Hip-Hop has never been a prevalent genre in the Netherlands but that is quickly changing. Back in 2015 the top 40 was dominated by pop artists such as Ed Sheeran but also dance artists such as Armin van Buren and Kygo. The highest rap song, at 35, is a Dutch song by Lil Kleine and Ronnie Flex called Drank & Drugs. Drank & Drugs is credited as the track that brought the Dutch hip-hop scene to the mainstream though it wasn’t positively received by the public at first. The album it was featured on was aimed at a younger audience which resulted in the glorification of drug/alcohol abuse was met with complaints from parents. Though the controversy did help, the biggest factor was the video. Due to it’s hilarious yet very weird content it was viewed four million times in the first month of release. It was during this time that not only Ronnie and Lil Kleine blew up, but also other upcoming rappers like Mr Polska, Sevn Alias and Frenna scoring hits during 2015 and 2016.
But since 2017 rap has really seen a huge increase in not only popularity but also in quality. Unfortunately the great rap scene that has developed in the Netherlands hasn’t been able to shine outside of it with the exception of Jacin Trill, who recorded a “lettetznow” with American rapper Ugly God and Ronnie Flex who worked with Lil Uzi Vert’s producer Maaly Raw on Flex’s newest album NORI. So to showcase the Dutch scene to the outside world I’ll showcase one of my favourite Dutch rappers in a weekly series, starting now with Ronnie Flex!
Ronell Langston Plasschaert, better known as Ronnie Flex, has been making beats and writing raps since he was fourteen years old. At 19 he signed (and is still signed) to the Dutch label “Top Notch”. His first hit was Zusje (ft. Mr Polska) (translates to: “Sister”) with which he charted on the 43rd spot on the top 100. This was a year before he really blew up with the previously mentioned Drank & Drugs.
In 2014 Flex released his first studio album called De Nacht Is Nog Jong, Net Als Wij Voor Altijd (translates to: “The Night is Still Young, Just Like Us Forever”). This album wasn’t a huge success, it was only featured in the top 100 for a week.
In 2015 Flex worked together with the other artists under the Top Notch label (such as Lil Kleine and Bokoesam) on the album “New Wave”. This album, which featured the track Drank & Drugs, is often credited with bringing the Dutch rap scene to the mainstream with it being the most streamed album on Spotify in the Netherlands and receiving the most prestigious Dutch award, an Edison for Album of the Year. As opposed to 2015, 2016 was a quiet year for Flex where he only dropped a couple singles and mostly featured on Lil Kleine’s and Broederliefde’s albums.
On the 30th of June 2017 Flex released his second solo album “Remi” and even without any previous announcements of the release it entered the charts on the number 1 spot. Before this and album and especially after this album dropped Flex caught a lot of flack for being a women’s rapper due to his emotional rap music (this criticism is akin to Drake). But all of this changed when he released NORI the following year.
Flex had made it known that he wanted to try his hand in trap and NORI was announced as a side-project EP, but on the 22nd of March NORI released as a full album containing 13 tracks and running for roughly 35 minutes. I wasn’t really a fan of Ronnie Flex’s work before but NORI quickly became one of my favorite albums of 2018. Every single track on this album is a banger and the song “Non-Stop” has been produced by Maaly Raw, who is primarily known for his work with Lil Uzi Vert.
The most common problem non-Dutch speakers run into when listening to Dutch rap is of course the language barrier. This is especially a problem on Flex’s first two solo projects because they rely on the lyricism to convey the story quite heavily but NORI doesn’t have this problem because it’s just banger track after banger track. I recommend everyone to give NORI a listen whether you understand or not because it truly is a great album.