For the second edition of 15 questions with PanDam, we spoke to the Dutch rapper Jantje (Jan van Overeem). Initially rapping just for the fun of it, Jantje made his way to the Amsterdam rap scene when his rap videos blew up in popularity through the news and entertainment platform ParraTV. Since then, he’s produced several videos and songs that can be found on his YouTube channel ‘JANTJE’, as well as on other big Amsterdam hip-hop platforms like 101barz. Inspired by rappers like 50cent and Jay Rock, Jantje, who is also a student at the UvA, has created his own sound, producing songs, videos, and comedy skits, too.
It was great to speak to the up-and-coming rapper and learn about how he started rapping, his music style, and his perspectives on Amsterdam’s music scene. To find out more, watch the teaser and read the interview below!
15 QUESTIONS WITH JANTJE
By Eline Stapel & Olga Ellinghaus
Watch a teaser of the interview here
PanDam: Who are you and how did you start rapping?
Jantje: I'm Jan, I'm 23 and I'm a student. I'm now in my final year of my bachelor's degree in econometrics. I started rapping, or at least the first time I thought I liked hearing myself back on a rap song was when I was about 11. My father, my brother and I went on a skiing holiday together and my father broke his leg really badly, and so he had to go to the hospital and so my brother – at that time 17 years old – had to hang out with me in the hotel room.
So in the meantime, my brother came up with the idea of making a beat on his laptop and then to rap on it, just for fun. We would rap about, say, breaking a leg.
When we did that, and we listened back to the song, I realized, ‘holy shit, this is pretty sick,’ that you can just make a song yourself.
Well, then I just liked it and at one point at 16 I got a microphone for my birthday, and I grabbed a YouTube instrumental, rapt over it and put it on YouTube. That was then my first song, so to say. It got probably about 100 views. From that point on, I just kept making more songs like that.
PanDam: What was your breakthrough moment?
Jantje: At one point ParraTV had a challenge where you could - as an unknown rapper - make a rap video of yourself, a selfie video where you just rap for a minute. And you send that in, through DM, and they select and post three videos a month or something. Well, one of those videos was mine, and it went completely booming. And then I made another one of those rap videos of myself, and it went even more booming! That way I got in touch with people from the industry who could help me. Caio Silva (he directs my music videos) was one of them.
PanDam: Who are your sources of inspiration?
Jantje: I listen to 50 Cent a lot [laughs]. He's by far my favorite rapper. But I also like Jay Rock, for example. I had a time when I loved Eminem when I was about 16, but I think everyone had that. Hmm, when I was really young I knew all the songs of De Jeugd van Tegenwoordig by heart. I still think they’re really great. But I also take inspiration from, for example, cabaret [Dutch comedy shows]! I actually watch more cabaret and movies than I listen to music.
PanDam: What is rap music to you?
Jantje: Imagine you’re a big fan of kickboxing.. Let's say you're a big fan of Badr Hari. And you’re watching a match and at some point Badr Hari is really [beating the other guy up]. And as a fan of Badr Hari, you get this rush and you think... Nice!
Or, say, you’re a fan of Formula 1. And you’re a fan of Max Verstappen, and then catches up with someone else just before the finish, so that he only just comes first! Then you also get that feeling of 'ah fucking yes! '. I get that same feeling with that 50 Cent-like rap style... or Jay Rock has that too... Kind of… not really aggressive but just a little intimidating. And that intimidating feeling can also come from the beat for example... that he just raps very calmly but that it sounds intimidating because of the beat.
PanDam: How does a cabaret show or film music inspire you?
Jantje: Sometimes actors say something in a movie - or someone has a really good thought in a cabaret show that I really resonate with. I use one of those lines in my music, for example, or it inspires me to start writing a song. Whether the song will be all about that thought or idea is not necessarily the case, but at least it helps me start the writing process, because that’s always the hardest thing for me, the first sentence.
PanDam:How do you see yourself fitting in or standing out in the rap world ('the game)'?
Jantje: So I find that intimidating effect really cool. But of course, I can’t imitate their voices [50 Cent, Jay Rock]. And also, what they're rapping about, I can't rap about that either. So I'm not going to try to replicate that. But how do I [make my own brand]? [...] Well, my daily life is just being a student, so maybe people see me a little bit like "that student" or something, maybe that's it. I don’t necessarily brand myself as that specifically, but I see how this can happen automatically.
PanDam: You often say you rap just because you like doing it, not for money, for fame, etc. But as your popularity increasingly grows, do you start thinking differently about this?
