The Front Line: Underground Under-21 Icelandic Hip-Hop - The Reykjavik Grapevine

The Front Line: Underground Under-21 Icelandic Hip-Hop

The Front Line: Underground Under-21 Icelandic Hip-Hop

Published July 6, 2017

Hannah Jane Cohen
Photos by
Þórsteinn Sigurðsson

If you’ve followed the last 2 years of Grapevine’s coverage on Icelandic rap and hip hip, you’ll know that the scene is just crazy right now. (BTW: Every different word in that sentence links to a separate article about the scene.)

But there’s a whole new generation coming up and from benzo trap to old school, these kids have it covered.

Presenting: The underground under-21 that are breathing new life into Icelandic Hip-Hop.

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BIRNIR

Pronounced: Beer-Near (roll the rs)
Listen to: “Ekki Switcha”

How’d you get into rap?

One of my first memories of liking music was seeing an XXX Rottweiler video on TV. I was eight years old. I knew it was like “bad” stuff to like, but from there it grew—foreign rap mostly like Gucci Mane, Rick Ross, old school Houston stuff, a ton of shit. I remember my Mom gave me my first CD, ‘Justified’ by Justin Timberlake. That’s so lit that that was my first CD.

“Cry Me A River” is a classic. But how’d you start rapping?

I just wanted to know how to rap. I went to a snowboarding school in Sweden and I started freestyling there. It was a hobby, but I wanted to be really good. Later, Herra Hnetusmjör and I had this fucking Photo Booth rap group. We’d hit up the group, post a beat and say like, you’ve got 30 minutes to write something.

The plan was just to become good at rapping, not to like, ‘be a rapper.’

Then you released “Sama Tíma” and “Ekki Switcha.”

Yeah, I remember when I first recorded “Sama Tíma,” I listened to it and thought, “This is shit.” I was going to throw it out, but after five times in a row, I started to think it was kind of dope and maybe I’d actually release it. See, for me, the plan was just to become good at rapping, not to like, “be a rapper.” But after “Sama Tíma” got popular and “Ekki Switcha” really blew up, I thought like, maybe this could work out if I keep working at it.

“Ekki Switcha” means a couple of things. “Don’t change,” sure, but it’s more don’t switch up on what you think is right. Also, when you have those moments maybe you’re partying—where you think, “I don’t want to change anything at this particular moment.” Don’t change the status quo.

But after “Ekki Switcha,” you became a major player in the hip-hop scene. From your view, what is the Icelandic scene like right now?

It’s lit! Everyone is doing their own thing and just trying to be the best at that. I want to be the best but only at what I do. I can’t be better at doing Aron Can than Aron Can. I mean, I would love to be able to sing like him [laughs] but I just can’t sing much.

Auto-Tune!

I fucking love Auto-Tune! I use it. But yeah, there’s so much energy in the scene and everyone is so different. Joey Christ, Aron Can, Herra Hnetusmjör—he’s the best rapper in Iceland. It’s a fact. But, at what he does, you know? And I fuck with Cyber. I love Hrnnr & Smjörvi. Shoutout to Dadykewl.

I want to be the best but only at what I do. I can’t be better at doing Aron Can than Aron Can.

Gísli Pálmi is really the GOAT if you feel me. Eminem is a GOAT. TuPac is a GOAT. Gísli changed everything and this scene is probably due to him.

See, Gísli Pálmi is not joking. Gauti is not joking. Herra Hnetusmjör, Aron Can, GKR —they have all put some serious time into this stuff because you have to create something that is true and real to you. People can sense when someone is being fake. A lot of my lyrics are like the Da Vinci code to me. People might not fully understand but it’s true for me.

That’s the “Ekki Switcha” deal, right? But to end: Anything else?

Yo, I just found out this out. Did you know seagulls can become like 49 years old? That’s fucked up. I hate seagulls. But they can be old as shit, like you see a seagull and it’s like “I’m 35!” Fuck.

Oh, I’m also releasing a new song this summer.

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DADYKEWL

Pronounced: Daddy-Cool
Listen to: “Ástralía”

What did the Icelandic hip-hop scene used to be like?

Hip-hop became good again around 2010 with A$AP and Kendrick. I couldn’t stand 50 Cent and Icelandic hip-hop groups during that time—they were so negative, it was deranged. Yeah, most Icelandic raps at that time were about “being hardcore” and that pretty much meant saying a line about “MY CREW” and rhyming that with “FUCK YOU.” Or “I’m gonna fuck you up!” but really they just go to tanning salons. Can you imagine if I did that? Walked around rapping, “DON’T FUCK WITH MY CREW, GÍSLI PÁLMI!” No way.

We were completely stuck in the 90s until Shades of Reykjavík and Gísli Pálmi made the scene pull a U-Turn.

Amen, Dadykewl. So then what is it like now?

The scene is really diverse. It’s such a small country so it’s pretty amazing. that there are so many genres of hip-hop here at this time.

Personally I want to make sincere music. People will connect to that.

