Exploring the hip-hop universe with Belgium's favourite rap duo Blackwave.

06.07.2018 - Dries Tack

The heatwave that recently took over Belgium has slowed down the lives of many. It’s hard to make oneself do something in this warmth. However, for the Belgian rap duo Blackwave., this is the time of action.

“It’s gonna be the sickest weekend of my life,” says one of the rappers, Jay Walker. He’s talking about the upcoming end of the week, 7th and 8th of July. The duo is playing Rock Werchter and Ghent Jazz festival on those days. Two big events in a row. The other half of the duo, Willem Ardui, agrees with Jay - it’s exciting. After all, they’re gonna be sharing the stage with one of their heroes - The Roots.

Jay and Willem come from very different musical backgrounds. Still, there’s one thing that unites them. “It’s hip-hop that [makes us] connect,” Willem states.

Their connection is obvious not only in music - they seem to be very in sync with each other during our conversation. They often finish each other’s sentences without even noticing it. Our chat goes smoothly.

We talk about Kanye West, Childish Gambino, and Kendrick Lamar. About how tough it is to put on a good live show. Also, how the live band they play with would prefer to be called just “the Band”, not “the Dot” - even though that’s what the media keeps insisting on. We talk about music and it’s easy to see that they not only love it - they live it.

Rap music often tells stories. What kind of story are you trying to tell?

Willem: Just what’s going on in our lives right now and what we’ve been through the past couple of years.

Jay: That’s so cliche [laughs].

W: Yeah, it is a cliche, but that’s what almost every artist does. I think a lot of our stuff is about love.

Is that what your new album is gonna be about?

J: A lot of it, actually, is us experimenting with different genres of hip-hop. We sort of go through this hip-hop universe as the album goes along and play with all sorts of styles.
Our song Elusive, for example, is more emotional, loving track, while the new one, Whasgood?, is more funk.

What artist would you like to collaborate with?

J: Saying Kendrick is too easy. I would go for Michael Jackson or something. That would be a dope collab.

W: Bring him back from the dead. [laughs] For the upcoming album, however, we’re thinking of collab'ing with local artists. We really want to work with Tamino. I always admired Stromae - I just don’t know how to reach him [laughs]. Oscar and the Wolf, Romeo Elvis, Coely. There are so many.

J: It gets difficult when you have to get the management involved and all that.

W: It’s a process, but we’ll see, maybe we’ll get a few of them.

Let’s jump to the opposite spectrum of it. Is there anyone you would ban from the radio?

W: I think everybody has their place on the radio. It’s like, I can dislike someone’s music, but it can still exist. If they make it and people like it - it’s okay, that’s not my business.

J: Yeah, I think so too. There’s no genre that I hate. Someone I would never listen to though is Tekashi69.

W: I wouldn’t listen to him either, but…

J: I can understand why people like him.

Being tolerant like that is not common in hip-hop tough. How do you feel about rap beefs?

J: It’s really entertaining and it kinda belongs to hip-hop. You just beef when you gotta beef. [laughs]. If somebody was to diss me, I would respond.

W: But I think in Belgium it wouldn’t work. Because Belgium doesn’t have a long…

J: Hip-hop history.

W: Especially one in English. The main audiences are still skeptical about it here. So beefing is a step too far for the Belgian mainstream. Like, real diss tracks are not gonna happen in Belgium in the near future. I would love to see it though [laughs].

What do you think Belgium sounds like then?

W: Today’s Belgian musical landscape is really diverse. You can definitely hear that Belgians listen to… the world [laughs]. It’s not like we have our niche and we stay in it.

J: For a long time it had a rock sound to it and now it’s really starting to evolve to other genres.

W: I think it’s a good trait that we have, to be open to the sounds that are out there. So it’s hard to say if we have our own sound, cause we listen so much to the world. A lot of different influences.

J: Yeah, we get inspired by others and do something new. It’s kinda what we ourselves do as well.

W: Yeah, like, hip-hop isn’t from Belgium.
So, I think that’s one thing you can say about Belgian music as a whole.

J: It’s an inspiration land.

Is the music industry at all that you expected it to be?

W: I think it might be an overrated thing. The whole “coming into the industry”. Cause, okay, we’re in “the industry” now, but nothing in my life has changed. I’m still at home making music. I go to my parents on weekends. It’s not like I live this glamorous life.

So the whole ‘sex drugs and rock n roll’ thing is not yet happening?

J: Well about that...[laughs]

W: I think that’s not us, we just wanna make good music. We were doing this before, spending our days writing music, so nothing’s really changed. On the surface things change. Like, we do more shows, we do more interviews but it’s just-- it’s still our life, you know.

What about your advisory board? Who’s on it?

J: Our friends mostly. I don’t like sending music to too many people though.

W: Definitely not before it’s finished.

J: Cause otherwise people come in with their opinions and you stray away from your own vision.

W: Sometimes we send our music to our manager or to the label and then they say what they have to say.

J: But that doesn’t mean we’re gonna do what they’re saying [laughs].

W: I think it’s important to involve them in the process. They see things from the more commercial perspective, so it can be eye-opening in that way.

J: Sometimes it does have a positive impact.

W: And sometimes it’s like “no, that’s not who we are” [laughs].

What would you put on the playlist for your funeral?

W: Ahh shit, that’s a hard one. Never thought of it.

J: But like, it’s kinda normal we haven’t thought about it [laughs].

W: True. I would go for Shipwrecked by Mick Jenkins, I like the tone of it. And I would definitely want some live music. Like a choir or a jazz band or something. That would be cool.

J: It’s so weird talking about this...

Do you have a favourite song then?

J: I don’t-- there’s too much music.

W: Untitled by D’Angelo. Sexy-ass song. But yeah, there’s a lot of music. I would put that on the list just cause I listened to it so many times and it still stays good. But I could also pick something else and be fine with it. But for now, for this interview, it’s gonna be that.

If you had to compare your music to food, what would it be?

J: Cheesecake!

W: With all kinds of different fruits.

J: And speculoos.

W: Yeah, a cheesecake with fruit and speculoos on top.

 

Ending this chat on a sweet note like that seems completely appropriate. Before we part, the guys remind us that even if you miss all of the festivals this summer, you should definitely come to Ancienne Belgique this November to hear their new album. We are already getting excited.

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First picture © Ashley De Buck

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