Utrecht is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands with renowned nightlife and a historic city center. It is a large city that keeps the charm of a village with veins of canals that spread out around within her limits. It's not much of a surprise that a man named Kees Maas aka Bleach (a Hip Hop lyricist since 1997) was born and raised inside her warm embrace from cub to now.
Utrecht is where he still lives spitting lyrics on a wide array of beats from producers from all over the world. He has been featured on many different tracks by lyricists from all over the cosmos as well. He has said his favorite thing to do (musically) is to feature on other people's tracks. He's done 7 total projects (with another one reportedly on the way); some solo and some as collaborative work.
Fruits of Labor- Mayhem x Bleach
In the Mirror Ep
Thanx for Having Me Ep
Project 23:32 Ep- Bleach x J. Gamble x Damon Flores
1976 Ep- Bleach x Ed Glorious
Symbiosis Ep- Jay Reed x Bleach
Club Royal Ep- Bleach x Elgee Da Beatdetonator
He doesn't consider himself an MC, I'll let you read the interview to see why, but we're super enthusiastic to bring you the one and only Bleach.
TPT: Boom Bap New York-style Hip Hop is huge in Europe. Legends can go there and get the love that they deserve and don't get in the US. Why do you think that is? And how did this environment help shape your influence to want to rap?
Bleach: Oh yeah Boom Bap is still huge in Europe. I think people like authenticity and that rawness. The rough edges and all the lyrics that came with it. So legends are well respected down here, cause they paved the way to make it universal. I love the wordplay and juggling with words, love some cadence and rhythmic patterns. It wasn't the money or poverty that got me into this. I was simply the artform that I (still) love.
TPT: As we talked about this interview, you claimed you are not an MC, why is that and what makes an MC to you?
Bleach: Nah man, I think I'm far from an MC. I think I don't have the full skillset to say that I'm a full-fledged MC. I've got the wordplay yes, got bars... well yeah, of course, got flow. Those things grew due to practice. But my stage presence isn't there the way I want it to be. I did a few gigs with a few friends, a crew called "Henchmen" back in the days. And I only had to do one verse each gig, but my heart went through the roof like I was gettin' a heart attack or some. That shit stuck to me and I could never shake that off somehow! I'm an emotional guy you know, a perfectionist when it comes to my music! I want everything to be outstanding. So I can't say I'm an MC, cause I am missing a few factors.
TPT: You do your music in English, why not in your native tongue?
Bleach: Well... that's an easy question. This style of music was born in the USA, even tho I'm overseas creating music, it sounds the purest in English. Plus you can reach the whole world. It's cool when you rhyme in your native tongue (mine is Dutch), but you won't reach far anyway. Only a few countries understand the Dutch language. But if you ask me, I love the authenticity when I rhyme in English. Dutch that's a language I speak daily. English triggers me more and it's harder to come up with some nice and neat bars. I would never switch over to rhyming in Dutch. Even tho it would be easier to do that. I'd probably get more chances to reach a bigger public. It's also harder to rhyme in English than in my language. But I like the creativity in the process and I get a rush from it! Also if your English is not that good, people don't want you to rap in English at all. They would say: "If you're not from the States why the F*&k would you even rhyme in English" get your ass back home and never come back. But I always go against the grain. That's just the way I am, true story.
TPT: You have a ton of features, I mean your number of features far surpasses your solo projects. How come you like to feature in other people's songs more than creating your projects? Do you not like the pressure of coming up with the main idea of a song?
Bleach: That's a good one... I started this music biz as a feature. Nah but on the real, I love to work with others. I love to bring together people and create some art. I've worked with people all over the globe. Never thought I would reach that far! It's amazing. People all around the globe can hear my signature sound in collaboration with one of their people. Man, that's just crazy! And I always say: "it's our project". Most of the time I connect with the producer/beat creator and after that, I connect with other artists/mc's/singers, etc. Even though the process takes some time cause my work ethic isn't the same as others. I'm quick like an m.f.!! Most of the time I have to wait a couple of weeks, or months to get some of their vocals. But most of the time it's worth it! I think most of my songs are structured by myself when it comes to ideas, titles and what's the song about, etc. The other features will give it some extra dimension, with their quality and writing skills. Most of the time it fits like a glove. And once in a while, I think it's boring to write a solo track cause I only hear myself, you feel me!
