If you think Holland is all about weed, windmills and wooden shoes, you’re almost right.

By Omar Pasha (2006)

To call him an anomaly in Hip-Hop would be an understatement. For starters, he’s from Holland. No, he doesn’t live in Amsterdam or Rotterdam. But he’s still considered as a legend in Dutch Hip-Hop. In fact, he lives in a small farmtown, where the big deal is when Kermis (the Dutch word for a small carnival) comes to town. A true artist, he even paints Babapapa-type creatures on canvases, and his bedroom walls. He rarely leaves home, and can be quiet, humble and reserved like a Buddhist monk in white skin.

Born and raised in Uden (pronounced “oo-den”), located in the southeast area of Holland called Brabant, considered farm country to most of Holland’s city dwellers), Jeroen Knoop (35),  better known as “OhJay”, concocts beats that make those of us who have lost our way remember what this true Hip-Hop ish is all about. His knowledge of Hip-Hop is ridiculously extensive, proof positive of the impact of Hip-Hop has had worldwide. Holland has has it’s own scene since the early 80’s.

With drum patterns reminiscent of a Diamond D and a Premier, the chops of a RZA, the cuts of a Pete Rock, and the quiet fearlessness of a Jay-Dee (r.i.p.), listening to an OhJay instrumental can make rappers (or singers for that matter) want to step their game up, and make producers question their very existence. “We all gotta step our game up...especially now.”, he says, wearing a dark green tee with the word “BEATS”, across the chest in bold, yellow letters. Matched with blue jeans, and black & white shelltoes, OhJay’s style is like his beats and cuts: true skool. With his omnipresent glass of red wine, OhJay is in his black, leather office chair clicking away at his G4.  He is in his monastery, which doubles as his home and recording studio, also known as the Dopelab. I drop by to see if he’s had a chance to make use of any of the records he snagged from my collection of vintage 45s, shuffle thru his ITunes collection of over 8,000 personally selected songs, and pick at his very, very large  brain.

P: What’s up with the red wine steez?

OJ: “Red wine makes you talk. It makes you creative. They say there’s some kind of substance in red wine that stimulaties the right side of the brain. Well, at least that’s my excuse. I’m really an alcoholic.” [laughs]

P: What was the first rap record you ever heard?

OJ: “I think ’The Message’. I saw the video and that was the beginning.“

P: What did you listen to before that?

OJ: “Whatever I could get my hands on. I listened to everything. I was even into rock music. I would listen to The Stray Cats and Dire Straits just to see what was up. But at the same time I first learned about Hip-Hop, I learned about Funk and Soul, like The Meters, The Isley Brothers, James Brown, Parliament Funkadelic, The Ohio Players...”

P: Do you remember the first beat you ever made?

OJ: “I think I do. I mixed a James Brown record with Average White Band’s “School Boy Crush” beat. One on the left channel and the other on the right.
I recorded it on a reel to reel tape deck. Then I made a loop out of it, [that’s right] using scissors and adhesive tape. Then I [fed] it through a mixer and [I would] have like two loops playing, [although it was mono]. I’d just ride the fader to make an arrangement of some sort. That was around 1988.”

P: What equipment do you use nowadays?

OJ: “Well I started sampling on an Akai X7000 [in] ’89 and later the S950 [in] ‘91. Right now, I use the EXS24 in Logic Pro on a Mac G4. I love it though I still keep the MPC60 / S950 around. and use em too once in a while.”

P: What product are you best known for in Holland?

OJ; “People my age know me for the stuff with Dope Posse and DTF [a rapper from Dope Posse] back in the days, Younger folks know me more from the stuff i did with Brainpower. Other heads might know me from the ‘U-Gene & Oh Jay’ project. But i’ve always been a low profile dude anyway. “

P: What gets you in the zone to make a beat?

“Can be anything, some sounds of an old record, a song i hear, people i meet, basically anything. I’m trying to represent something I feel. But it’s hard though,
[ It ] takes up alot of time
.” (Speaking in Dutch) “I feel like i must do it. I feel like I have to make dope shit. Make music...”

P: What projects are you workin’ on now?

OJ; “That’s a tough question. Rap Classical biotch!! [laughs]. Slimm Diesel’s album [a rapper from Washington, DC rapper who lives in Holland]. My main focus is on trying to pay all the bills...[laughs]

P: There are alot of cats makin’ dough with alot less talent . Aren’t you tryin’ to cash in?

OJ: “Nah. There’s a FEW people makin’ a lotta money and ALOT of people busting their ass and not getting paid shit.” [Pauses for a moment.] Then spins in his chair to his computer.]  I got a new beat I made yesterday. I found this Enchantment song in your 45s...”