Have you ever thought about what it might be like to live with all your friends in one big house? Or what it would feel like if your hobby was your living? Well, DJ Edzon could well be living the dream.
A genuine Amsterdammer, Edzon is best known as the face of Fat Beats – the city’s legendary hip-hop music store. In addition, his spinning skills have sent him worldwide playing in places such as Germany, Czech Republic, London and the US, to name a few. Back home, he continues to play regularly at hip-hop bar, De Duivel, presents a regular Thursday night radio show Hip Hop 120 on KinkFM and finally, produces some of the best mix tapes in Europe.
And yes, Edzon really does own a huge, beautiful building a stone’s throw from Centraal Station. “Well, we have a total of six apartments here and myself, my wife and little girl live in the main one. The rest we rent out to our friends which is great. It means we’re like one big family, man.” At the back of the house is the garden with the rest of the apartments tucked away to one side. As it’s a hot day, all the windows are open and from our position up top, we’re able to see snatches of vinyl and sneaker collections in his friends’ windows. (Apparently their summer BBQs are quite an event.)
“Everything I do is about music. All my hobbies – and now I make money and travel with it. One big dream. Look at me now – kid, beautiful wife, big house and doing this interview right now. I’m this guy with two arms and two legs. People are like, “Here’s this 31 year old dude. He’s black and I like his records. I’m gonna pay money to see him perform.” It’s crazy! I couldn’t imagine doing this at 16 or 20.”
Edzon was born in east Amsterdam where he grew up with his Surinamise parents although from an early age, he spent time in all parts of the city. “As a teenager, I used to hang out in the Jordaan and that was great, different people and different languages.” It was the late 80’s and the Amsterdam hip-hop scene was about to blow-up, “I was like any teenager at that time, I got involved in everything. We danced, did beatbox, spray-canned. There was no division and no pre-determined path. Everyone did everything. We took a lot of inspiration from London.” By the early 90’s however, Edzon was developing a name with his spinning and mix-tapes. “I started by playing every Saturday at this clothing store, Vibes. They had a turntable deck and I claimed it as my own. I must have done OK because after that, Clyde from Vibes hooked me up with De Duivel. I started spinning there, got a regular night and from then it blew-up.” His first mixtape was picked up by cult Dutch radio show, Villa65 Dutch Masters. “It used to be the best rap radio show. There was just this chemistry between the hosts. Everyone listened to it.”
In 1995, Fat Beats’ owner Joseph Abajian decided to open a branch in Amsterdam, following the huge success of his existing New York and Los Angeles stores. (“Nobody knows why he picked Amsterdam. I should ask him….”)
“I started buying all my records in there and got to know them all – Wix, SP, Yann, Ricardo, Masta Lee. One day, they asked me if I could work for two weeks straight as vacation cover. I agreed. And they kept me on. I’ve been working there ever since.”. As Fat Beats’ success grew, so did Edzon’s and he quickly became Amsterdam’s most established hip-hop DJ, “Fat Beats gave me more power to do with my mixtapes and in return, I helped them too. The guys wanted an independent hip-hop store that was more than just making a lot of money. Mr Bongos in London is a good example. It represents a community and that’s exactly what Fat Beats is about in Amsterdam. I suppose you could say we appeal to the more mature hip-hop crowd but also to the kids who want learn more about the music. It’s for people who have some knowledge of hip-hop. An important factor is the music you sell and we knew we needed a great buyer.” Enter Craig Solo from London, previously involved with Mr Bongos. “We work so well together. Man, we’ve sold so many records. We have some records you know and some you might not. But you trust our selection. It’s about seeing and smelling. We get a lot of people coming to see us including tourists (especially people from Germany, the US and London) but we had to work hard to earn that position.”
The store has also became famous for the incredible in-store appearances including Dilated Peoples, Big Al, Lord Finesse, Guru, Lost Professor, Company Flow, Tha Alcoholics, Beat Junkies plus Shortcut and Vinroc from Invisible Skratch Piklz. “When people perform in the city, they always come in to Fat Beats. We’re the one and only rap specialized shop. It’s like a chain-effect. Artists meet one another in New York and they say they’re coming to Amsterdam and straight away, people will be telling them about Fat Beats. So they come over. But even when they’re on vacation. It’s like Charlie Tuna (Jurassic 5) came in with his wife while they were on holiday – he wanted to buy some music to take home with him. It’s real nice.”
So what’s next for Edzon? “Well, I’m going to carry on co-hosting our HipHop120 radio show alongside Craig and of course, still do my spinning and mixtapes. I’ve got a new one coming out which will be on sale at Fat Beats. They seem to be doing really well in Germany and London.
But I’ve got really big plans for next year. One of them is a new sneaker boutique which I’m setting up with a friend, Guilliaume. It’s going to be called Patta and of course, be located in Amsterdam. Patta is Surinamese for ‘sneaker’ (street culture and language in Amsterdam is a mix of the Surinamese and Moroccan languages). Every major city in Europe has a proper sneaker boutique and we think it’s time Amsterdam has one. We need somewhere specialist. There’ll be sneakers and clothing (plus a website). We’re going to have brands such as Rockwell, Supreme, XL, Silas and Stussy. It’ll be stuff sourced from around the world. I always pick up sneakers when I travel.”
So it sounds like Edzon will be staying put in Amsterdam “I was born here and I know it like the back of my thumb. I know the east – you wanna eat somewhere good in the east? I’ll show you. You want a cheap place to drink in the Sud-Oost? I’ll show you. I know the east, west, south, sud-oost and north (a little bit). It’s a real nice feeling if you’re on the train cos you know all the spots. I’m always seeing places I used to go and remembering good times. New York is the only place that has tempted me. I think it’s got a very similar vibe to Amsterdam. But I wouldn’t leave here just yet. When I’m 60, I’ll go to Ecuador. We bought a piece of land there as part of an eco-tourism initiative in that area – saving the land from exploitation. It’s the ultimate dream. We’ll leave the kids behind and go there with my wife. Plus, unlike Amsterdam and Suriname, they don’t have any mosquitos….’
Fat Beats is celebrating their 7th anniversary on12th October with a one-off party at Bitterzoet, Spuistraat 2, Amsterdam. DJ’s on the night include J-Rock and Shortcut DJ Edzon’s mix tapes are available from Fat Beats at Singel 10, Amsterdam or via mail order on their website HipHop120 is live every Thursday between 22:00 and 24:00 on KinkFM. And finally, you can catch Edzon at De Duivel, Reguliersdwarsstraat, Amsterdam.