This article originally appeared on Noisey Netherlands
The Brits and the Dutch would probably fight to the death over who talks about the weather more often. It’s a universal, unifying topic. When it rains we all get wet. When it’s bloody hot, as on this Wednesday afternoon in Bijlmer, in the Netherlands, everyone puffs and groans collectively. Talking about the weather becomes like a kind of social lubricant.
"You just have to take it easy," advises GRGY of arts and music collective Smib, when I ask him if the weather also makes him lose it. As we talk, GRGY’s bandmate of sorts KC is getting himself an ice cream. We meet in the Bijlmerpark, where the concrete and high apartment buildings seem to absorb and maintain the heat even more than in the rest of Amsterdam. My iPhone tells me it’s somewhere in the high 90s Fahrenheit.
We’ve met here because this is where Smib originated. Reverse their name and you get Bims, a nickname for the Bijlmer – where the collective took shape. Fine. Now we know where the name comes from, but what does the collective stand for? Smib Tape, their new release, came out a couple of weeks ago and they’re due to host a stage at Amstedam’s Appelsap festival next weekend, but Smib still hover somewhere on an ungraspable and mysterious plane. Watch me demystify that, if I’m lucky.
Noisey: Do you find it annoying that every interview still starts with: "Can you explain what Smib is exactly and who the members are?"
GRGY: Yes, it’s fucking annoying, man. I get that people just want to be able to put a label on anything, but let’s move on and talk about other things. Smib is a springboard, and it can be any form: music, art, drawings, clothing and videos.
KC: Smib consists of nine artists, plus a lot of people around it. You hope that people’ll understand what Smib stands for, of course, but that’s not what we’re thinking about during the creative process. Being creative and being concerned with the opinion of others at the same time usually doesn’t work.
GRGY: You can’t determine how people look at you. Of course, you have some say in it, but everyone has their own vision on things. It’s not my responsibility to determine whether people do or do not understand Smib.
I asked people about Smib for this interview and was told that you are the leader, GRGY.
GRGY: True, I am the creative leader. I invented Smib: the name, the form, the first idea. I am still the red thread in Smib’s development.
KC: GRGY has painted a picture and he knows exactly how to color it in, in order to create a work of art. We are his assistants, his pencils.
GRGY: In the early days of Smib, I tried to guide everyone, but I find it more important that people guide their own lives. And I just don’t have the time for it. You have to let go.
Because you have trust in what your people do.
GRGY: No, I never trust it. If someone else does something, it’s always different from how I would do it, but I accept that. There are also things I don’t involve myself in at all. The Smibanese Dictionary for example: I did not have anything to do with it, but that doesn’t make it less Smib, because Smib is all our thoughts and creations into one.
I saw on Twitter that you’re reading New Earth from mindfulness guru Eckhart Tolle. It’s one of my favorite books, in which guidance, but also letting go stand central. Do you get a lot out of that?
GRGY: Yes, I got the book from a friend. She said it was about a flower on a new earth, but that shit was ultimately something completely different. I think she only read the first page. For me this book is like a kind of Bible, but not with religion and shit. What I got out of it is that you just have to be a good person and do what is right. Accept things as they are and don’t always act on it. Don’t be willing to change everything according to your will. And for the things you can change: go for it and just do it.
With this philosophy, you now have your own stage, the Smib Station, at Appelsap. Five years ago, you were still just visitors.
GRGY: Appelsap is a special place for Smib. Ray (Fuego, ed.) came up to me there and said: “I am the hardest rapper in the Netherlands, and your beats are hard as fuck. Let’s work together.” From that moment on we started making music together and one year later we were on stage.
KC: Appelsap is a home game: it’s like when Ajax [a Dutch football club] plays in the ArenA. You know all your people are there. I don’t really go to festivals myself, but Appelsap is different.
GRGY: We have been there lots of times and now we have our own stage, a tape that has just been released, and the Sumibu x Appelsap clothing line.
