Published September 25, 2017
Rap duo Úlfur Úlfur has been among the biggest stars on the Icelandic rap scene in recent years. The name of the band translates to Wolf Wolf and like the animal they are named after, they are both snarlingly rough and furry and cuddly. It is a mixture that has brought them hundreds of gigs around Iceland and millions of plays on every music medium imaginable.
Country boy superstars
The Sauðakrókur natives debuted in 2011 with their first album “Föstudagurinn langi”, which includes the hit song ‘Á meðan ég er ungur (ft. Emmsjé Gauti)’. The track features an eighties inspired synth sound with an earworm melody. It quickly became one of the most played tracks of the year, establishing one half of the duo, Arnar Freyr Frostason, as one of the fastest and technically talented rappers in the scene, and Helgi Sæmundur Guðmundsson, who produces their beats as well as raps and sings, as one of the most creative producers around.
In 2015, they dropped their follow-up, “Tvær plánetur” (“Two Planets”), which has a distinctively more mature and polished sound. The album was quickly regarded as a pinnacle of Icelandic rap and one of the pieces that kickstarted the current Icelandic rap craze.
They followed this up in 2017 with “Hefnið okkar” (“Avenge Us”), which was more reflective and somber. There, they looked back on their many years in the rap scene, contemplating the highs, lows, and struggles of their careers.
Úlfur Úlfur’s sound is a roughneck lyrical attitude mixed with definitive pop sensibilities and booming bass lines. It is a clear mix of new-school and old-school vibes, which lends itself perfectly to the creation of hits with a widespread appeal. Rednecks groove to the bouncing beats, 101 artsy types brood over their serious lyrical matter and gangsters cruise around blasting their tracks through speakers too large for their cars.
Hits, hits, hits
The best gateway drug to the duo’s sound are their biggest hits (or my personal favourites, either way its banging).
“Tarantúlur” is a catchy track about comfortable living and a life without want–understandable seeing as they had blown up to the nth degree. An important part of the Úlfur Úlfur project has always been their music videos. In ‘Tarantúlur’ they go full on Icelandic white trash, with drifting sports cars, shirtless buff dudes, hot dog stuffing and drag racing. Possibly an homage to the real Icelandic dream, a reality that exists outside the poetry writing latte crowd of downtown Reykjavík.
“Hefnið okkar” hits
“Hefnið okkar” is a perfect next step in their already illustrious career. In some way they leave turn away from the bangers of yore and move into a darker and more serious sound.
‘Bróðir’ is the biggest hit of the album and the beat calls back to pre-Drake hip hop, with rhythmic synths and raw hi hats. Despite its dark tone, it still is just as catchy as their hallmark songs.
‘Geimvera’ is a more atmospheric pice, with a dramatic orchestral intro and almost overwhelmingly tense atmosphere. This moves into a characteristically catchy and dancey chorus. It’s the perfect still-at-the-club-at-4-in-the-morning song.
The track ‘MUA’ is a subdued and minimalistic tune, which touches on socio-economic themes, even playing on Gill Scott Heron’s “the revolution will not be televised”, albeit in the context of an elementary school on fire.