It is something of a miracle that Antwerp-based rapper Darrell Cole has reignited his career with three successive EPs – Loading, Still Loading, and Fully Loaded, which he is coming to present in Brussels.
Just under five years ago, his friends recognized his talent and organized a now-legendary album presentation at the Grand Bazar. But Uncut Diamond, the album which he released himself, came too soon, though it sold more locally than the wonder boy of the time, Stromae. The media, the industry, and the scene weren’t ready for his urban mission, and perhaps he himself had tried to force too much all at once, he now admits. “Every time that I’m almost there, I try to drag thirty people along with me.”
“But you needed pioneers like me and the older generation from my neighbourhood to produce people like Coely or TheColorGrey. The land was still barren. We would often hear: ‘Oh, they want to rap too and do the American thing.’ We had to break down a few doors. It took a while before we could apply the do-it-yourself formula of people like Jay-Z and P. Diddy to the local context. For a long time, I thought I was in the wrong country. One of the new tracks on Fully Loaded starts with that idea. But the situation in Belgium has changed over the past few years. There is so much talent!,” he said.
That results in cross-fertilizations, like on “Belgian Cyphers”, for which Cole collaborated with the Brussels-based Zwangere Guy and Le 77, whom he calls brothers.
Sierra Leone & Linkeroever
If the impressive and introspective “B.O.A.T.S.” had been by an American, Cole would have scored a global hit last year, including a Hollywood biopic, because you can take the infectious “Based on a True Story” hook literally. Born in London, he returned to his parents’ homeland, Sierra Leone, when he was young. His father was an army captain there. The civil war broke out when Cole was eight and the family fled, ultimately settling in Antwerp’s Linkeroever.
“The first two EPs are dominated by my past, but on the third, I end the story as an adult man, with a tribute to my daughter Imani.” It is she who triggered Cole’s artistic resurrection. He found a second wind in Barcelona, and quickly gained momentum. The rapper wants to put the name of his label Live Your Dreams into practice. It’s a slogan that his friends tattooed on their bodies long ago.
“After the EPs, there will be an album next spring,” he says. But Cole is dreaming even bigger. “I always swore that if I ever went back to Sierra Leone, it would not be empty-handed. Just like Akon, who brings solar energy to Africa, I want to do something to help the economy of the country of my roots.”
> Darrell Cole
26/10, 19.30, Atelier 210