did you have a list of emotions written out or did they come to you randomly?
They came randomly, not all of mans emotions are on that record.
You feature Senna on that album. Do you like bringing other Dutch guests onto your records to try and show them to a wider audience?
Well she was my girlfriend at the time and an amazing talent, so that choice was pretty natural. There is talent in the Netherlands, but it’s really hard to get people outside of the Netherlands to listen to it. With us it’s like they hear it, they like it and then find out it’s from Amsterdam. Trying to convince someone to listen to a dutch group though, that’s tough. We might as well have been from Hungary or something..
What is the Dutch hip hop scene like these days? Recommend us some Dutch artists to listen to.
Cmon & Kypski, Arts The Beatdoctor, Senna and Opgezwolle
Another guest on that album is Talib Kweli, how did that collaboration come about?
We asked him to listen to our music and then decide if he wanted to the collabo. He heard it and we recorded the track in Brixton actually.
Do you think Dutch rap is becoming more noticed outside of the Netherlands? Talib on your album and Sadat X on C-Mon and Kypski’s last record seems to show it is…
I don’t know, what I do hope is that we can become as known for our stuff as the Swedish producers and songwriters are for theirs..
And now onto your latest album, Mystery Repeats. Were you tempted to make another concept album like Mindstate?
I’m a conceptual writer all my stuff will have some kind of theme. Mystery Repeats is about fate and growing up.
I read that you travelled to a house in France to work on the new album. What was the thinking behind going to France? Did it help being in another country?
It’s just a place to work without people asking you how the second album is coming along when you’re doing groceries haha. It could’ve been anywhere, the mountains and the sun helped though I think..
It seemed to me like your sound grew on this album and you moved even further, past hip hop and jazz. Did you want to push yourselves to see if you could achieve such a broad sound or did it come naturally?
I think it comes naturally, the success of the first album gave us a free pass to keep experimenting, plus Perq and I are easily bored so.. Like the first album it starts as a basic hiphopalbum and slowly progresses to different styles like a pure jazz song, to a flamenco broken beat crossover to a classical piano sonnet..
The album come out on Anti- Records. They’ve got a really varied roster which includes hip hop acts Lyrics Born and Sol.illaquists Of Sound. Is this label a good home for your record? Why?
The label fits cause the let us do our music the way we want to, they release it exactly the way we want it released. That kind of autonomy is very important to us.
Have you ever played in the UK?
Nah, British people tend to come see us at festivals in Europe, so far the powers that be in the UK aint trying to let us in.. They could never fathom that with how laid back our album is we totally blow up venues.. We still receive like 50 individual emails every month with fans asking us if we can do a UK show..
So, would you like to come over and rock a show in London?
Is it hard going from playing big crowds in Holland to smaller shows in new countries, or do you enjoy the challenge of winning over people and turning them into Pete Philly and Perquisite fans?
Love it, it also keeps you grounded. Doing a show for 10 000 people and a week after that do a magical concert for like 250 people somewhere in Germany or France. However in the rest of Europe we are now at the point where we’re starting to sell out shows as well. We’ve just kept at it, doing good live shows and through word of mouth we went from 5 people, to 150 to 500 people a show. It’s the same way we’ve built in the Netherlands; Just staying consistent.
Any words of wisdom before we finish?
The more love you put into something the more love you shall receive for it.
Thanks for your time, and good luck with everything in the future!
Mystery Repeats is out now via Anti- Records. You can find out more about PP&P at www.myspace.com/petephillyandperquisite