'You can't avoid Zwolle anymore'

Rico is a Zwolle native

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"An anniversary yes...," Rico (Ricardo McDougal) suddenly realizes. Exactly a quarter century ago he moved from Harderwijk to Zwolle. He would never want to leave. In those 25 years, he saw the city grow on all fronts. With Opgezwolle, Fakkelbrigade and many other projects, he unwittingly contributed a big pile of stones to that. That earned him honorary citizenship of Zwolle. He himself puts his role into perspective. "Bizarre anyway: you keep a diary, make sure it rhymes and not much later people come to Zwolle to see what you rap about." October 1 is the premiere of his hip-hop family show Frenk de Slak at Hedon.

Photo: Marinca Esselink

Harderwijk

"I grew up in Harderwijk. When I was 17 I traded school for a factory. After a year I regretted that so much that I wanted to get an education again. Then I could choose between Utrecht and Zwolle. Because I don't like a lot of hustle and bustle around me, I chose the latter. Zwolle sounded quiet. I started in a room in the Kamperpoort. It was so small that I could touch both walls if I spread my arms. After a year I moved to the Veerallee. Even then I knew Zwolle was my city....

IJssel bridge

I really love Zwolle. I too am one of those people who feels at home when he sees the IJssel bridge. Then I know I'm home within five minutes. Zwolle is familiar. Because many people know each other, the city feels like a big village. Yet Zwolle is very lively. That's exactly what I love. I will never leave here again. That has to do with the atmosphere and the people. People from Zwolle will grant you something. With Opgezwolle we had the feeling that the city was proud of us.

Living off music

Opgezwolle started more or less at Hedon. That place has been so important to me. That's where I met Sticks and Delic. They studied Journalism at Windesheim, I did CMV. After a year we quit our studies and chose Opgezwolle. Our mothers thought we were crazy, but twenty years later I can still make a living out of music. I am grateful for that. It is especially cool that you touch people with something that is your own. You write lyrics that others take strength and power from. Bizarre really.

Zwolle inspires

We just rapped about what we experienced every day: visiting barber Joseph, chilling in Park de Wezenlanden, getting a greasy bite at Snackbar Norp, you name it. Zwolle provided inspiration. Still does, by the way. Because we lived in Zwolle, we developed our own style. If we had grown up in Amsterdam, we would draw from the same inspiration as others. Now we were doing something very unique. And that caught on. In our heyday, people came to Zwolle to see the locations we rapped about. Quirky, right?

Business card

Unconsciously, this made us grow into a business card of Zwolle. In the west they still had a very strange image of the city back then. People thought we drove on tractors and walked on wooden shoes all day, haha. Or they just didn't know the city. How often we had to explain what the name Opgezwolle stood for. Well, Zwolle maybe...Nowadays nobody can ignore Zwolle. Twenty years ago, maybe not much happened here, but that atmosphere has really changed.

Beautiful inner city

The inner city has also become much nicer, although I have to say that I visit there very little. Doesn't fit into my life or lifestyle anymore. As a father of two boys, I am home a lot. I visit playgrounds more than pubs. I think a good development is that the old V&D building is disappearing. That was the only ugly building in the city center. I also like the houses that have come up on the former site of the Wezenlanden Hospital. They fit perfectly with the character of Assendorp. I couldn't have thought of it better myself....

Hedon

I think Hedon is very important for Zwolle. That's where you meet each other, whether you like hip-hop, rock or techno. Anne Riemersma, the former director of Hedon, once asked me if I could do something for young people. That's where Fakkelteit came from. For nine years now we have held a walk-in for young people on Mondays and Wednesdays. Formerly in Hedon, now at Docks24. Together we work on raps and beats. Some boys come because they want to get better, others for a helping hand. Recently someone said that thanks to Fakkelteit he made friends and came out of a depression. We got him out of the darkness. That's very rewarding work.

Photographer: Marinca Esselink
Photographer: Marinca Esselink

Family Lap Show

My friend comes from the theater world. We have been thinking about a joint project for years. From that came the idea for the first family soap opera show in the Netherlands. I am performing it with Dries Bijlsma. The show is about Frenk the Snail. That's a bit of an autobiographical figure. I went through difficult times with a drug addiction, debts and a house I had to sell at a great loss. Then I was kind of a slug. That's Frenk. I let him experience all kinds of adventures. I think it's cool forty-somethings and their kids to come to Hedon. 'This is where I used to go wild, son'. And that that son simultaneously discovers a pop venue for the first time.

Coming home

Very cool that we're doing that show in Hedon as well. That always feels like coming home, although a concert in Zwolle is also extra exciting. You have to work hard to get people from Zwolle to move. Traditionally they are a bit reserved. But it is a nice challenge to loosen them up. If that succeeds, the satisfaction is all the greater in the end."

Rico's Top 3

  • "I used to take care of the interior of the Conservatory together with Sticks. After that work we often sat near there on a bench along the Thorbeckegracht. That's the most beautiful spot in Zwolle. On that bench we got a lot of inspiration for new raps.`
  • "By now I know all the playgrounds of Zwolle...The big playground in Assendorp and the one in Holtenbroek are the most beautiful. I have an awful lot of respect for all the volunteers who maintain these kinds of facilities."
  • "After 25 years, I still sometimes discover new things in Zwolle, like Zandhove estate in Zuid a few years back. That looks like a fairy tale forest. No matter what time of year you walk there."

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