Afrojack: The Hitmaker

by Liz Ohanesian / photographed by Jiro Schneider
Afrojack wears a suit, shirt and tie by John Varvatos.

Afrojack is in Los Angeles for a sold-out show at the Palladium, part of a heavy-hitting bill that also features Tiësto and Lil Jon. We're bouncing between a photo shoot in Silver Lake and a pit stop in Hollywood before the Dutch DJ has to head to the venue. We chat in the back of one of the town cars that Afrojack has on hand to whisk his team across traffic-riddled L.A. streets. From the car window, he takes notice of one of Hollywood's best known apartment buildings. It's the kind of thing you don't notice when these streets are part of your routine. Afrojack's routine, though, is different. He pops in and out of cities, hitting the stage at a packed nightclub or music festival before saying goodbye.

The previous night, he was in Las Vegas for the launch of his residency at Hakkasan. It was no ordinary gig. "I didn't just want to do a regular club night," he says. "I wanted to make it like an experience." As part of a mission to give the club a new look for the residency, Afrojack and G-Star RAW collaborated on custom uniforms for the venue's employees. The DJ and denim-centric fashion brand have been collaborating for the past year. A capsule collection released last fall sold out in two days. A second Afrojack x G-Star RAW collection is now available in 4500 stores worldwide.

He's one of the biggest DJ/producers on the scene, a festival headliner who has worked with David Guetta, Madonna and Beyoncé. A collaboration with Pitbull and Ne-Yo, "Give Me Everything," became a smash hit. His breakthrough single, "Take Over Control," sold platinum with little in the way of promotion. Afrojack still considers that track his biggest success and continues to drop the single at all his gigs nearly four years after it was released. "That song did everything on its own," he says. "It's like my baby. It's my first ever vocal song."

Afrojack is wearing a jacket by Yohji Yamamoto, shirt and pants by John Varvatos.

Afrojack was a young teen known as Nick van de Wall when he hit up his first party in a Rotterdam club. All that pressure that existed in the outside world, the need to try and fit in with those around you, he says, disappeared. "How you look? It doesn't matter. It's too dark to see anyone," says Afrojack. "How your voice sounds? It doesn't matter. It's too loud to hear someone's voice."

As a teenager, Afrojack found freedom inside the club. That kind of liberation on the dance floor informs his debut full-length, Forget the World. It's an album packed with guest stars, including Sting, Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa. It's also imbued with a message to follow your own path. "It's, like, really easy to alter your own lifestyle so that you can get more likes on Facebook," says Afrojack. There's a flip side to that strategy, though. "You're going to have friends that you don't like yourself," he says.

Afrojack bucked convention when he quit college, where he was studying graphic design, to pursue music. In the early days, he couldn't land a gig. He would show up to clubs at 10 p.m. and wait around until 2 a.m. Eventually, the DJ on the decks would have to run to the bathroom and van de Wall could have the chance to drop a record or two. Now he's a hitmaker whose opinions on dance music can help shape its future.

Afrojack is wearing a jacket and shirt by John Varvatos, sunglasses by Mykita

"There's a big part of dance music that's becoming saturated with a lot of new, young producers that are all trying to do the same thing," says Afrojack. He's quick to point out that, despite this, there are people pushing the envelope. "I've also been hearing a lot of people take it to another level, do something different with it, make a dance song with 100 bpm, make a dance song with 140 bpm." Right now, he's seeing a resurgence in hardstyle, a heavy brand of dance music made famous in his home country that's now catching the ears of U.S. party-goers.

He cites the legends of the dance world, folks like Richie Hawtin and Carl Cox, for pushing things forward, essentially creating their own genres within the scene. He's also interested in the mix of styles that David Guetta and Skrillex have combined. "If you do the same thing, a genre dies," he says. "That's the danger."

Afrojack knows the game. Do something new, but present it in a way that's familiar to people. "That's how you change the sound of radio and that's how you keep your genre alive," he says, "by having it grow with you."


Styled by Timothy Reukauf

Grooming by Marcel Dagenais at LVA Artists for Evo Hair Care

Photo Assistant: Paris Potter / Shot at Mack Sennett Studios in L.A.


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