TPT: I hear that, for sure. You have been on people's records from all over the world. What was the most surprising global artist you were asked to feature with? How did it come about?
Bleach: Wow, that's a hard one, to be honest. I can't name one specifically, I liked all the features I did. So I can't name them. They all had their charm.
TPT: You have been doing music since 1997, did you get started in a group, solo work, or was it a feature on someone else's song?
Bleach: Yeah... I started writing in '97. First, it was more like poetry, but later on real bars. My English was far from good at that time. In other words...I sucked big time, my pronunciation, everything..... no quality at all, if you ask me tho. haha lol. I let a few friends listen to it and they said: "you're such a clean rapper 😂" No curse words at all. But they liked it somehow. It gave me such a rush, and I felt so good. So I had to step up my writing skills and pronunciation to create my signature sound. The quicker/uptempo the beat the higher my voice gets. Smooth flow and sometimes rugged bars, when you don't expect it. I did my first feature with a crew named Henchmen also hailed from Utrecht (the city I'm coming from), it had 3 MCs and one singer, and a producer. They were knocking on some doors and did some tours through our country (The Netherlands). I did a 16 on one of their songs and that's how my first featuring came about. But I was always the guy in the background. Didn't like all the attention though. As an MC you need to be more on the forefront and be out there and kill shit! I didn't feel like I was that guy...
TPT: What do you feel is the drive and the purpose behind your brand of Hip Hop? You have now hit the ears from around the world. What is your favorite part of your Hip Hop journey and what are you most proud of musically?
Bleach: I don't think it's a brand that I've created but it molded that way I guess. The music I make is not created for others, but purely for myself. It's an outlet. It's crazy to say, but when I write my music, I'm everywhere, I can be anyone, I can do whatever I want, outshine everyone, I'm in my own world, my own habitat. And if there's only one person in the whole wide world who likes my music, it's just a blessing. I'm just that humbled you know. I never thought my music, my feelings, and my emotions would reach anyone music-wise. Now look at me!!! I'm really proud of what I did.
TPT: What makes you so versatile? You are on the tracks with many different narratives of Hip Hop, backpack, street, abstract, etc. What is your favorite flavor of Hip Hop to drop a verse on?
Bleach: The versatility just came from all the types of music. Was listening to all kinds of MCs, East, West, South you name it. I gave them all a spin just for the better good. I've learned from them all. I also like the variety in a beat and different patterns. I just write on emotions and feelings and most of the time words will come together and transform into a song. If it doesn't fit it's out the window. Back in the day, I was re-writing a lot because I didn't dig the outcome. But I don't work like that anymore. When I write a verse it's good the way it is. Maybe I clean up some parts to make it sound even better though. I like myself some old skool Boom Bap but I also like the soulful samples, melodic is that bring out my heart so I can go in deeper than the abyss. But I can write on whatever beat I like!!
TPT: Who is your favorite producer and who are some of the producers that you have worked with that remind you of that individual?
Bleach: My favorite producer...hmm. There are so many nowadays. Well, let me start with DJ Premier, Apollo Brown, Heatmakers, Alchemist, and Daringer just to name a few. Well, that list can go on and on you know. I don't think the producers I worked with had a similar sound to the ones named above. They all had their distinctive sound I guess. I like originality. All the people I've worked with have that. But I like the drive of some of them to create more and more beats and they just won't stop. Knocking out EPs, and albums every single month. That's crazy right. But when you're stuck in that zone it's normal to do that. The more art you invent the more doors it will open eventually.
TPT: Was there any project or a song you were a part of that was such a struggle but when it was over, you were proud of the result? Why do you feel that struggle occurred and what gave you the strength to keep working on it even though it was a difficult task to complete?
