PIMP MY COUNTRY
Despite being probably the world’s second best-known rapper (after Eminem), Snoop Dogg still saw reason to end his European tour with a quick stop in Iceland. The mainly sub-16-year-old crowd came a bit as a surprise when I entered the ridiculously large Egilshöll stadium. I felt overdressed as insanely short skirts sitting on bodies yet to grow hips appeared to be the norm.
Once I’d set my worries about how I was dressed aside, I waited for the show to start. And then I waited a bit more. And when a full hour had passed Icelandic rap group Forgotten Lores came on stage. Widely considered one of Iceland’s best, they at least proved to be an ambitious group, supported by a lot of instrumentalists including a trombone player. Visibly enjoying themselves, FL jumped around the stage in true hip-hop fashion and ran through a number of decent songs. Between songs they acted out short skits that unfortunately reminded me of Skrekkur, Reykjavík’s secondary school talent competition. This was countered by original and strong grooves and impressive word-play from rapper Birkir. However, the sound did FL no justice, the added trombone was never heard, the keyboards drowned in too much bass and there was no way of following FL’s rhymes a long way as they tended to give way to the drumming. Bad sound actually turned out to be the main theme of the night.
Icelandic reggae-kings Hjálmar were next on stage. Much like Forgotten Lores they put some extra effort into their show that night, expanding their normal line-up to include a brass section. That gesture was nice, adding a lot of flavour to Hjálmar’s sometimes risk-free approach to reggae. I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan of Hjálmar but it’s hard to deny they’re very talented performers and fun to watch, especially because of the bass player’s intimate and bodily relationship with the music, displayed in a tribal-like dance. But the sound didn’t pick up, and Hjálmar actually ran through a whole God damn song without the lead singer ever being heard. Can it be that the mixer-man simply didn’t grasp the fact that for one song organ-player Siggi sang, instead of guitarist Kiddi? Why didn’t someone rush on stage and replace the faulty microphone, if that was the case? Why did Hjálmar have to fall victim to such a horrendous sound system? Why did the audience have to put up with this shit?
Rap group Hæsta hendin were the last of the supporting acts to perform. Having the dubious honour of putting out an album with one of the ugliest covers ever printed, Hæsta hendin are much more traditional than their peers in Forgotten Lores. No instruments – only a DJ and two MCs, although they did have guest rappers on stage during every single song. Erpur Eyvindarson aka Blazroca or Johnny Naz, formerly of Iceland’s most popular hip hop band XXX Rottweilerhundar, who opened last year for 50 Cent, is one of Hæsta hendin’s two MCs – and it says a lot about the sound that night that he was not heard once during their whole set. It also says a whole bunch that the playback actually sounded like it was coming from a pretty poor pair of PC speakers. The sound was muddy, thin, ill-balanced and utterly disgusting in every way imaginable. But Hæsta hendin played on. As an indication of the quality of their set, its high-point was a medley of XXX Rottweilerhundar songs performed by the reunited members of the now-retired band. An insider told me Hæsta hendin were commanded by Snoop’s crew (scary body-builder guys) to cut the set short when they still had more than ten minutes to go and that would explain the chaos that characterized the latter half of their set.
It was now time for Snoopy. He made it perfectly clear that he was coming on stage when what appeared to be a full-length feature film started rolling on the large screens on both sides of the stage. It had 80s B-film style credits and cheesy G-funk grooves. It started out like a mysterious crime flick but it didn’t take long to morph into a lesbian-soft-porn movie, with tittie licking and all. As I said previously the crowd was mainly comprised of kids barely 16 years old, and some of the younger attendants were there with their parents. I can’t imagine what went through a parent’s mind when it turned out Snoop wasn’t just a rapper but a porn enthusiast, too, and not afraid to display that side of him in concert.
The porno movie soon gave way to a performance of Murder was the Case from 1993’s Doggystyle. Half of the songs turned out to be off that album, including What’s my Name and Gin and Juice. The sound hadn’t picked up – so nothing besides Snoop himself, bass, drums and the occasional keyboard could be heard from the ten-strong Snoopadelics. This was really sad, because I’m sure the backing vocals and grooves were a lot more interesting than Snoop’s soulless performance of 12-year-old songs. There I said it; Snoop was a terrible performer. And he was wearing the most distasteful clothes I’ve ever seen, not because they were obscene or anything; just so fucking ugly you wouldn’t believe it.
But Doggystyle is one great album. Actually, it’s my favourite hip hop album of all time. I find Dr. Dre’s (well, actually George Clinton’s) grooves irresistible and Snoop’s smooth delivery is one of a kind. And this strong set of songs managed to save the concert from being a catastrophe. Of course, the contents of the lyrics are debatable, and there was actually some intense debate going on in Iceland a few days before the concert, where rappers and feminists got to argue in front of a camera without any results or conclusions – only sparking small talk on who “had won”. I don’t know whether Snoop hates women (according to his videos he’s actually quite fond of them…) or if he’s just getting people to think about the world’s current status as all great art should do, but he’s an egotistical maniac – that much is clear.
Snoop Dogg played for 90 minutes and I’m positive he used at least 45 minutes for having the crowd shout “we love you Snoop”, chant “Sha-na-na-na Snoop Dogg” and regularly asking “what’s my motherfucking name?” It was fun for a while, but when he said “say it like you mean it” and expecting a “we love you Snoop” for the tenth time in a row it wasn’t all that exciting anymore.
When I left Egilshöll stadium I couldn’t help but think only one thing: It is insulting to an audience that has paid 4900 ISK (approximately $70 or 60 euros) for their ticket to have the sound as horrible as it was during this concert. Throughout the whole show – that’s four bands – the sound was always ridiculous. I don’t know how the consumer laws are on this kind of stuff – but there should be laws, and they should ensure that half of the people that bought tickets for Snoop Dogg will get at least half of the price refunded.