Jantje: Well no, I'm not necessarily going to think differently about that. It'll always be a fact that I rap because I just really like it. All those YouTube instrumentals I rapped on when I was younger, I did that for years without getting anything in return. If I had done it to get really famous from it, I would have quit long ago. It wasn't until the ParraTv challenge, only then, that I got more attention.
But at some point you can be booked for a party, and then you're not going to say no! Of course I would also like to perform. Also, sometimes people ask me for a photo, but this doesn't change my approach to my music repertoire or anything.
PanDam: How would you describe the Amsterdam creative network?
Jantje: It's kind of cool. It's really quite integrated. For example, I go along with Caio a lot and he’ll say 'yo, I'll have a meeting with X later, do you want to come?'. And then I’ll be like 'yes, cool, I'll join’, and then I'm in X's studio for example... and I get to meet him. And then in that studio there's someone else, who I also get to meet. [...] It's really a much smaller world than you think. I don't go to studios outside Amsterdam very often, but at least in Amsterdam it's all very connected. And I think that's really chill, you can just talk to each other easily that way.
PanDam: How has the outbreak of the coronavirus affected you?
Jantje: So first I thought, now I have a lot of time so I can write all these songs... I can write eighty songs per second and go to the studio an infinite amount of times and record so many video clips... But of course, it didn’t turn out that way because you're not doing anything all day, you don't see many people, you don't go out, you're literally not doing anything… so you just don't get any inspiration!
And, your motivation also just goes away. I don't know why that's the case... You know how, if you’re enjoying something, time goes faster, and when you’re really not enjoying something, time slows down? Motivation works in the same way I think… the less you have to do, the less you feel like doing something. So that's shitty. I'm really not writing more than before, I think even less. And I could have just done shows! Or at least, I've been asked for some, and none of that happened, and that's of course a shame.
PanDam: What advice would you give to upcoming rappers or artists?
Jantje: Don't let your opinions be influenced by the opinions of people you look up to. Imagine you're a big fan of pietje-puk, and you made a song. You go to pietje-puk asking 'yo, yo, what do you think of this song?', and he’s like 'oh, mwah, I don't really think it's special'. Then you shouldn't think of 'oh, oh, then this song is not really special because he or she thinks so.'A lot of young people DM me quite often asking 'yo man, I made a setup of a song here, can you tell me what you think?'. It’s not important what I think about it, you just have to do it. I never asked for anyone's opinion either. I’ve never asked 'yo man, do you think I can drop this on YouTube?'. You just have to do it. Just make what you want to make, and put it on YouTube and if it's good, it's good. Then you'll be approached by people. And if it's not good, it's not good, you'll notice that too.
PanDam: Which Amsterdam artists should we all be listening to?
Jantje: Adje, Chief, SBMG, De Jeugd van Tegenwoordig. There are a lot of them! Frenna and Ronnie Flex also make really genuinely beautiful music. And Andre Hazes [laughs].
PanDam: What are your guilty pleasure songs/artists?
Jantje: [laughs] I have a group of friends where – when we go on holiday or do something – we just put the most extreme form of guilty pleasure music all on a playlist and that ends up being the music that we listen to all day. And because we listen to that all day, you automatically start to like it [laughs]. It starts as a joke, but at the end of the day, it's a great song. For example, 'This is me' by Demi Lovato [laughs], yes that's just a sick song! And a lot of Justin Bieber songs… and Marco Borsato ‘Voorbij’ for example. Or Ch!pz. It’s also just nostalgic. Also ‘Het Regent Zonnestralen’ by Acda and the Munnik. Just to play these kind of songs super loud, at volume hundred, and sing along loudly is just fun to do.
PanDam: What are your plans for the future?
Jantje: I'm not necessarily like ‘I'm going to be the biggest superstar’, I don't have that at all, while other artists do think that way, for example. It's not like I’m dreaming to be a superstar celebrity at all, but of course it would be nice if you could make money from something that you initially just started doing as a hobby.
PanDam: If you could work with any artist, who would it be?
Jantje: If it doesn't have to be a musician, but all other art forms… Christopher Nolan. My biggest dream is to make a movie, really make a whole movie with a budget of 100 million. But of course that's not going to happen… but if I could choose, I'd like to work with Christopher Nolan. Even just to meet him would be great.
PanDam: What have you been up to?
Jantje: Now I’m just studying. And I work, too. At times I think about ideas for short comedy sketches. I watch a lot of series at the moment because of obvious circumstances [laughs].