Producers and DJs who also possess rap skills are rare in the Netherlands, let alone that this person is also a label owner. Beats by Esko is an exceptional artist who, with his Van Klasse record label, already has a prominent place in the Dutch urban scene.
Born as Stacey Walroud he discovered rap music aged 9 via an older friend. Back then his heroes were Eminem, Nas and 50 Cent. Stacey then also started writing lyrics himself. He initially took beats from the internet. Then he started experimenting with Fruity Loops, a program that he still uses in the studio today.
He recorded his first track aged 13 and the artist Esko was born. The reason why it took some time before his career took off was simply his life circumstances. His home situation was so bad that the family had debts which led to Esko trying to find refuge on the streets, getting into a world of stealing and dealing drugs. “I wasn’t an easy person back then”, he recalls. “Basically: I was a problem child.”
Esko hung about in youth centres a lot. Here he met Bart van Houten, at the time one of the volunteers at the youth centre, who already had some experience in the music world. Van Houten was, among other things, Osdorp Posse´s manager for almost two years. He was so impressed by this 13-year old Esko that he offered to help him develop a career. Esko admits, however, that he wasn’t ready for this step: “Bart wanted me to follow courses, learn computer programs to get my beats to the next level. He arranged that for me, but I didn’t even show up. Looking back, this was a mistake, but back then I thought it was more important to smoke weed and hang around on the streets. I was serious about music, but I didn’t like to take advice from other people.” He purchased studio equipment with the money that he earned on the street. This led to Esko making his debut steps as a producer for other artists.
The low point came when it got so out of hand that Esko was sent to a closed facility, something between a boarding school and a prison. He was there for over a year; only in the weekends, when he was allowed home, was he able to work on his music. When he was released aged 18, he decided to change his life. “After this time, I had the opportunity to go into the studio with artists such as Bokoesam. I decided to go for my music for 110%. That’s saved me.”
His beats became more and more in demand. In the early years, Esko worked with Bokoesam, Keizer and Negativ from the Nindo label. In 2013 his name grew through featuring in Negativ’s 101Barz session. He believes that the many views he received on the internet became the real kick-off for Esko.
It brought him back to Bart van Houten, who got in touch after seeing 101Barz. This time Esko did accept his help, and the Van Klasse label was born a year later. “Bart is the business brain, I’m the creative brain. It works between us because we have split the roles so clearly. We sometimes get very angry with each other, almost want to strangle each other, but we’re still a dream team despite this.”
The results are testament to this. Van Klasse signed a number of artists, such as Hansie, Jermaine Niffer and Josylvio. And Esko’s own career is also still growing. He rapped about his childhood in his Probleemkind EP, putting his negative experiences into positive lyrics. Because he doesn’t want to be limited by a genre, he created The Blockparty, which allowed him to express his musical vision, along with MC Gilly Guillermo and DJ D-Train.
Esko’s rap career has been caught up by his success as a producer. His distinctive beats, based on trap, are eagerly gobbled up by major rap names such as Sevn Alias, Jonna Fraser, Hef, Adje, Cho, Lijpe, 3robi, Kempi, The Partysquad and many more. The debut album Ma3seb from Josylvio was primarily produced by Esko. The Streetknowledge album by Adje contains solely Esko productions.
Esko on producing: “Producing isn’t just making beats, as a producer I create the entire song together with the artist. Sometimes we spend hours improving a chorus, hitting a slightly different note … developing the entire project from one track to the finished result, that’s the task I embrace.”
His hard work has already paid off for Esko with a number of awards. Below is a list with the awards Esko has scooped.
Sevn Alias – Kifesh
Sevn Alias – Ma3lish ft. Frenna & D-Double
Sevn Alias – Mandem ft. Jairzinho & JB Scofield
Sevn Alias – Nachtmerrie
Sevn Alias – Work ft. Jonna Fraser
Josylvio – Le7nesh ft. Sevn Alias
Lijpe – Accepteren ft. D-Double
Josylvio – Westside ft. 3robi & Killer Kamal
Kempi & The Blockparty – Cocaina
The Partysquad – C’est La Vie ft. Josylvio, Bizzey, Hansie & Broertje
Josylvio – Skittle Stacking
Esko, Josylvio & Hansie – Hey Meisje
Double platinum status:
Josylvio – Ride or Die
Sevn Alias – In Amsterdam ft. Maan
FunX Music Awards: 2017: Best producer
Edison Awards 2017: Best album
FunX Music Awards: 2018: Best producer (winner)
Dutch Charts #1 positions:
Josylvio – Ride or Die (single)
Esko, Josylvio & Hansie – Hey Meisje (single)
Esko – Beats by Esko (album)