What We Love About Hip-Hop in Iceland in 2017 (So Far)
Two years ago, detractors of Icelandic rap (alongside others) speculated upon the genre's future. Furrowing their brows with supercilious skepticism, they wondered whether the mighty aircraft of Icelandic rap hadn't reached its zenith, for, as they noted, having been propelled upward by a fortuitous convergence of tailwinds (mainly in the form of Gísli Pálmi, Úlfur Úlfur and Reykjavíkurdætur) – there was no way to go but down.
"Surely these waxen wings will melt," they predicted, as if observing a bejeweled Icarus in flight, suspecting not only that his navigational prudence had been compromised by Lean (Purple Drank), but that the mercurial nature of the Icelandic weather Gods would, before long, necessitate his downfall.
Somehow – some way – however, the Icarian flight of Icelandic rap continues, as if its wings weren't made from wax, after all, but a kind of heat-resistant, synthetic alloy (2017 is, undoubtedly, the biggest year in Icelandic rap so far).
In celebration of this Icarian evasion of the Aegean (the sea that swallowed Icarus) – or, better yet, the North Atlantic – SKE compiled a list of those aspects and accouterments of Icelandic rap that we have especially enjoyed.
1. The Quality of the Music Videos
Prosperity has many faces, among them fine visuals. The below videos from Aron Can, Reykjavíkurdætur, Sturla Atlas and Úlfur Úlfur are among the many notable visuals to emerge from the Icelandic scene this year.
2. The Rebirth of the "Posse Cut"
Nothing warms the cockles of the rap enthusiast's heart like a good posse cut; the release of tracks like Joey Cypher, Gella Megamix and Kadillak draumar saw the rebirth of "crew songs" wherein three or more lyricists united over a single beat.
3. All the New Talent
"How can Icarus fall if his wings perpetually sprout new feathers?"
Black Pox, Countess Malaise, Birnir, Fever Dream, JóiPé & Króli, etc. etc. etc.: The list of talented, up-and-coming Icelandic rappers is, apparently, as long as Don John's (TRUMP) fingers are short.
4. The Kronik Sessions
The reincarnation of the Kronik radio show on X-ið 977, hosted by the Stretch & Bobbito of Icelandic rap – DJ B-Ruff and DJ Rampage (Ruff & Robbito) – has played its part in bolstering the scene. Each week, videos of local rappers performing live (on air) are published online (an endeavor that has since spawned a host of imitators).
5. The Concerts
Young Thug, Migos, Post Malone, Rick Ross, Big Sean, Anderson .Paak, Young M.A., Pharoahe Monch, Roots Manuva: No other Ice Cube ("Klakinn," a kind of cynical term of endearment for Iceland) has befriended as many rappers this year, aside from, maybe, Ice Cube himself (admittedly, a lame joke).
Last week, the Icelandic media announced that Future will be performing in Laugardalshöllin in October.
6. The Coverage from Foreign Media
There's a saying in Icelandic: "Fame comes from abroad," a phrase which bespeaks the secret snobbery of all Icelanders; it doesn't matter how many cameras are leveled at your smug countenance – if there isn't a foreigner standing behind one of them, you're a nobody. This year, Vice, Huck Magazine and Beast all reported on the scene, suggesting something along the lines of success:
seven icelandic hip hop acts you should get to kno
Iceland’s female hip-hop collective is changing the game Daughters of Reykjavik
In Focus: Why Iceland’s Music Scene Punches Above Its Weight
7. Vloggers Reacting to Icelandic Rap
For a period of two or three months, the Youtube channel Cream Clout entertained Icelanders with their humorous incredulity toward Icelandic Hip-Hop, a phenomenon that subsequently engendered a few imitators:
"Wow, where the fu$# did Matt Damon come from?"
"Bring it back, please."
8. All the Records and Mixtapes
Upwards of twenty mixtapes and albums have been released this year by Icelandic artists.
- Alexander Jarl - Stund Milli Stríða, Vol. 1
- CYBER - Boys
- Aron Can - ÍNÓTT
- Auður - Alone
- Dabbi T - T
- Alvia - Elegant Hoe
- Elli Grill - Þykk Fitan Vol. 5
- Vald Wegan - Útivera
- JóiPé X Króli - Ananas
- MC Bjór og Bland - Ölæði
- Joey Christ - Anxiety City
- Joey Christ - Joey
- Kilo - White Boy of the Year
- Dýri - Óreiða
- Shades of Reykjavík - Rós
- Sturla Atlas - 101 Nights
- TaktFasTur PróFasTur - Afrakstur Gerbakstur
- Úlfur Úlfur - Hefnið okkar
- Shaman Shawarma - SHMN EP
- Bróðir BIG - Hrátt Hljóð
- MC Bjór - Gamalt, Gleymt & Grafið (2011-2013) Vol. 1
Perhaps we are prejudiced on account of SAMA-SEM's freshness (both in terms of how recently they released a video to the song Sólsetrið, and as regards the novelty of their sound), however, we whole-heartedly approve of Dadykewl and BNGRBOY's collaboration and look forward to hearing more.
A Few Things We Disliked
Not to end on a sour note, but there a few aspects of Icelandic rap that have been decidedly less appealing, in general: commercialism; the exaltation of designer brands; thoughtlessness in the composition of lyrics, especially as far as "mumble rap" is concerned; mindless mimicry of style; the scarcity of political commentary (rap music is punk music); sexism.
There's always room for improvement:
"Onwards and upwards, dear Icarus."
Words: Reggie Noble