Located in the heart of Brussels underground – in Rogier underground station – Chez Oscar is the new temporary hub dedicated to hip-hop music and culture in the heart of Brussels. The spot, unique in Belgium, is a living space where you will find the best exclusive merchandising, hip-hop gears and local clothing brands. We sat down with François Charles who teamed up with production partners and sponsors to make this crazy cultural initiative from the STIB/MIVB possible!
Airplane Mode : Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself ?
François : My name is François, I’m 30 and I’m one of the co-founder of Digizik, a Brussels-based interactive music bureau. With my partner Gregory we opened up Digizik few years ago and I’m glad to say that we’re still here today!
A.M : How did you get the idea of this crazy project ? Who is behind all of this ?
F. : Well, with Digizik, our friends at Back In The Dayz and Bonte Bella we started a a few months ago a conversation with the STIB/MIVB on how it would be possible to attract more people to the underground and change this negative image youngsters may have about public transports. Moreover, through this project we’re trying to spice up the daily commute of thousands of people here in Brussels. Our main idea was to create something real, something out of the social networks that will affect people in their real life. So, with the support of our sponsors and this unexpected partnership with the STIB/MIVB this project became real !
A.M : Can you tell us why you chose Rogier underground station ?
F. : I would say that the station is the perfect spot for this kind of project. Located in the center of Brussels, super crowded, bright…. What’s cool here is that you can bump into people from different backgrounds and ages. This is truly representative of Brussels’ diversity. To be honest, we’ve been on the spot for a long time! So when the spot was free, we jumped at the chance! Instead of your daily dose of caffeine we deliver your daily dose of Belgian hip-hop!
A.M : But why in Brussels’ underground ?
After the attack, the number of underground and public transports users in Brussels has undeniably dropped. Through this project we’re trying to restore the image of the public transports and give people a good reason to take the underground again. Furthermore, we would like to change this idea of cold and empty underground stations, where people pass each other with indifference…
A.M : What about the spot ?
F. : The location here is about 120 square meter and used to be a very famous American coffeehouse chain. They left the shop empty : no floor, no ceiling, no furniture… Idem, a very talented Brussels-based artist, has designed the entire shop and the furniture! We had to work day and night for three weeks to get the shop ready for the opening! The result is pretty dope!
A.M : The name of the pop-up store is Oscar Beek… But who’s Oscar ?
F. : Oscar Beek is one of the mascot created by the STIB/MIVB. He represents the North area of Brussels and targets the youth and the cultural diversity of Brussels. We can reach everybody through him! Oscar is not a common chatbot, he will give you the best tips and spots to enjoy the city and keep you updated about the latest hip-hip info! He can even spit the best Belgian hip-hop punchlines… Go on Messenger and meet him!
A.M : How would you describe the spot ? Would you say that this is more a shop or a living space ?
F. : I would say that the concept is a mix of both. Of course, this is a shop but this is also a real living space where people can meet and chill together. The atmosphere here is really friendly. People usually spends hours here enjoying the shop, talking about music with other hip-hop aficionados. As I said before, this initiative is a way to change this cold and unfriendly atmosphere of underground stations into something more social and welcoming.
A.M : Through this pop-up store, are you trying to showcase Belgian hip-hop and in the meantime connecting people ?
F. : Well, there is a real cultural dimension here. Through the shop, we are trying to represent the culture of Belgian hip-hop. It’s obvious that the vast majority of the artists don’t really need our support to exist but we can give them a new kind of a visibility in exchange. It’s cool to have a shop where you can only buy exclusive products you can’t find anywhere else! In addition, we are hosting almost everyday DJ-sets and live performances. We’re also organizing meet-and-greets with the top Belgian artists such as JeanJass, Caballero, Elvis Roméo, Lefto, Coely, Le 77…
A.M : This kind of place is not something that we can easily find everywhere in Brussels. Do you think this city needs more spots like this ?
F. : Everybody is really happy to come to the shop and get stuff they can’t find somewhere else in Brussels. This definitely makes the place more special for them.
On the other hand, it’s true that in Brussels it’s not that common to find this kind of living place. Here, it’s usually crowded because people who comes here share something in common : hip-hop music. As Belgian hip-hop music went viral these past few years I would say that the shop falls in the scope of this trend. So yes, the capital definitely needs more similar spots! There’s a real potential!
A.M : Can you tell us when Oscaar Beck switch off to Airplane Mode ?
As soon as he is in the shop! Here, nothing is digital ! People come by, listen and talk about music… You don’t need to be connected! It’s all about a real life experience.
Chez Oscar is the new-place-to-be for all the hip-hop lovers of the capital. Don’t sleep, the shop will be open till October 19th. Make sure to pay them a visit !
Credits : Idem Brussels / Oscar Beek Facebook page / Vincent De Maeyer