Cheesecake At Junior's With Dutch Rapper Faberyayo
After experiencing that impeccable clip of kitschy joy, we were all intrigued by Faberyayo. Born Pepijn Lanen, 34-year-old Faberyayo has been a huge presence in the Netherlands’ rap scene for years as a member of the prominent and critically acclaimed group De Jeugd van Tegenwoordig—which loosely translates to “Kids These Days” in English. In addition to the group, which has been together since 2004, Faberyayo has embarked on multiple successful solo ventures, including fronting a French-style lo-fi band called Le Le. In 2013, he released a book of short stories, and he recently came out with his first novel, Naamloos.
In January of this year, Faberyayo, along with his wife and their young son, moved to Brooklyn. And so when we asked if he’d like to meet up, he suggested one of the most Brooklyn places imaginable: historic diner Junior’s Restaurant. Over bites of their legendary cheesecake, we talked about the rap scene in the Netherlands, communicating with fans on tumblr, and his work with Big Pizza.
So I’m obsessed with the “One Sentence Serenade” video. Can you tell me a little about the aesthetic?
It’s a song that I made for Domino’s Pizza. Thank you for the check Domino’s!
Is the song about serenading a pizza?
[Laughs] No. I don’t know if they had it over here, but they had this big campaign in the Netherlands where they got actual people who ordered stuff from Domino’s in their commercials. So they idea here was that people could send in one word to describe how much they loved Domino’s pizza, and then I took those words and created a song. And then the director came up with the idea of having a really romantic, crazy, karaoke-type feel. I’m not sure if it made the final cut, but there were some people in the video who just really loved Domino’s pizza. Domino’s fans!
What made you want to come to New York?
It was really just life unfolding in a certain way, doors opening and doors closing. It wasn’t really a decision I worked for in a certain way.
In New York you haven’t really been recording. What’s it like to come to a place where you’re less well known?
It’s sort of nice to not have to deal with people on a day-to-day basis, as I would at home. But then again, New York is a huge city and everybody’s so busy and on their own shit. I mean, I’ve been here before. I came even before I started doing music and people started recognizing my face, and now it’s really just the same. Especially coming from Amsterdam—Amsterdam is a really, really tiny city, and just being here, people are so busy with their own stuff that there’s no time to pay attention anyway.
Why haven’t you made new music while you’ve been here?
There are so many people who want to make music here. And if you really want to break in with no connections, you have to be on that 24/7—no sleep, banging on the door, fighting your way into places. And I’m 34 years old, I have a vibrant career, I have my wife and son. It’s not a path I want to go down.
You released your first novel this year. Can you tell me about it?
It’s a work of fiction about a guy who wakes up with a really, really bad hangover, and doesn’t know his own name anymore. He decides to give up drinking for a month, and then a bunch of stuff happens in that month.
I love that you answer fan questions on your tumblr. What’s the weirdest one you’ve ever gotten?
The questions don’t really get that weird, and I get why people want to ask me questions. Part of what I do is in public, and when you make music it raises questions for people. I figured I may as well just answer them. But for some reason, they started asking me advice about really personal stuff, and it’s just so strange. That’s one thing, and sometimes it’ll be somebody really crazy, and I’ll just try to answer as well as I can, because some poor kid just wants an answer. And then sometimes I’ll just be like, why would you take the time out to ask a random stranger this question, when you can just ask whoever the question pertains to?
In other weird news, I heard you might be doing a puppet musical?
Years ago, someone approached [Kids These Days] to do a puppet musical. We all figured that sounded like a really wild, outlandish idea. We had a few meetings with the guy and then he disappeared, but then for some reason it came back on the table a while ago, and now it’s really happening.
Is it in process?
The puppets are nearly done. The script is nearly done as well. The casting is done, and is the guys are working on the costumes and the stage design now.
Is there any way you could tell us a little about the plot?
The bad guy looks like this. [Holds up a pickle]
As an American, I don’t know much about the rap scene in Amsterdam—
[Laughs] Of course not! Why would you?
Could you tell me more about what it’s like?
It’s gotten really huge in the past couple of years. Back in the late ‘80s, when rap started to blow up over here, that’s when rap became a think in Amsterdam as well. In the mid-‘90s there were a couple of big commercial records, and then it sort of died down again. In the 2000s, there was a strong underground with guys who really made their mark, and made the music a thing that young people listened to again. And when we released our first record in 2005, it opened up a new crossover between mainstream and underground. We’ve been writing that way for the last twelve years, and in the past four or five years, I want to say, [rap] has gotten really big with young kids.
When did you start writing?
I wrote rhymes here and there when I was really young, around or twelve, but it was never really something serious. There were only two or three rappers in the Netherlands, and it wasn’t something you aspired to be because it wasn’t a realistic plan for the future. But our producer—who’s a good friend of mine, like an older brother—did a lot of writing, and he had a mic and we’d record shit over at his place, turn them into songs. I was like fifteen or sixteen. Then I left the Netherlands, because that’s what you do when you get your high school diploma. And when I got back, I moved to Amsterdam, linked back up with my producer, and it turned a little more serious. The other guys became involved, and it all happened from there. Life is ungraspable, and it turns into something you never imagined it would before.
Finally, how would you describe your music, in your own words?
I really don’t know. It changes from record to record. The only constant with our music is that we’re the ones making it. The last record was more mainstream, and so that usually means that the next record should be darker and grimier, a little more niche. But you never really know until you go into the studio.
Does your baby like your music?
I don’t know. [Laughs] I hope so!
Text by Jocelyn Silver
Photos by Rasmus Luckmann
Produced by Sjoerd Cuypers