Formally trained musician, Nicolay, who began producing in 2000, introduced himself to the world with his classic collaborative album Foreign Exchange. Teaming with the North Carolinian emcee Phonte of hip-hop group Little Brother, this Netherlands native made a connection proving that music and culture is a universal language that crosses borders, beliefs, and traditions.

Format: Talk about the differences in culture with the hip-hop scene between the Netherlands and the States?
Nicolay: A lot of people ask that, but Holland didn’t have much of a scene based on the fact that in Holland they are pretty much obsessed with best language hip-hop. If you right now do anything other than rap in your own language you’re kind of considered to be an outcast. I for one was always feeling that, and for various reasons I’ve kind of always done the whole English thing, not for any other reason besides the fact that it just happens to be that way and I just like hearing it. I don’t necessarily like hearing Dutch over, I’m not trying to say I disapprove but personally it’s not my thing. Where as right now that is what people do in the Netherlands. I think Americans would consider the whole scene in the Netherlands to be very “back pack-ish” because you don’t hear things like crunk or snap.

“I think Americans would consider the whole scene in the Netherlands to be very ‘back pack-ish’ because you don’t hear things like crunk or snap.”

Format: Let’s get into the culture and fashion a little bit, what are they rockin back home?
Nicolay: Pretty much the same you know, like the sneaker culture is pretty big, like Nike and Adidas that is all fairly big. The urban culture is very much based on places like New York. Especially in Amsterdam, I don’t know if people would actually really see a difference with the clothes, fashion and even movies. Stuff like that is very much based on what goes on in the States. You’ll see a lot of Ecko and you’ll even see a lot of G-Unit clothing, stuff like that it is very much the same.

Format: Do you consider yourself a sneaker head?
Nicolay: No, because I would have to back it up with an endless collection and I don’t really have one. I do love to wear some really dope shoes, don’t get me wrong, but I have about four or five pairs and that’s about it, I’m not crazy with it.


Format: So what are you collecting these days besides obviously stacks of records?
Nicolay: Yeah records, that’s like my main passion and the only thing I’d really do a lot of crazy shit for. You know I’m always on the lookout for new shit when it comes to that.

Format: Who are you listening to currently?
Nicolay: The Shining album obviously, that was something I was really into basically because it was a breath of fresh air compared to a lot of other shit that was going on. The new Claire Hill is really, really dope, and basically I go crate diggin whenever I can.

Format: What was the response like to Here in the States? Was it what you expected?
Nicolay: Well not expected but hoped, I knew I would get a lot of “yeah its not Foreign Exchange.” I knew I would get a whole lot of that which is fine, people always do that if there’s stuff they love. Other than that the views from listeners and magazines like URB and Scratch they all think it’s pretty good so I definitely do not need to complain when it comes to that.


Format: Talk about the political scene which compared to the states is something that is talked about every single day, what is the political situation like in the Netherlands?
Nicolay: The politics differ in a way but right now it consists of the right from the middle, it would be considered communist from your standards. We have obviously have the gay marriage legalized and prostitution legalized, and we have the whole soft drug situation, so I think a lot of Americans wouldn’t be ready for that shit. It’s funny because it’s just a different way of looking at things. Our government right now is slightly conservative but its still light years away from anything that would even fly in the States. Obviously that is one of the bigger differences between the two countries, the politics. You know moral issues and things that are considered normal I would say are a little more progressed than where I’m from.

Format: Would you rather prefer your government to be ran like the Netherlands or do you prefer the democracy over here in the states?
Nicolay: I mean democracy is everywhere. American people like to think that they invented democracy. Democracy was invented by the Greeks and the classic periods which was like 200 years before Christ, like 2500 years old and everybody in America is like we invented that, and that’s not the truth. That’s a news flash for all the people that don’t know. Obviously when I look at politics over here what I think is funny is, over here you’re a Senator and you rape young boys and they have so much money and so many spin doctors to try to get away with it…I don’t know how people except that, like I don’t understand how Bush got elected twice.

“Hip-hop is not dead […] It’s such a new art form, it’s only like 30 years old. There’s no point in claiming something dead when you don’t know what’s going to happen in the next ten years.”

Format: What is your view or statement on Nas’s album Hip-Hop is Dead?
Nicolay: Hip-hop is not dead, people have just been calling the wrong thing hip-hop. Hip-hop is very much alive. It’s the same thing as saying Rock and Roll is dead. It’s such a new art form, it’s only like 30 years old. There’s no point in claiming something dead when you don’t know what’s going to happen in the next ten years.

Format: What is your definition of hip-hop?
Nicolay: I think the definition of hip-hop is there is no definition of hip-hop. The point of hip-hop is to break all the rules, to go where normal conventional music wasn’t really going, and in that aspect I think everything has its place. It’s kind of hard to be the one to make a definition of something when you’re a very small piece of the puzzle and I definitely do not claim to know anything about that other than what is my experience with it. I think hip-hop in general should not have any rules other than is it dope or not. Stuff that’s not dope hopefully gets filtered out, but now that seems to be what rules the airwaves is stuff that’s not dope.

“I think hip-hop in general should not have any rules other than is it dope or not.”

Format: I think the scary thing is that people now have the ability to define it because everything has become so redundant?
Nicolay: Yeah, I mean hip-hop right now seems to be the best paying hustle for people who are in it. I read a Young Joc interview and he claims “that hip-hop right now is his best paying hustle,” and I don’t know if I should be the one to disapprove but in the same time something is not right in that statement.

Format: So I guess in that sense breaking the rules and creativity really isn’t the priority?
Nicolay: Yeah, and that’s dangerous and you see that in a lot of different genres like pop music which is at a low point as well. In the 80’s pop was pretty much cool music. You had Madonna, Prince, Michael Jackson and that was the mainstream shit. You may not like it but it was still good music. Pop music right now is Danity Kane, so I think across the board I think things are less and less interesting to me.


Format: What did the Netherlands cultural scene look like before the invasion of hip-hop?
Nicolay: Wow. I think hip-hop got to a level where it was mainstream where you would hear it in commercials, movies, and now it’s like the main thing you hear. When you hear a commercial there is probably some hip-hop music in the background and it depends on the commercial what kind of hip-hop it is. This goes for the Netherlands as well, only in a short time did it get so big and there was difference, people dressed like it, the sneaker culture and everything kind of made its mark on the Netherlands it’s almost taken over, before House music was the biggest thing.

Format: You’ve been in the states for a while now, what are some of the things you like to do here?
Nicolay: You know what I love most and people are going to laugh, but Halloween, and Thanksgiving, things like that I like to do. Typical American things but like hardcore because it’s the first time for me, and it’s a lot of fun and something I’ve always seen from movies and getting to do that first hand is kind of cool.

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Dale Coachman

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