Bleach: Well I'm really hard-headed when it comes to my music and to say that I'm proud. I'm a perfectionist. I'm never satisfied with the outcome in certain ways. A lot of people say my voice is unique. So it's really hard to find a good engineer, who can bring out that high pitch voice and bring it out to the max. When I'm in the booth, I freestyle a lot of adlibs besides my main. I always tell the engineers to take out the shit that simply doesn't fit. But sometimes it's hard to explain because I recorded those adlibs. I did that shit myself, you feel me. How the hell could they understand me, if I don't understand myself? It's a never-ending story. Oh and another thing, that got me tense sometimes. When a project is taking way too long, I'm losing my focus quickly and that's fucked up! Like I've told you before (question 7). I'm in a different zone every time! Today I'm here and the next day somewhere else. The longer it takes to get this song out there to the public, the more outdated that song feels to me. I'm always busy with something new. It feels like I'm a traveler in my mind, trapped in real life somehow (only when it comes to my music). Every project is a test. The writing process ain't actually. That struggle keeps me going!
TPT: Who was your "musical mentor" and what did that individual do for you to think of them in such a light?
Bleach: I have 2 when it comes to music, to be honest. I look up to one of my best friends and in my eyes a real MC. My homie Graphic. He was a member of "Henchmen" and I've been friends with him since I was like 13/14. We're both 45 now. This guy's freestyles were better than his written. He had that melodic sound and he was riding those beats like a rodeo. That wowed me several times. That was his specialty.
The second person I looked up to is Misstrezz a.k.a. Strezz. I think she's the best female MC to ever grace the mic for real. This woman was bad to the bone with the bars. She'd outshine anyone... I tell you, ANYONE. I love her rugged mentality, flow, and lyrics. But that's just the way she is. She did so many shows and rocked so many mics. Hands down the best.
TPT: What was your favorite project you were a part of and why? Was it because of the growth as an artist that you experienced or was it because it was effortless?
Bleach: I think that will be my first Ep ".... In The Mirror" I had that one pressed because it was my first solo and I was proud as F*&k!! It wasn't my growth but the feeling I felt inside to drop that EP. Just butterflies, you know what I'm saying?
TPT: Lastly, do you have any new solo projects and features coming up? Maybe talk a little about it, revealing what you feel is ok to do so before their release.
Bleach: Last year I dropped my last collab EP (6 songs) I did with producer Elgee Da Beatdetonator and Dj Cold Crush named "Club Royale". That EP was Boom Bap oriented. It's still available on all platforms. Here's just a quick link: https://www.freshmessmusic.nl/product/bleach-club-royale/.
More work from Elgee Da Beatdetonator and DJ Cold Crush, you can find it on www.freshmessmusic.nl.
I also did a video for one of the songs called: "Who Knew" last year, fully directed by Patrick van der Scheer. He's a beast with the visuals. Follow him and his creations on insta: @zoo_elements_video_branding.
Check out the viddie: https://youtu.be/AXu1zpsoluk
This video also contains 2 creative heavy hitters in our Dutch Hip Hop circuit. 2 outstanding MCs!! Mister Personal/PSL and Metalz. Real Hip Hop Headz to the core!
Make sure you follow them both on insta: (Mister Personal/PSL) @mister_Personal or @eastgardenmusic_official & (Metalz) @mic_checka_metalz
My follow-up EP has no title yet, but it's about to drop next June/July 2022. Got two titles poppin' up in my mind. But this is not really the time to reveal its title yet. You will probably hear it before you even know it 😘 I'm still waiting on a few feature MCs to deliver some product and after that, it's straight murdahhh. This whole EP is produced, mixed and mastered by the underground king of Hip Hop himself, Skinny Bonez The Godfatha. This guy is amazing! He knocks out smoldering bangers with ease. Check out more of his work on his Bandcamp account: https://skinnybonezthagodfatha.bandcamp.com
We'll meet again!