Up close with the Dutch hip-hop sensation...

Joshua J only turned 20 a day ago, but the Breda creative has already racked up loads of plays, been tipped by Dr. Dre and played some of the Netherlands’s most leading festivals.

Clash caught up with him following the release of his latest EP, ‘Forbidden Fruits’. It’s a vibrant and quite optimistic affair, channelling the positivity of Chance the Rapper. Joshua says: “I feel really inspired by Chance as an artist, by his melodies and lyrics and the way he performs, like he’s preaching.” Above all, he admires “his dedication to his art”.

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Joshua aims for something similar, with a hand not only in the music, the beat-making and vocals, but also in shooting the videos, and he has professed an interest in photography. There’s a clear auto-didactic streak in him. His latest EP, ‘Forbidden Fruits’, is his first solo project, a ‘really exciting’ prospect but also a fraught one: “I knew the end result wasn’t going to be based on shared opinions about what looks or sounds cool; it would all depend on me.”

The artist has collaborated with others before, but here he strikes out alone to push himself and see how far he can get. Now that ‘Forbidden Fruits’ is out, he hopes that “everybody will be able to see me for who I am.”

It’s an at times unflinchingly personal and vulnerable record, an insight into his practice, but one that refuses to descend into rampant solipsism. It’s “the first project where I am really showing multiple sides of myself.”

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‘Burgeoning underground hip-hop scene’ is perhaps not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Dutch music scene, with its slew of EDM DJs, but Joshua hopes his recent release will inspire kids back home in the same way he’s been inspired by “listening to people like Chance or other artists that I love, like Dave.”

He wants others to latch onto the same energy with which ‘Forbidden Fruits’ is imbued, rapping in English rather than Dutch as another way of challenging himself. Of course, as lingua franca it also means his tracks can reach a bigger audience: “I hope to reach as many people as possible, but I still want to be able to be myself – I don’t want to adapt or put on a mask.”

Online, Joshua has found a global audience. The freedom of being able to release something anytime and anywhere is something he cherishes, not least because he can mark his birthday by dropping a new track – ‘Forbidden Fruits’ was released the day he turned 20. As for the rest of the year, he wants to prioritise live shows, having previously found himself behind the decks. A debut album at the end of the year is on the cards, but for now he’s looking forward to seeing the reaction to ‘Forbidden Fruits’.

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Words: Wilf Skinner

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