Edson Sabajo

Edson Sabajo is a person who seems to know few limits as to what the city of Amsterdam can offer, and what he explores within it. He is a co-owner of one of the premier sneaker shops in the EU (Patta), as well as being a heavy dose of real on the Amsterdam hip-hop scene. I have seen him blow up spots from here to Barcelona, and he always brings a special energy with his set. Energy that is one part detached observation, and one part intense in your face knowledge of the music he is playing.

When people talk about him and his place in the development of hip-hop in Amsterdam, there are always big words thrown around: founding father, O.G., bad boy, etc… To me the history of the music in its heyday is interesting as hell; no matter where people are from, they always seem to have a angle on how it turned into what it is today, speaking from memory fondly of the days before the music and scene was so thoroughly and commercially corrupted by the huge sums of money that people make in it today.

So, with all that in mind I gave my bro Edson a call, and we talked over a few points of what is, what was, and what will be in Amsterdam, hip-hop, and this life we lead in the crazy XXX.

“[We] did everything, know what I mean? You was a beatbox, a dancer and a rapper, sprayed some graffiti, it wasn’t categorized. For me it wasn’t a trend; I knew this was gonna go somewhere. “

Format: Take a moment to introduce yourself, tell us all why we are having this nice little chat today.
Edson: My name is Edson Sabajo, 36 years, happily married to Nica De Bloeme. We got two kids together, Sephrane (girl) six years, and Roman (boy) six years. Sometimes they call me Barbapapa, Lord Budgeteer, El Brutal, El Sahib, Louis Swag, Young Black Splah Money. You know, a lot of nicknames.

Format: When you’re waking up, ideally, what’s the first song you want to hear in the morning?
Edson: Depends on my mood really. I wake up at 7:00, put the kids in the shower, take them to school at 8:15, then head towards the gym to get rid of all the alcohol fat from the weekend.  Get back to the house and start my email rounds, then head to the shop. As you can tell, I do not know really what kind of music sets me off. It depends, if it’s sunny outside I want to hear some different shit than when it rains. And if I have a hangover it’s a whole other story.

Format: When you were a kid what kind of music found its way in your Walkman?
Edson: Wow. I mean what age are we talking about? My dad was a huge Reggae lover.   He had all them records; Isrealites, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, but also James Brown, Sly and the Fam, also Otis Redding, Percy Sledge. My uncle who was a DJ had a great record collection. Them had that shit minty, records with no scratches. In the eighties you had radio show tapes man, WBLS tapes with Mr. Magic and the commercials or KISS FM tapes with Red Alert or ChuckChillOut also with commercials. The thing was that people who went to the States and got back had those tapes and other kids dubbed them over, and at one point it came in your cipher. Then it was your turn to dub that tape.

Plus you’ve got the Dutch radiowaves… The SoulShow on TrosRadio, Decibel Radio which was a pirate station, Ehm De Wilde Wereld, I guess that was from the VPro … they had some interesting records on their shows. I remember an interview with Shante on the Wilde Wereld. Hilarious. Also eighties pop: Michael Jackson, Prince, the European pop shit, Human League, Yazzoo, Freeze, IOU, and so on and so on. Plus Bigi Pokoe, Kaseko, Salsa, for when you go to family parties [laughs].

Format: When did you first hear hip-hop? What song was it? Where were you?
Edson: I think high school. I was 12 or 13. The thing was that [in Amsterdam] when you left “de Lagere School” you go to the “Middelbare School,” and mine was in the East of Amsterdam, and I lived in the west, so everyday I had to travel 30 minutes to go to school. You saw a lot of graffiti tags on your way to school. A couple of pieces [fascinate you]. Then at school there was this guy who I rolled with and he had at his house two turntables – no joke with a mixer – he had records from Newcleus, Whodini, Fat Boys, electro records, you know the compilations, a bunch a stuff he had. But the record that was popular back in the eighties besides Mantronix was Man Parrish, Boogie Down Bronx. That shit felt goosebumpy. Yo, everybody rapped that – instant classic – ‘cause you had a lot of instrumental electro records, but this cat actually rhymed over an electro type beat. Shit was bananas, Google that shit.

