We at AJANAKU believe in the inventiveness of the present-day gentleman. Swagger and having a vision, go hand in hand. Reason enough to ask Creative Director Rogier Smalhout about his annual creative vision and contribution to ‘blockparty -turned-hiphop-megafest’ Appelsap, in Amsterdam’s family park, Oosterpark.
Where does your love for hip hop come from?It definitely started through my cousin Pim. He’s about 3 years older and gave me the obligatory tapes of Public Enemy, N.W.A. and Ice-T, Beastie Boys and such.. I did my best to like it like he did, but it really wasn’t before Snoop, Nas, Biggie, Tribe and Wu-Tang came out that I really got into it. It was all the way in from there. For me those artists defined the sound of my generation and sucked me in forever. What I loved about Hiphop was that, besides the music, it all looked so damn fresh and cool. It was the whole vibe. There was a whole world to discover.
How was Appelsap different from other parties at the time you started?When we started in 2000, all the parties were kind of the same before that. I mean you had really great nights in Amsterdam like Chocolate, Knockout, Bassline, Stpdfrsh and Bboy Extravaganza but they were all in clubs and mostly with local DJ’s and acts. Of course we started out differently right away by throwing a jam in the Oosterpark with free entrance and barbecue and Surinamese food and such. We immediately felt there was a need for something like that.
In the early years we met Edzon, SP, Kid Sublime and Stevendepeven and together we incorporated the funk, soul and jazz into the parties to show some love to where all the Hiphop samples came from. It was a different movement, a different world almost. And we made some really lame and ironic flyers, not taking it all too seriously. We once made a hardhouse-style flyer and still sold out the club. I think the fun we had radiated out to the people. And we picked a name that everybody remembered straight away.
How did you become the creative director? Where do you get your inspiration from?I think I became creative director the day I put one half of a green apple on an OJ juicer and made a picture for the first flyer. That first party in the park was a success because the weather was pretty good, but we didn’t know anything about organizing festivals or whatever. We really learned the hard way. I was always working on the creative side, designing flyers and mixtape sleeves, DJ-ing, programming, ideas. I started working for an ad agency at the same time, where I developed my skills as art director and learned a lot about communication, typography, photography and marketing strategy.
Inspiration can come from everything. A beautiful book, a great DJ-set, a fresh fashion piece, The Sopranos, a Rick Ross verse, a cup of excellent espresso, the cover of a magazine, conversations with friends, a meeting with someone extraordinary, a bike ride in Amsterdam or ending up at an unexpected and amazing spot in a foreign city. And my girl always tips me the best new music, she should get some credit here too J.
What was the message you wanted to convey in your first Appelsap campaign? The first ‘real campaign’ we did was with our DJ’s picking up apple juice packs from the park as if they were park-cleaners. This was the first time we used models, styling, photography and an actual concept for a flyer, still on a very primitive level. Our only message was: ‘Appelsap in the Oosterpark.’
In the former campaigns, it was often a group of models/artists or regular people featured in the photos. How come you’ve chosen to focus this year’s campaign on one key figure? How ‘hip-hop’ is Katja Schuurman? She is not Hiphop at all and that’s what makes it strong. She is the Dutch icon of our generation, a really hot chick and the unexpected choice of her as the key campaign character is what makes it fresh, original and that maybe even brings it back to Hiphop again. What is Hiphop anyway? The 4 elements? That’s something of the past. It’s the attitude of doing what you like and daring to be different. There’s a million festival posters and they all have line ups. We have Katja Schuurman.
What has been the best Appelsap campaign so far, and why? I don’t have one favorite campaign, but in the last three years I think we really took it to another level. With animated wallpapers, beautiful photography and film shoots, a sharply executed PR strategy, strong media partnerships and interesting collaborations I’m really proud of where we took Appelsap as a brand. This is obviously a team effort, I’m lucky to work with a lot of amazing people that put their heart, soul and gallons of sweat into this big, crazy dream of ours.
Do you have a connection with Amsterdam East? Why and what are your favourite spots: I’ve been living near Oosterpark in the Dapperbuurt for quite some years now and I feel very much at home at this side of the city. It’s an upcoming neighborhood, but it’s still rough and really multicultural. I love it. Good place to have breakfast in East: Café Kuijper, Bar Bukowski, Café Bru. Great location to have lunch? Or a picknick at Oosterpark? Unfortunately there are no restaurants or bar/terraces in the park, I would say pick an empty green spot and join the fun. Relaxed spot to have a meeting in East: Lloyd Hotel, Trouw, de Biertuin, Hortus, Badhuis. Best spot to get your late night meals when working over hours in East: Lalla Rookh, Sushi ‘n Sake and Roopram Roti for take away. Trouw has great food, or Sa Seada, a splendid undercover Italian near Amstel. And Wilde Zwijnen of course.
The festival’s title is ‘Fresh Music Festival’. How do you stay ‘fresh’ and innovative? I try to always be open for new music, styles and genres and try to work with fresh, young people and organisations as much as possible. On the other hand it’s also important not to get caught up in hypes too much… We are trying to build a solid festival focused on longevity and quality. That’s what we try to balance out.
What is your opinion about present-day hip hop? I think it’s a great time for Hiphop. Especially in the last couple of years a lot of interesting stuff came out, there is so much I listen to right now… From Kendrick Lamar and Black Hippy crew to A$AP Mob, Frank Ocean, Odd Future, Danny Brown, Beast Coast fam, Action Bronson all the way to Drake, French Montana, Jeremih, Waka Flocka or the new Kanye and Jay-Z albums. And the future looks bright with recent releases from Chance the rapper, Migos, Lucki Eck$, Trinidad James, Underachievers, Max Marshall to name a few. Also the cross over with electronic music gets me hyped. DJ/Producers like Ryan Hemsworth, Lunice, Hudson Mohawke, Flume and Brenmar are taking it to a next level with House, Trap and R&B influences. There is a lot of good stuff going on with Hiphop!
What do you want to achieve with the festival, in its programming and creative reputation? We strive to become Europe’s leading and most incentive Hiphop-minded festival. The number 1 event to check out the very best- and latest in Hiphop, Soul, Riddim and Electronic music. A festival with international appeal where the spirit of the early blockjam days is still tangible.
The Appelsap festival will take place again this weekend. Just a few more tickets on sale people, so it’s best you buy your tickets asap!