I want to do positive battle rapping, something like “Don’t give up!”“You seem like a great person!” “Nice sweatshirt!”

So then let’s talk about your last two songs, “Ástralía” and “Lada.” Are they sincere?

“Ástralía” was the ending of me finding my sound and what kind of music I wanted to make. All of 2016 led up to that, and since then, I’ve caught the Dadykewl vibe.

“Ástralía” is a sincere love song: “It’s hard to predict the future. I can’t have a relationship through a phone.”

“Lada” though was complete satire, probably due to me being around Hrnnr & Smjörvi too much. In my view, everyone else is singing about Lambos and I’m like, what about the other cars? They need love too. So I’m just shooting all the haters that are hating on me while I am flexing on my Lada.

By the way, please put that in this article, because I have no car right now right now and I really want a sponsorship. Hey Lada, I like cars and I’m a cool rapper.

Yes, you definitely are… So what’s next?

I want to do positive battle rapping, something like “Don’t give up!”“You seem like a great person!” “Nice sweatshirt!” It could be cool.

But really, I am making an album right now with BNGRBOY and it’s coming out real soon.

Well give us some wisdom to end, Daði.

If you want to be happy, you have to surround yourself with people that are doing what you like doing or else you end up on the bottom of the pile, kind of like where Gísli Pálmi is going to be if he fucks with my crew. You can film it: “It’s an exclusive: WORLDSTAR!!” I’ll be, “Don’t fuck with my crew.” And he’ll be like, “I didn’t? Who are you?”

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HRNNR & SMJÖRVI

Pronounced: Huh-Ran-Are Ann-duh Smuh-ur-vay (roll the rs)
Listen to: “ENGAR MYNDIR”

Let’s start with an introduction.

H: “HRNNR” is “Hrannar” without the As. That is why I go by HRNNR.

S: My name is Tjörvi, but butter is “smjör,” so now I am Smjörvi. I started with that name when “Rúllum á Bílum,” our first song, came out in 2016.

H: “Rúllum á Bílum” is “Rolling on Cars” or maybe “Rolling in Cars”? Whatever Chamillionaire did. Rollin’ dirty? The song starts with: “Pull up in the Prius. I get straight As.

S: When you first hear it, you are like “What is this?” Then you get it.

H: “Roll up in my car… Gísli Pálmi. Walk in on an animal… Cow.” The whole thing was just a freestyle because we were bored one day so we screamed something into the computer. Then in the same day we made a video and posted it.

S: We had no idea it’d get any recognition. We expected max 50 views but it was the exact opposite.

You got a lot of attention. So what’s the Icelandic scene like nowadays?

H: I used to find Icelandic rap so funny. This country is too small for you to be like a criminal gangster rapper so it seemed funny that people tried to be.

S: My brother always says he hates classic rap, so now I know what direction I should go in because of him. That negative kind of rap brings out the worst in people.

H: The rap scene isn’t like that anymore. It’s building up, it’s tight, and there are no beefs, like there are in the USA.

You cannot survive without a passion here. I’d rather make beats than do pretty much anything, even video games or drinking alcohol and crying.

S: Not yet.

H: Actually I did make a diss song. It’s just “Tjörvi is a bitch,” over and over, over a beat I made in five minutes.

S: It’s really offensive.

H: Maybe you should stop being a bitch then.

S: Hey, Hrannar can you get me some water?

H: Ok.

S: Hrannar is my bitch.

Yeah, you guys definitely seem like bitches. What’s next?

S: Taking over the rap game in Iceland. The whole music game actually. Quote me on that.

H: Right now we are trying to finish an album. School is in our way though.

S: And laziness.

H: And video games. And drinking alcohol and crying.

S: That’s illegal.

H: Better not snitch on me.

Any last words?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2G0Cvpfwd0

S: You have to have something to do in Iceland or else you will get really depressed.

H: Yes, you cannot survive without a passion here. I’d rather make beats than do pretty much anything, even video games or drinking alcohol and crying.

S: And before you ask, nothing about the nature in Iceland inspires me. I am kind of sick of it actually. I have seen too much nature. I am inspired by passionate people. People who give all their time and effort into their passion. I try to be like that.

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JÓIPÉ & KRÓLI

Pronounced: Yo-Eh-Pee-Ay Ann-Duh Crow-Lay
Listen to: “Spreða”

What was the Icelandic rap scene like when you were growing up?

K: Dabbi T was my rap idol. He had the best rhymes, puns and flow. I was inspired to go for rapping though after watching Aron Can. He’s my age so I was like, if he can do it, I can try too.

J: I just watched ‘Straight Outta Compton’ and that made me start rapping.

“Crazy motherfucker named JóiPé.” Ok, just kidding. But who are you a fan of now?

K: I am a big fan of Icy G. Herra Hnetusmjör is also awesome but he tweeted something bad about us so now I’m like Ok, man. We shot our video in Kóp but we have a shoutout in the song to Garðabær. Some guy called us out for it and Herra Hnetusmjör retweeted it. C’mon. That said, he’s still the best right now.

