The people and places of rapper Baloji’s Ghent

Singer-songwriter and founding member of iconic Belgian rap group Starflam, Baloji (1978) takes us up close and personal in his adopted home town of Ghent, with a selection of best places for coffee, lunch, music and books.

This article was taken from our guidebook Thiis iis Belgiium, which you can buy over here.

I am based in Ghent, but don’t really know it that well. I’m here because of my daughter, who is six. There are a few places I like to go to in Ghent, especially now that I live in the centre, close to the Vooruit (Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat 23). There is of course De Superette (Guldensporenstraat 21) owned by chef Kobe Desramaul – I just love this place! I always try to make sure to schedule all of my meetings there. I mostly like their brunch, although their lunch menu is lovely too. The real secret to the place though is their coffee. They simply have the best barista in the country. But we’re spoilt in Ghent as far as coffee goes to be honest, as we also have OR (Walpoortstraat 26), an excellent coffee house which, despite sometimes getting a little too crowded for me, always serves excellent filter coffee. Plus they have a ton of different beans and blends. I always thought it weird that in most bars you can’t choose your coffee in the same way you do with wine for instance – as if we all had the same tastes – and OR definitely caters to that frustration, which is good.

We’re spoilt in Ghent as far as coffee goes, to be honest.

Another favourite of mine is Gomez (Oude Beestenmarkt 4), a tapas bar with a great playlist. The first floor is a restaurant and their basement is a club. It’s owned by some of Ghent’s best DJ’s and party promoters, and has a capacity of maybe 100 people tops. It’s on a pretty well-known square in Ghent, on the Oude Beestenmarkt, close to other iconic bars. Essential too is Jigger’s Noble Drugstore (Oudburg 16). I usually don’t drink cocktails, nor go for the current gin frenzy taking over bars, but this place is unique. It’s all about craft, herbs and flower infusions; try the Purple Benny for pepper, herbal liqueur and beetroot syrup flavours. These guys are like alchemists, adding a little bit of this and a little bit of that – I love it.

Jigger's Noble Drugstore. (c) Thomas Ost

Jigger’s Noble Drugstore. (c) Thomas Ost

Then there’s Paard van Troje (Kouter 113). It’s a beautiful bookstore and it’s where I go to get presents. It was destroyed by a fire two years ago, and was rebuilt entirely through crowdfunding. Lately, I like giving books away as presents and they have a nice and diverse selection of graphic books. The kind of bookshop that sells the books its staff reads. I also think it’s important to support these kinds of tiny but really nice businesses, the businesses that specialise in something, and don’t just try to be another FNAC. One of the first spots I visited in Ghent, back when I’d still commute regularly between here and Liège, was Music Mania (Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat 19). It’s a legendary record store, I’d go there at least once a month. They have an amazing selection of 80s electro and rare gems. I’ve found great Brazilian records or great 80s house Belgian classics there. They also have a lot of re-issues, some late 90s hip-hop priced between 10 and 30 euros, although some are substantially pricier.

There is also Rewind store (Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat 13), a nice clothing store. But, to be honest, as I work with very specific people and brands on certain collaborations, I don’t shop that much. Brands such as Art Comes First and Café Costume (Brabantdam 135). We make shirts and suits together. And once you get into that, you don’t’ go back to shopping anymore. For my latest video we made all the clothes ourselves for instance. I’ve also worked with Komono, with whom I designed an eyewear collection with which we created a new texture with malachite and made a collection of six models.