Essential Amsterdammers: Def P
Essential Amsterdammers every expat should know: Def P - Artist & Rapper
My life in Amsterdam and the world of Dutch rap had rarely overlapped until I met Pascal Griffioen - a.k.a. Def P.
He came recommended as a creative and intelligent guy, involved in all kinds of artistic pursuits. I was invited to his studio, which was then in the Jordaan, its walls covered with psychedelic and fluorescent artworks.
Def P and former band Osdorp Posse, named after the Western area of the city where Pascal grew up, are known for hard-hitting lyrics. His logo features a microphone and a pen with wings, symbolising the freedom to say and write what he likes. Yet the man behind the microphone is as nice and grounded a guy as you could hope to meet.
Meet the originator of Dutch rap & artist, Def P
"Yes, I’m an "echte Amsterdammer" (real Amsterdammer) - born in the Wilhelmina Gasthuis, in the Kinkerbuurt. It was ’69, the same time as Jim Morrison was in that hospital. He was in Amsterdam for one day and overdid something.. He could have been my neighbour in the hospital. Maybe that was the inspiration for my music career!
Art and music have always both been a part of my life. I studied graphic design and that came in pretty handy with my music career, because the band needed flyers, T-shirts, logos, album covers, merchandise. I designed all that stuff myself and I have been painting for many years too.
Amsterdam is one of my biggest inspirations; it is a stimulating place to make paintings of. You have all kinds of different styles of buildings, it is crooked and raggedy, there are no straight lines anywhere and that fits especially when you paint in the kind of psychedelic way that I do, with very bright colours. It is really alive, this city - I try to capture that in my paintings. Most of the time I try to create scenes without people, to show it is really the city that is alive.
These days I combine playing in a couple of bands (such as Def P and the Howling Coyotes) with different art projects; creating Raps and writing for theatre, painting and poetry. I am even translating Shakespeare into Dutch right now! I like that diversity of creative work, and you can do it in Amsterdam because there are so many niches and different areas of art.
My band got a TV break in 1990. Suddenly everybody knew who we were and then it just exploded; we were Osdorp Posse from Amsterdam, those four crazy little white guys rapping in Dutch.
We started touring, and - well, to cut a long story short - over the next 20 years we experienced a lot of crazy shit. All the stuff you can imagine about being in a band? We did it. It was a wild adventure and we really had a good time, but life moves on and you have to close the chapter.
There were two fantastic sell-out farewell concerts at the Melkweg, my favourite venue to play at in Amsterdam. When we came on stage, two or three guys in the front row threw their hands up with their beers and shouted, and within a split second the whole audience had done the same - everyone wet, total chaos. It was almost like it was arranged, yet really it was spontaneous.
Fame does not mean too much to Amsterdammers and there is a bit of their arrogance with that attitude. They see you and then act like they do not recognise you or did not notice you. "Just because you’re on TV doesn’t mean you’re better than me" is the message. It is a real part of the Amsterdam culture - don’t put yourself above the other.
For a person with a famous face, that is very comfortable. I think a lot of successful people want to live here because the locals are not so enthusiastic about fame and they leave you alone.
The essence of Amsterdam
Freedom, atmosphere, alive, choices. Great artists put on concerts, there are lots of exhibitions, museums. The essence is also arrogance, because the people living here know that Amsterdam is one of the greatest places in the world to live. I think a bit of that arrogance comes out in the typical Amsterdam humour; the locals say Holland is Amsterdam and the rest is grass and cows. Of course we only say this to upset the people from Rotterdam"
Photos by Fenske Everhartz