You may know Matthijs as the father and founder of Violencia, an Antwerp-based organisation that encourages and supports young talented people in the urban and hip hop scene. Quite a lot of them experience difficulties in their lives and still have one foot in a bad environment. Matthijs wants them out completely, and helps facilitate it by giving them a platform where they can fully express themselves and trying to bring them to a higher level within the music industry. But it’s more than that: everyone who’s a young creative with a clear vision and ideas is welcome at Violencia. They provide sustainable artistic support for everyone who needs it. Together with his Violencia family, Matthijs will host a stage at Swim With the Current at DeSingel in Antwerp, where you’ll get to know all of their talented artists.
Photo by Victor Darmont
Because the youth is evolving all the time, creating new trends, they teach you the most
What’s your specialty?
Talent development: encouraging and supporting young talented people in the urban and hip hop scene. Quite a lot of them experience difficulties in their lives. By working together with them on their talents and music, I try to bring them to a higher level within the music industry.
How do people know you?
People may know me as the founder and coordinator of Violencia, an organisation in Antwerp. We organise concerts, projects for and with young people in the urban/hip hop scene. Our most important project is the Violencia Showcase, a talent contest in which I fulfil more like a supportive, mentoring role to the participants.
Do you have an event soon?
Swim with the current (June): indoor music festival at deSingel in June, one of our partners in Antwerp (large culture house). They invited us to fill one of their stages for one day. A lot of great artists from the urban and hip hop scene will perform on our stage, including some of our ‘own’ artists like Freddie King and Jenny Cabral.
What will the second part of 2018 bring you?
We’re starting with a new edition of the Violencia Showcase. We’ll work hard on the careers of some of our upcoming talents. Some of them still have one foot in a bad environment, but at the same time we know that they’re very talented and we really want them to break through in the scene on a national level.
Do you think it’s important to have a good social entourage?
Yes. Very important. Throughout the years I’ve learned the value of surrounding yourself with supportive people who make you better in what you do by supporting you with good advice and constructive feedback.
How did peers influence your life?
The people I used to hang out with were real role models for me. I never felt like I had to compete or be better at something, but wanted to contribute in their lives and make them better at what they were good at. At the time I was already thinking about how to create a platform where young people could advance their talents so that they could be heard by a bigger audience.
If so, what is the most important thing you’ve learned from it?
In this society it’s important to support each other. Young people – including myself – need to believe that you can reach whatever you want, if you believe in yourself. But other people also have to believe in what you’re doing. When all of these things come together, nothing will stop you.
Who has most influenced you in life?
Honestly, I didn’t really have a specific person to look up to. I think that the young people I got to know in general and worked with through the years had the biggest influence on my life. Because the youth is evolving all the time, creating new trends, they teach you the most. Because of them I keep adjusting myself and try to be innovative in what I’m doing.
Sometimes it can be very lonely and hard to carry
Do you experience peers more like a positive or a negative phenomenon?
I experience it in both ways. It’s a positive thing because my peers give me an enormous boost to work really hard for my people and to reach better results. But this goal can also put an enormous amount of pressure on you. You need to have a thick skin to prevent that you’ll crash from the one day to another. I can’t help all of my friends and their friends and the rest of my people, because there are a lot of people struggling with so many problems. Society still has to change a lot. I sometimes have the feeling that I had to move mountains to accomplish something, and that I’m up here all alone. Sometimes it can be very lonely and hard to carry.
Do you feel the need to conform to those around you? Do you regret any time you’ve given in to peer pressure? If so, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned?
The past two years I had to focus on myself and Violencia. Because of this I put some distance between myself and some people. I’m not sure if I would be walking the same road that I’m walking right now under the influence of some of my friends. It’s not that I’m not making fun during work, but now I really try to make a difference between my personal life and professional life. At the beginning I found it hard to find this balance.
Is there anyone in your scene who needs more attention?
Maybe it’s a little bit arrogant, but I have to think about myself. Not myself as a person but what we have reached at Violencia. I think that the projects we’ve been working on and the talents we are working with could sometimes use more appreciation from the scene. We’ve come a long way. I had to struggle a lot to come this far. And I’m still facing a lot of barriers every day. It would be great if these barriers would come down and be overshadowed by a great deal of positive energy coming from outside.