Amsterdam based Hip-Hop duo Skurt Kobain have just released their debut album Surf Rap, a daring 13 track boombap album that pays homage to Amsterdam and hip-hop history. Comprising of Tizu & Mardy, to cousins who have grown up in Amsterdam , Skurt Kobain aims to bring a new sound to Dutch Hip-Hop, or in their own words: “I wanted to let you feel the city through the music. Make it sound like Amsterdam, but in a new way”.
2&6 presents: The first ever interview with Skurt Kobain.
My first question obviously has to be, where did the name Skurt Kobain come from?
Tizu: Mardy you should tell this story.
Mardy: We where driving to Tizu’s parents on a Christmas Day while listening to the album: MTV Unplugged, Nirvana. We didn’t make it on time that day, we had to deal with a flat tire… I think that say’s enough.
Tizu: What I love about our name is that it’s the only thing about our debut that just really doesn’t make sense. If you hear our group name I guess you’d expect to hear something different from what we make. I like the fact that our name is a bit misleading in that way.
How did you guys decide to pursue your love of making hip-hop?
Tizu: I’ve been writing raps and poetry since I was 14. I never recorded much, I never found the right person in my life to make music with. I always wrote on J Dilla, DJ Premier or Dr. Dre instrumentals for fun, but I never really finished any songs. Two years ago for the first time ever I seny a voice memo of one of my raps to Mardy. He was at the festival ‘Into The Great Wide Open’ and replied: “Dude this is crazy, we have to make something together.”
Mardy played the piano but he never made a beat in his life. He downloaded the beat program Ableton through his dad’s teacher account and we met at his crib up in Surinameplein. I brought the mic of a friend and gave Mardy a sample I still had from a decade ago but I was never able to get it to sound right. I went for a smoke and when I came back he already created a beat. It became the beat for our song Champi & Assie. I was so hyped.
From that point I felt we were going to make something special together. Whole my life he was like my little brother and we lived next to each other, and now 23 years later we found out that we’ve got a musical connection and could create something together. It just had to happen I guess.
Mardy: I We had a really good vibe that night and decided to make a EP.
Do you think being Cousins makes it easier or harder at times to work together?
Tizu : It makes it the best. I feel so comfortable with my thoughts around Mardy. I dare to say and feel whatever I have in my mind and spit it out in the mic. I think that without Mardy I would’ve never felt comfortable enough to record music and write the songs I wrote. He is very calm and I can be high in my emotions. He senses how I feel and when we pick our samples together he already knows and hears what I’m gonna do with my writing.
It’s the same with the beats, we know what we both like and from scratch it worked like magic. You can’t put a finger on chemistry, but we can sort of read each other’s minds. Our ears for music are exactly the same and we just love to listen and make music together till late in the morning.
Mardy: Way more easy! It feels like our ears are exactly the same. We just need to look at each other to know what’s up.
Surf Rap is sort of your guys love letter to the city of Amsterdam, the people, the neighbourhoods ect. What did you want to say about Amsterdam throughout this project & how would you summarize the impact that living in this city has had on you as creatives?
Tizu: The impact of Amsterdam on my life is something I can’t describe in a few words. It’s a feeling, I know it may sound a bit primitive but I’m really proud about the fact I was born here and lived here for 29 years. It’s the blueprint of all my moves in life. It gave me love, friends, nostalgia, swagger and so much fun in life.
The thing is: when you meet people on the street you just have to look them in the eyes and in a split second you can tell if they are from here. It’s a special connection you share with other people who were born here. I guess people from Rotterdam or Den Haag have the same. On Surf Rap I talk about a couple of places I love to visit like Café de Tuin and Café Struik in the Jordaan, but mainly I wanted to let you feel the city through the music. Make it sound like Amsterdam, but in a new way. It had to sound familiar but still different.
Mardy: Living in the city just show’s you all the possibilities in life I guess. Everybody around you is always busy doing things, creating something. The impact of all these happenings around you gives a boost to just try things out and see if it works out.
Your beat selection throughout the project is a mixture of vintage boombap inspired instrumentals and soulful synths that pair really well with the emotive lyrics that Tizu raps. Would you say you are still discovering your sound together or did you know that this sound is what you wanted to make from the beginning?
Tizu: We picked almost all our samples together and for me it feels like this is how we want to sound because we didn’t overthink any of it. It just happened. We made 15 songs together so far. 13 songs made it on the album, the other two are really fun but we thought a bit too much party tracks. We wanted to make something very soulful but also raw. We like G-Funk but also Wu Tang, so I guess we are a bit in the middle of everything.
I made up the title ‘Surf Rap’ because I wanted us to make a record that sounds like nothing else in Dutch rap. ‘Surf Rap’ sounds like a new genre, of course it’s not a new genre but I think we succeeded in finding our own unique sound. I think we will always follow our feeling with music and this is how that sounds right now, but you never know how it will end up sounding in the coming projects. We love sampling and love the same music so don’t expect us to go in a total different direction. We love to evolve so we want to use live bass in our next record.
Mardy: We both know what we like, that’s what we do, that’s how we started. We where discovering our sound while trying things for the album Surf Rap, like I said our ears are the same witch makes it easy to discover our sound. A sound is always developing a bit, so you’re always discovering new/old sound-techniques.
