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Chicago, Detroit, London, Berlin—all hallowed centers of dance music. Nick van de Wall, on the other hand, hails from tiny Spijkenisse, outside Rotterdam, and his rise is a reminder of the Netherlands’ outsized influence on electronic music. De Wall, better known as Afrojack, began DJing in his teens, and by 2007, when he was just 20, he was putting out mischievous, muscular house bangers in the style called “dirty Dutch.” Early singles like “In Your Face” were full of buzzing synths and bore an unmistakable Caribbean influence in the dembow-flavored drums. (De Wall has familial roots in Suriname, a former Dutch colony in northeast South America.) Afrojack made his global breakthrough in 2010, just as bigger riffs and brighter melodies were reshaping EDM the world over, with “Take Over Control,” an anthem pairing slippery synth squeals with Eva Simons’ sweeter, R&B-influenced melody. A proper earworm, it tunneled its way straight to the heart of pop music. Afrojack brought the same slinky sense of fun to Pitbull’s No. 1 single “Give Me Everything,” which he cowrote and produced, and David Guetta’s “Hey Mama,” featuring Nicki Minaj and Bebe Rexha; his guestbook of A-list collaborators also includes Madonna, Chris Brown, and Beyoncé. At the same time, Afrojack’s work with Martin Garrix and Steve Aoki reinforced his dedication to peak-time raving at its most gleefully straightforward: just pounding kick drums, a giddy, drunken synth riff, and that unmistakable swing in his snares.

Spijkenisse, The Netherlands
September 9, 1987
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