This was Crack Magazine’s first time at Appelsap, and it became immediately clear that there’s a community vibe which surrounds the event.
The story goes that Appelsap began as a series of block parties in 2000. Welcoming fans of hip-hop, RnB, soul and the culture which comes with those sounds, it’s now a major one-day fixture in the Dutch festival calendar. Situated among the trees at Flevopark in the east of Amsterdam, a well-dressed, diverse crowd arrive for a day of celebratory partying.
A rap show should be high on energy, but the vibe at hip-hop gigs can easily be soured by an overload of testosterone. With a better gender balance in the crowd, this isn’t the case for Appelsap.
The programme brings together local favourites with UK artists and blockbuster US names. Dutch rapper Bokoesam inspires a huge response with a pop-leaning sound and a hyperactive show which sees him surf over the crowd. Signed to TopNotch, a Dutch label distributed and marketed through Universal, Bokoesam’s definitely existing at the more mainstream end of the Dutch scene but – as a British writer – it’s always fun to see a superstar you’ve never heard of. The Noisey stage played host to a well selected handful of UK names – Dave and J Hus held fort as two of the year’s most exciting exports. London DJs Siobhan Bell and Amy Becker both managed to keep the party moving with DJ sets that traversed bangers of the moment (KMT, Magnolia and XO Tour Life were all heard multiple times across the day) along with underground sounds from the worlds of UK drill and London road rap.
Brooklyn rapper Young M.A appeared on the festival’s main stage as part of a string of European festival dates. Although her breakthrough hit Ooouuu got great responses from the many DJs who dropped it, the combination of jet-lag and a mid-afternoon showtime led to her live performance falling slightly flat, and her attempts to get the crowd going by criticising their low energy levels had the opposite effect.
The festival was headlined by Lil Wayne, an undeniable rap icon who is still in the throws of a legal dispute with his label Cash Money and its founder, Wayne’s father-figure, Birdman. Opening with Mr. Carter from 2008’s triple-platinum selling Tha Carter III – Wayne went through a set of heyday favourites (Mrs. Officer, Got Money, Go DJ) and guest verses from monster hits from more recent times (Drake’s HYFR and DJ Khaled’s I’m The One). Now at the stage of his career that merits heritage status, Wayne arguably underestimated just how much the fans wanted to hear classic material. The ground literally shook to the iconic bass throbs of A Milli, but Wayne cut it short to perform his verse from Chance The Rapper’s No Problem to a noticeably more timid response. However, Weezy seemed happy to be there, and his trademark gooey croak was loud and clear. Touchingly, he repeatedly told the audience that he “wouldn’t be shit” without them and demanded applause for all the festival staff.
With the crowd spilling to smaller stages after Lil Wayne’s set, Brixton drill group 67 buzzed off the energy of a massive crowd, instigating the day’s biggest mosh pits. Meanwhile Lunice bundled off the Boiler Room stage having treated the crowd to a nostalgic blast of TNGHT’s Higher Ground. During an after-show interview, a giddy local rapper gatecrashed the conversation to force his mixtape CD into Lunice’s hands. “No! No mixtapes!” Lunice laughed as the rapper snuck into the frame. “But seriously, shout out to Appelsap – every time.”