And I heard you’re debuting a Broodje Smib sandwich at the festival too, huh? When you’re in a sandwich shop yourself, what do you order?
[KC and GRGY laugh and look at each other confused]
I think that your ideal sandwich says something about you, right?
GRGY: I prefer to go to the butcher and just say: “Make me something you like.” I think you’ll always get the best sandwich this way. The seller knows more about the sandwiches than I do.
KC: My favorite sandwich is the ‘Kraaiennest’ sandwich. There’s a guy with a gray afro who works at the butcher over there, and I had heard from some kids that you should ask him for his 'special sandwich'. It weighs 550 grams. That’s really heavy, isn’t it? It contains only meat. I don’t even know which animal’s in it, but that shit is like heaven.
I assume that the Broodje Smib also contains a lot of meat?
KC: Definitely. Seasoned and spicy.
GRGY: His mom makes them. Her cooking skills are crazy good.
Appelsap is also going to be the place where people can hear the new Smib tape live. All familiar Smib names are on it, but hasn’t it ever been tempting to approach a mainstream rapper?
GRGY: With the goal to get a lot of streams that way? No man. We’ve thought about non-group members that could be on the tape, but never with the thoughts of making a hit. Dret & Krulle are on it for example, just because we find them hard. That’s the only condition: it just has to feel right for us. If we feel that Ronnie Flex [one of the biggest Dutch rappers at this moment] should be on a track, then we’d ask him. But we would never just pick an artist because this artist is relevant or gets a lot of views at the moment. And we're not going to pay for a feature or anything like that anyway.
KC: Can I smoke?
GRGY: Of course you can smoke, why do you ask this? We are outside man.
KC pulls out his stash and starts rolling.
KC: Lil Kleine on a Smib album would be really hard.
GRGY: Lil Kleine’s skills are sick. Many people make tracks with him and ask him to just do that familiar sound, because they know it’ll get them bucks. Nobody asks him like, come, let's just make a crazy dumb tune.
How would Lil Kleine sound on a Smib album?
Both: Crazy dumb.
KC, I've heard your six-year-old daughter is also on the album.
KC: Producer Stijn made the beat, and my daughter and our tour manager’s daughter do the vocals. She also attended our show at the Zwarte Cross festival last month [a festival in the east of The Netherlands]. We agreed that she would do the track live but suddenly she started to cry.
GRGY: The show at Zwarte Cross was insane. We had never heard of that festival, got booked and just went there, without looking it up on Google or anything.
KC: And the people there knew us too. We have fans everywhere, because young people can relate to us.
GRGY: We’re not niggas in jets, with chains and big stacks. We’re young niggas who left their moms home only after a long time. We’re not any different from you.
KC: We have vlogs on YouTube in which you can see us on our way to a show on the subway. We just chill, and have a beer. It’s our normal way of doing things. By the way, do you also smoke?
[I take the joint and inhale. Time to wrap it up soon.]
At the beginning of our conversation, you said Smib is a springboard. Where does the springboard go to?
GRGY: You have to get everything out of life, and that’s different for everyone. It might be publishing a book for one person, while it’s getting signed to a label for someone else.
Yung Nnelg [also involved with Smib], for example, signed a deal with Sony. Do you see yourself making such a move too?
GRGY: The thing is that a movement like Smib is difficult to sign. I think that labels don’t even dare to. If you sign Smib, you’ll never know what you get. We are not a punk band, and no real hip hop. I think that the average A&R manager wouldn’t have a clue what to do with us, haha.
And that’s why you always get that first interview question, in which you have to explain what Smib is.
GRGY: It’s fucking annoying, but if it has to be this way, than that’s just how it is. We do what we like, and I think that’s the most important and ultimate goal. I just want to be able to forever keep doing whatever makes me happy. No stress about bullshit like status or ego. That’s where I want to be.
KC: Shit, I really have to read that book man. Who’s got it now? Nnelgie?
GRGY: Yeah man. Go your own way, walk your own path, and inspire and support each other.