The Mechelen Hundred

Portraits of a city's people, today

Nestled between Brussels and Antwerp, Mechelen has often been overshadowed by its larger neighbours. Yet teaming up with the City of Mechelen, our line-up of 100 of the city’s most prominent people, places and projects proves the extent of its potential. From artists and creatives to critical thinkers and fighters, these are the powerhouses driving Mechelen forward one step at a time.

Sevi ‘Safi’ Geerts

Sevi ‘Safi’ Geerts

Solo Flemish hiphopper, solo and as part of Safi & Spreej (1990)

Can you describe what you do?

I am a rapper, singer, songwriter and I often produce music as well. I come from an Antwerp background, but was raised in the city of Mechelen. I used to live right in the centre, very close to the famous St. Rumbold’s Cathedral.

Currently, I live in Bonheiden (right on the border of Mechelen) but I have plans to return to the city centre with my girlfriend. I just released my solo album “Bewust”, and now I’m mainly working on music video’s and rehearsing. For a lot of my work, I collaborate with other artists from Antwerp, but there are a couple of musicians from Mechelen I sometimes work with, like Tom Kestens (a local legend in Flemish pop music) and Fatty K, a producer from Antwerp who moved here 10 years ago. I’ve also worked with Bouzzy, a very talented upcoming artist from around here.

How do you perceive Mechelen? In your view, what kind of city is it? Its people, its cultural landscape, its vibe? How does it compare to other, similarly-sized cities?

I love Mechelen, but it wasn’t always like that. It used to be a real love/hate relationship, because I have a lot of wonderful memories growing up there, but I also remember there were a lot of problems, like street fights and shady business going on whenever we went out. I even wrote a song about it with together with Tom, and in the chorus we sing “I hate you, that’s how much I love you”.

But I’m glad to say it is totally different now! We have a wonderful mayor, Bart Somers, who has made a lot of good things happen. Mechelen was never really an ugly place, but now it is truly beautiful. There’s actually no other city that compares to this one in my opinion. When it comes to culture, I always thought there was too little of it present in the city, but this too is changing for the better.

What would you say is Mechelen’s main appeal as a city? What gives it its edge?

There is a lot of diversity, there are so many different cultures living side by side, the city hosts lots of activities during the summer, and in general, we boast a very rich historical heritage!

How has Mechelen contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?

I started rapping and writing in Mechelen, together with other local artists. We had a much bigger hiphop scene back then than we do now unfortunately – there were a lot more hiphop artists and a lot more activities were organised in support of this movement, like open mic events, parties and gigs. There was a yearly event called “Maanhop”, I always loved that one! There were stage shows, workshops on graffiti, breakdance performances, beatboxing… all of the elements of the culture came together.

I also did my very first performance in Mechelen, a great moment which I still remember as if it was yesterday. So I can truly say I might have ended up doing something totally different now if it wasn’t for Mechelen and its hiphop scene.

On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city? What could it do better?

I would like for the hiphop scene to get more attention from the city and media. But for that to happen it must first become big and active again! The organisation of more events would be awesome as well.

I would like to see more support for a vibrant nightlife as well. Although this is a city of students, it gets pretty quiet at night compared to other student towns. During spring and summer, there are popular places to hang out, cosy cafés, like the Vismarkt. But as far as I know, Mechelen doesn’t have any clubs where you can really go out throughout the year.

If you had to take out-of-towners to one place that truly symbolises the city, what/where would it be?

Definitely visit our St. Rumbold’s Cathedral! I’m not religious, but I often go there to find peace of mind. It’s so incredibly beautiful inside. It’s a long and exhausting trip to the top of the tower, but the view is totally worth it.

My two favorite places in Mechelen are actually outside the center. The first one is at “De Nekker”, a park with playgrounds and a big lake where you can go for a swim. Of course there’s an entrance fee, but I’ll tell you about a way to pay a free visit and have a much nicer experience. At the back of the park there’s a path that leads you into the woods, and in a matter of minutes you will see the lake. Along the path you find small beaches between the trees, just big enough for a romantic afternoon with your girlfriend. You’re not supposed to swim there, but you can still enjoy the view and the peace and quiet whilst bathing your feet in the water.

Another place I really like going to is Parkhotel, a building that was never finished. It has three floors and all the walls are covered in street art, some of which are really impressive. The building is located at the back of a park called “Vrijbroekpark”.