Verfallstad, by Def P

Def P is best known in the Low Countries as a rapper and former member of the group Osdorp Posse. Yet he also had an interesting graphic career. Def P was born in 1969 in Amsterdam as Pascal Griffioen. Between 1982 and 1990 he studied graphic design at the Amsterdamse Grafische School. After graduation he worked five years as an advertising designer. His graphical influences are M.C. Escher, Eric Schreurs, Hein De Kort and graffiti artists. He was active as a graffiti painter himself under the name "Destroy". In high school the teenager fell in love with hiphop and started recording his own songs. In 1989 he and his cousin Marco Moolhuizen (DJ IJsblok, a literal translation of the name of famous rapper Ice Cube) founded their own rap band, joined by the brothers Arthur and Robin Bezuijen (who respectively name themselves King and Seda). They named themselves the Osdorp Posse, with the word "Osdorp" referring to the Amsterdam neighbourhood where they grew up. Griffioen took the pseudonym Def P and became their lead singer and main lyricist.

Contrary to many other rap acts in the Netherlands and Belgium the Osdorp Posse sang in Dutch rather than English. There had been Dutch-language rap acts before, such as the Antwerp-Ghent rap duo The Gantwerp Rappers (best known for 'Poopeloo', 1980) and even comedian Urbanus had a rap hit with 'De Scratchin' Zwaantjes' (1984), but all of them were basically humorous novelty acts. Right from the start the Osdorp Posse presented themselves as a serious act. They had a tongue-in-cheek approach, but their lyrics reflected genuine socially conscious messages. More than any other Dutch-language rap act at the time they tried to emulate various aspects of the hiphop subculture into their own language, including "flowing", "battling" and "diss tracks". The beats were catchy, the messages powerful and the lyrics verbally brilliant with lots of genius word play. They translated certain hiphop slang literally ("old school" became "ouwe school") or deliberately used Dutch words that sounded similar, yet didn't mean the same thing ("hardcore" became "gezongen door het haardkoor", which literally means "sang by the choir next to the fireplace"). 

Some observers noted that the band did more to promote the Dutch language than any well-intended initiative by language committees. And instead of being mere party rap they took their inspiration from underground rap acts and artists with meaningful lyrics like Public Enemy. They rapped about politics, religion, crime, racism, drugs, prostitution, depression and commercialism. Certain songs were spoofs of horrorcore rap and followed similar outlandish storylines about sensational crimes. Since most Dutch-language people never really paid attention to the lyrics of English-language hiphop they were all the more surprised and shocked when the Osdorp Posse did a similar thing. After all, this time they were able to understand every sentence...

Geendagsvlieg
Cover art for 'Geendagsvlieg'

During the early years the Osdorp Posse were mostly ridiculed and underestimated. Their uncompromising subject matter prevented them from getting much airplay. Other people saw them as yet another novelty act, solely because they sang in their native tongue. This misconception was also fed by the undesired low-fi sound of many of their early records. The band members had a "do it yourself" approach and worked with their own primitive drum computers and turntables. They recorded for a small independent label, Djax, who had no experience in recording hiphop music. The plus side was that they at least received total creative freedom.  Word-of-mouth and popular live concerts gained them a cult following, both in the Netherlands as well as Flanders. By the time their fourth album arrived, 'Afslag Osdorp' (1995), the band finally broke through to the mainstream. 

The success enabled Def P to quit his advertising job and concentrate on his far more lucrative and satisfying profession as a hiphop artist. Apart from writing all their songs he also penned their autobiography, 'Oud en Nieuw' (1988) and the extensive independent documentary film 'Als De Schijt De Ventilator Raakt', which was added as a bonus DVD to their CD 'Hollandse Hardcore Hiphop Helden' (2005). The "rhyme bomb" was also the brain behind their music videos and designed their band logo, T-shirts, posters, flyers, logos, tattoos and album covers. The most notable of the latter was the cover of 'Geendagsvlieg' (1997), made in collaboration with artist Dadara.

As the Osdorp Posse received more media attention press and public starting taking them more seriously. Their pioneering role in the development of Dutch-language hiphop, or "Nederhop" as it is popularly nicknamed, was acknowledged. It even spawned a Flemish subgenre, "Frithop". Around this time they had enough credibility to feature pop singer Henny Vrienten (of the most succesful Dutch band in history Doe Maar) as a guest vocalist on the track 'Onkwetsbaarheid Is Eenzaamheid' from the album 'Geendagsvlieg' (1997). Def P returned the favour by rapping on the track 'Aan De Bewoners Van Dit Pand' on Doe Maar's first album in 15 years: 'Klaar' (2000). The Osdorp Posse also scored a few hits around this period, such as 'Geen Clubhit' (1995), 'Biobakmuziek' (1995) and 'Origineel Amsterdams' (2000). In 1999 Def P founded their own independent record label, Ramp Records, which released all of their further output, including his four solo records 'Cryptokilostijl' (1999), 'Het Ware Aardverhaal' (2001), 'Pascal Rascal' (2007) and '30xPi' (2016). The label also produces records by other rap acts, for whom Def P occasionally provides guest vocals, as well as album cover art.


Verfallstad

Def P is also active in other media. He has his own columns in magazines like EssensiE, Pauze and TattooPlanet. He has written poetry, which he read during literary festivals and which has also been published in literary magazines. The Dutch hiphop legend also presented his own radio show, 'Tegenwicht voor Evenwicht' (2001-2011), on Kink FM. He made an audio play, 'Het Ware Aardverhaal', for the educational radio channel RVU, which was released as a solo album in 2001. For the same channel he also created the documentaries 'Ondergronds Verzet' and 'Hoe Realistisch Is Onze Realiteit?'. For the channel RVU Def P presented 'Nachtland' (2004), a show about artists inspired by the nightlife, while he wrote and rapped songs for the Dutch children's educational TV show 'Het Klokhuis' around the same time. Def P furthermore wrote some theatrical plays, including hiphop adaptations of Peter Weiss' play 'Marat/Sade' and William Shakespeare's 'Comedy of Errors', 'Romeo and Juliet', 'Macbeth' and 'The Taming Of The Shrew'.

Yet he didn't neglect his roots in graphical design. In September 2000 he published the comic book 'Verfallstad'. It features a comic strip about a city that fell into decay. Urban gangs who lost their sense of norms and values make life unsafe. While he enjoyed the project he somewhat underestimated the hard labour that crept into drawing and colorizing everything by hand. As a result, 'Verfallstad' isn't a 100% pure comic book, but also contains columns he published earlier in magazines. In the 2000s Def P. collaborated with rap artist Juice and underground cartoonist Peter Pontiac. Together they made five tryptichs based around the theme 'Planets'. One of these, 'Planet Mokum', was used inside the gatefold sleeve of the Osdorp Posse album 'Tegenstrijd' (2003).

Planet Mokum
Planet Mokum, by Peter Pontiac, Juice and Def P

In 2008 the Osdorp Posse disbanded, because the members wanted to focus on their families more. Def P carried on as a solo artist. In the spring of 2012 Def P published an online art book, collecting all his paintings, drawings and designs. It was made available on his personal website and through the i-Store. On 1 September 2016 Def P and his friend and colleague Frank Moos founded a graphical design company and website called Designbazen. Together with Schoolly D, Def P remains one of the few hiphop artists who has made comic strip-related artwork. 

Def P

www.defpenco.nl

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