Format: What would you consider to be the album of all time?
Edson: That’s not a question that’s a statement right there. There are so many records that influenced me. I mean, mid-eighties, you be talking ‘bout Skinny Boys, Audio Two, ChuckChillOut and Koolchip, Mantronix, Beastie Boys, Run DMC, Whodini, P.E., BDP, Stetsa, Tuff Crew, Steady B, Schooly D, Ice-T, Juice Crew, Rodney O. and Joe Cooley, and lots more. The thing with Amsterdam, it is/was like a pioneer’s city when it comes to new music. We had all the imports in them record shops like Rhythm Import. I started buying records in ’88, but had tapes with music since ‘84/’85.

Format: What do you remember about the rap scene in Holland in the eighties? Was it well received or was it labeled as a trend? Did people see this coming?
Edson: Damn, so yeah back in them days graffiti came on my path. Like I said before I traveled 30 minutes from home to school and back, and saw tags by Walking Joint, Ego, Zap, High, Sweepee, Jaz, Shoe and so on. With that came the rap ‘cause I was with this kid at school plus I got tapes. The first time I actually got in contact with Dutch rap was in ‘87/’88 at a local youth center called the Binding. But then I found [more] later. My neighbor (Richie the Killer) went to school in the southeast, and he had a friend who was a DJ (CutFactory), pretty amazing for his time, and we all formed a rap group in ‘88 I guess, with some more members. Shit was funny. Anyway, I performed at several youth centers throughout Amsterdam. [We] did everything, know what I mean? You was a beatbox, a dancer and a rapper, sprayed some graffiti, it wasn’t categorized. For me it wasn’t a trend; I knew this was gonna go somewhere. That’s why in ‘88 I went on holiday to New York. It’s like going to Mecca, the energy you get from there. From that point on, I knew shit was gonna get bigger but how… [laughs] I was just a kid… but look at me now.

Format: Do you think there is a future for Dutch hip-hop acts outside of Holland? Is anyone attempting to cross over into the English speaking world? If so, do folks in the NL consider this as “selling out?”
Edson: Of course, they see now that there is no big future inside of Holland. You gots to expand. I mean you can live properly off rap right now, you know doing shows, whatever, merchandise, etc., but can you still do that with rap when you’re 40? Maybe go into lectures in schools, write a book or two, but why not give lectures in Europe, write an English version of your book? Why not try to rap in English, forget about the accent? It is what are you willing to do to make it happen. Can you sacrifice? Can you let everything go and stay in, let’s say New York for four to eight months without a proper income, eating Chinese noodles all day?

Now with the Net the world is so small you don’t even have to stay over there. Look at Silver Rings, he done it, went over there and is a Wu member. Look at Nicolay the producer, he done it. Look at Deams who actually is a Gangstarr foundation member. I’m sounding like a teacher now, but if you want to, man you can do it, no question. But what are you willing to leave? Are you determined? Are you mentally ready?

And no you’re not a sell out.

Format: Since this is a new year, I guess I should ask some of these questions: What was the album of ‘08 for you? What was the sneaker of ‘08? Brand you got in to? Give us a brief “best of” list as you see things.
Edson: Damn yo! The thing in ‘08 for me was our trip to New York with the whole Patta team for the release of our Alife, Rockwell, Patta shoe. The whole thing was just hard. We went with 18 people for just one weekend, rented a hotel, found out that there were more people from Amsterdam in NY, so we ended up with 40 men deep at the party. We got drunk and Vic/Wix and Trago were killing it on the decks. We had the whole backyard jumping. I looked at one point in the crowd and saw everybody had a good time and just smiled. That was just the beauty of it, that feeling made me fucking happy. I felt like a kid again after a nice tag with your marker on the back of a tram going all city, knowing that peeps gonna be, “who dem cats who dem??”

Format: What do you see coming up for yourself?  What projects or ideas is the Patta Family up to that we should be looking out for?
Edson: There’s gonna be a lot for the ’09. The thing is that Patta, we gonna have our five year anniversary so throughout the year you gonna see a lot of collaborations, crazy things, plus a big ass party in June hopefully. Plus we gettin’ our little distribution going on we just started with that. Rumor has it that we gonna open up a new shop in Amsterdam. No comments on that yet but we keep you posted. We are in the process of doing our own clothing line, work is still in progress. Yeah man I’m excited, new ideas, new money, new opportunities, time to eat some cake.

Format: Fire for effect man, anything that you need to say before we cut this?
Edson: Big up Wolf and Pack. Big up yourself for reading this interview.

Julian M. Lynn

Julian M. Lynn

Julian M. Lynn

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