Who were some of your key music influences growing up?
Tizu: For me the earliest influences in my love for hip-hop were Tupac, A Tribe Called Quest, Nas and The Game. When I saw the video of Changes on MTV I went crazy. I was like 7 years old but I remember that I loved that song and everything about it. It still is my favourite song of all time till this day.
My primary school teacher gave me Illmatic and The Black album when I was 11. I was listening more to Arctic Monkeys and Nirvana at that time, but discovered hip-hop again when I saw the Hate It Or Love It video on MTV. That was the second time I fell in love with hip-hop, and this time it stuck with me. The Game was my first concert ever in Amsterdam in 2005. After that I went to Nas’s Hip-Hop Is Dead Tour and not much later I discovered Dutch hiphop through Opgezwolle, DuvelDuvel and Kubus.
Mardy: When I was growing up I listened a lot to Ray Charles, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Bob Marley, 50 Cent.
What 3 artist are you listening to most now?
Tizu: At this moment I love Nas’s last album King’s Disease. The beats by Hittboy and the way Nas’s still surprises me with the way he says things and his energy – it just makes me feel good. Ultra Black is such a banger and Car 85 has a nostalgia feeling I love. While doing this interview I realize I’m a very nostalgic dude haha. So Nas is still in my heart till this day. And besides that I love to listen to Andre Hazes, he is a folk singer and local legend. His songs are bluesy, which I love. Not everyday, but Andre Hazes really moves me.
This year I listened a lot to his song ‘Ja Dat Ben Jij’. I love that weird sounding synth with the 80’s vibe. It’s like that producer just played that new 80’s synth for the first time in his life while going crazy on some kind of drug cocktail hahah. It’s really shitty but I love it. It’s definitely not Andre’s best song but it’s fun to listen to, for me. I just found out about Kofi Stone from Birmingham. I love his sound, I just bought his debut album on vinyl Nobody Cares Till Everybody Does, a very fine piece of work in my opinion. I’m also discovering Nick Cave’s track Jubilee Street thanks to the Dutch rapper Sticks. Shout out to Sticks for introducing me to Nick Cave.
Mardy: Nowadays, I listen a lot to The Notorious B.I.G., Loyle Carner and lately SAULT.
For a debut album, the whole project is incredibly professional and plays with complex production techniques. How have you both honed your skills as a producer or MC in such a short period of time?
Tizu: All credits to Mardy for blending all the productions so nicely. I don’t know how he does it, but it works. I just give him samples, he works his magic around it. With the production of Keizer Pinguïns I gave Maarten a very difficult puzzle so solve. My friend Leon gave me the main sample, then I went to look for a trumpet sample and another sample from Donald Byrd. I said to Maarten: Dude this all fits together I just don’t know how. He sat down for hours and hours and around 6 in the morning it all sounded harmonious and smooth as fuck. So 3 complex samples in 1 song combined, that’s Mardy’s magic.
Credits as well to Daan Börger (Naan on Spotify) he made two beats for the album: Zwaluwen & Witte Rook. And Daan and I did one beat together for the song called ‘Tips’.
Mardy: I once did some professional training for audio technology and production. I’ve also been playing the piano since I was nine years old. If I can’t figure out something I can always ask one of my friends for help, who are very talented in music. At the and of the song Gemene Delers there was one ‘challenge’. Actually it wasn’t really a challenge. We had to choose one of the four trumpet outros played by Randell Heye.
You guys wrote your fist song “Champie & Assie” while away in Costa Rica, do you guys both surf?
Tizu: I do mainly, with my girlfriend I visited many nice spots in The Philippines, Morocco and Portugal – all over the world actually. Maarten and I surfed for the first time together three months ago on a very stormy day in Noordwijk. It was really fun, we thought: now that the album is finished we have to go surfing together. I hope that we will do that more often coming years.
Mardy: I wasn’t there unfortunately. I did some windsurfing in the summer while growing up. I also surf once in a while, not much. The last time I was surfing it was with Tizu during a rainy evening.
We always like to ask a non music related question in all the interviews we do. What 3 places would you recommend someone coming to Amsterdam for the first time too: 1) Hear some great music 2) Get some great food. 3) Meet local creatives.
Tizu: 1) Paradiso (such a lovely music palace, it’s an old church with nice staff and nice bookings. 2) For me it’s Rakang my favorite That Restaurant on Elandsgracht. Their Green Curry and Massaman Curry are delicious. Everything is declicious and the people of Rakang are the best. 3) Lastly, Café De Duivel, Festina Lente or Nieuwe Anita.
Mardy: 1) Ruk en Pluk 2) Café Bern 3) Skate Cafe.
Lastly, what’s the hope for the future? Do you plan on performing once the hospitality is back open? How can people support you guys until then?
Tizu: I can’t wait to play more often and have fun with our music. Our releaseshow was big fun and we just did a small livestream show at Recordstore Concerto. You can buy our record there but also by sending us a DM on Instagram. Cheers, stay safe and I hope we can party together soon. Love Tizu.
Mardy: For sure! As soon as possibly! Until then, our Album is available on Vinyl. In my opinion, listening to a album on vinyl is such a better experience than listening to a album by a simple click on Spotify. If you don’t have it, get yourself a record player these days. Listen to the album on vinyl would be a great support.