Point BlankPOINT BLANK was a special surprise at this year’s SPOT Festival in Århus, Denmark.  This hip-hop band features Napkin Cole (Louis) as rapper/lyricist, Emil Hesselbæk on trumpet, Frederik Hagner on saxophone, Carl Emil Johansen on piano, Thomas Lund on bass, Mathias Klysner on guitar and Jakob Vinther on drums.  You’ll recognize Mathias and Jakob from dreampop outfit WALDO AND MARSHA. Check your preconceptions about Danish hip-hop at the door because this band is something special.  Led by a heartbreakingly good-looking lyricist, and an equally hot trumpet player, the live dynamic of this band is sweaty, sexy and animated. With the horns, the sound is nineties-inspired, but updated to be totally contemporary and more than just a nostalgic throwback.

What sets POINT BLANK apart is the lyrics; hip-hop is poetry and Napkin Cole is slinging some of the deepest (and dirtiest) kind. Listen to tracks like Queen in a King Size Bed (“She made me breakfast/ then undressed/kissing on my neck/when I’m stressed”) or Move (“Don’t tell me how you’re feeling/just let me move you”) and if you don’t get turned on then you should probably go see someone about that.  Nothing But Hope And Passion caught up with Louis, Emil and Mathias at this year’s SPOT Festival, and we talked about slow jams, ICE CUBE, and terrorism.


So you’ve been a band since 2009. Tell me about your influences, especially key hip-hop influences.
L: There’s a lot because we are very different. My greatest influence is TUPAC, and they don’t like TUPAC.
M: Yeah, I love TUPAC!
L: Generally people like J DILLA and The NEPTUNES are very strong in our music. Now in our music, we try to experiment with lots of things that go beyond hip-hop and jazz.
E:  At the beginning we were influenced by this French band, HOCUS POCUS, but we’ve moved past that now. As Louis said, we listen to a lot of new hip-hop. A lot of people think we only listen to nineties rap because that’s our sound, like A TRIBE CALLED QUEST, which is obviously a big influence, but we also listen to current stuff like DRAKE and KENDRICK LAMAR, MF DOOM, MAD LIB.
E: Yeah, OUTKAST, you definitely have to write that.
L:  A lot of hip-hop with melody in it.


Yeah that’s the thing with POINT BLANK’s sound, I hear a ton of R&B and soul influence.  It’s more melodic than some hip-hop is. What’s your favorite slow – jam or R&B song?
M: Bump and Grind [R. KELLY]
E: Yeah.
L: The first thing that popped in my mind was AALIYAH with Rock the Boat.


So I saw you guys opened for ICE CUBE when he played here. What was that like?
L: That was in 2012.
E: He was pissed because the demands on his rider weren’t properly fulfilled. He asked for these chicken wings and a specific type of Snapple, and you can’t even buy that in Denmark or Europe or anything, let alone this specific flavor that he asked for.  He was freaking out.  Also the ICE CUBE crowd isn’t really our type of crowd, they were just like this [crosses arms] “What the fuck, a trumpet?” [laughs]


POINT BLANK: “The problem with Denmark is that we are not ambitious enough”

What keeps Danish hip-hop (and Danish bands in general) from reaching the rest of the world? It just seems to stay in Denmark.
E: A lot of things I think.
M: There’s just so many great things in America.
L: The problem with Denmark is we are very privileged and we are very wealthy, we will always have a back-up plan. In America, people will dedicate their lives completely to their music. In Denmark, people will always have a plan B if they are not ambitious. The problem with Denmark is that we are not ambitious enough. People are just not hungry enough for it.


That’s my next question.  A lot of hip-hop was born out of social criticism and the desire for social change. Coming from idealized country of Denmark where everything is “perfect” what do you have to be angry about and what do you have to fight against?
L: I don’t think we want to fight against anything. I know as a rapper and as a lyricist I want to tell the world about Denmark. I was raised with TUPAC and JAY-Z who were talking about Brooklyn and talking about California and so I feel like  my job is to tell about Denmark and how we live, so someone in Compton or someone in Brooklyn will hear our music and will think “Okay I know a bit about Denmark now.” So that’ s mainly what I’ve been focusing on, on this album.

What is like when you guys write a song? Not just lyrics but as a whole large band?
M: it’s pretty…all over the place, maybe Emil comes with an idea-
E: Often, one of us, like Carl has an idea on the piano, and he’ll start playing when we are practicing and people start joining in and we will give each other criticism. When we have a beat, we will record it and Louis will listen to it and write the lyrics. The lyrics are 100% Louis.
M: When were in the studio, we have maybe a few finished songs, and the guys just add to it and do that thing to it. It’s really exciting to do.


What’s the most pressing political issue right now, all over the world not just Denmark?
L: Terrorism, definitely. Since 9/11 the world has changed completely. Also with immigration and refugees. With the whole Muslim movement, the western world is completely not ready for that state of mind. People are afraid of the unknown, and that’s going to take decades to recover.
E: We actually talk about that in a song, called Generation Terror.
L: I don’t hate political rap, but I it’s very difficult to create. That’s why I always try to bring my own point of view rather than just talk about something political.


It kind of limits you, if you label yourself a political band.
L: It’s very difficult to express yourself just in terms of politics. In Generation Terror, even in the title, it’s about the fact that our generation, and our age, has been raised with 9/11, and the whole change and the whole…the hatred against certain types of people.
M: Against terrorists and all that.
L: the fact that terrorism has exploded these last few years and will affect our generation and decades later. I’m not a fan of terrorism but I’m aware of it, how we- how Denmark is handling it.
E: And taking part in the war on terrorism, like in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and all that.


So we always ask this. You have to tell me what hope and passion mean to you.
L: Hope and passion are two things you connect in something you believe in. Passion is something you really have, you will always have it, at some point. But hope, it’s not supernatural, it’s something you won’t always expect. You can always hope for something but you can’t have it. If you connect both things, that is the chemistry for achieving, combining passion and hope, and then believing. I know hope and passion will become believing.