Yeah, fuck that. But let’s talk about your music. You guys have a way old school vibe.

K: No one is doing old school right now but we like that style. To be real, this album is just stuff that we like. Some trap songs, but mostly old school. It’s just by chance that we are the only ones.

“Fun fact: I was in a Facebook relationship with Leonice for two days.”

J: I make the beats and we produce everything ourselves.

K: Our album is almost unintentionally a satire. Neither of us drink and we’re both poor students but our single is called “Spreða,” which means “spend.” I think in our fake rap world, we have lots of money. But I’ll be really arrogant and say, I don’t know, yo mamma jokes in my verses and that’s not me in real life. But in our fake rap world, it is. We’re having fun, making music for ourselves.

J: You can sort of lie in rap but it’s not lying, it’s just living the fantasy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QIoiPOJQ8AY

It’s a good fantasy. Who’d be the fantasy collaboration?

K: Fun fact: I was in a Facebook relationship with Leoncie for two days, so maybe her. It got 550 likes, lasted two days, and then she fucking blocked me. It was an amazing prank. My coworker did it. After she blocked me, I changed my status to “It’s Complicated.”. If she’s reading this, please unblock me. We should do a song.

J: We definitely won’t.

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LANDABOI$

Pronounced: Land-Uh-Boy-Zuh
Listen to: “Kókaín & Kavíar”

How did you all get into rap?

Steindór: Rakim, Nas, old school stuff. They really influenced me even though I make trap music now.

Helgi Ben: I listened to Eminem in 6th or 8th grade. For a school talent show, I made a rap, lost, made a comeback rap the next year, and won. I hope no one ever sees it.

Jón Bragi: My dad gave me the “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” CD by 50 Cent.



All great choices. So then what was the birth of Landaboi$?

Steindór: “Pussybois” was the first song that we as the group we are right now did together.

Starri: It set a whole new standard for production, lyrics, everything.

Steindór: There were these three guys from Vesló, who, in a school competition, made a diss song about us. So we made this song. They call themselves GucciBois so, “Landaboi$ are pussybois,” became “GucciBois are pussbois.”

“We drink moonshine not to save money.” That’s our motto.

Should we interview them?

Helgi Ben: No.

Steindór: “You call me a pussyboi but you are the bitch. Nobody knows you and if you would leave, you would not be missed. You’re living in a dream world, time to wake up.”

Helgi Ben: In English, it sounds really emo!

Steindór: “We drink moonshine not to save money.”

Starri: That’s our motto.

Jón Bragi: Like “Bad and Bougie,” you know.

Cookin’ up moonshine with the Landaboi$. But, how was entering the current Icelandic rap scene for you guys?

Steindór: It’s been hard, especially at first. We didn’t really know anyone else in the scene so we didn’t have the connections other people had. We had to work harder for our spots.

Helgi Ben: Like at Solstice 2016, we had a 16:00 slot, which is really bad, but the place was filled to max and it was turnt. We managed to make it lit.

Steindór: That shows how good we are and how hard we work. It’s just the beginning for all of us.

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ICY G & HLANDRI aka RARI BOYS

Pronounced: I-See Gee Ann-Duh Huh-Land-Rey Ey-Kay-Ey Rawr-E Boy-Zuh
Listen to: “Swervin”

How’d you guys get into rap?

H: I used to listen to like Brand New, Nine Inch Nails, that kind of stuff, but then my friend showed me A$AP Rocky and it was just hip-hop after that. I guess I’m kind of back to darker stuff now. I really like Marilyn Manson.

G: Yeah, I heard the song “All I Do Is Win” in like 5th grade, 6th grade, something like that, but I didn’t start making beats or rapping until a year ago. I’ve been making music since I was young though. Like, Jesus, when I was 4th grade, I made a whole album for my mom in GarageBand. She loved it. She cried. She still cries when she hears my music now though. She loves it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXo4m0aq8Jo

Aww that’s sweet. How would you describe your style?

G: It’s bittersweet. The beats are wavy but still turnt. Like “Too Faded”—“I don’t care what you say, I’m too faded”—it’s not cloud but it’s wavy, you know what I mean?

H: Originally, my plan was just to do SoundCloud producing. I’ve produced a ton of stuff for people all over, but now I’m getting more into the Icelandic scene with the Rari Boys.

The beats are wavy but still turnt. Like “Too Faded”—“I don’t care what you say, I’m too faded”—it’s not cloud but it’s wavy.

Yeah, let’s talk about the Rari Boys. What, uh, is that?

G: It’s just sort of the name for our group—me, Hlandri, $leazy, Dagur, others—we’re really into vintage Ferrari stuff, I think that’s where it came from.

H: I dunno. I guess someone was fucked up one night and we just went with it. It was supposed to be “Hellians” but that’s kind to too dark. We want to keep it positive and “Rari Boys” is a cool name.

Speaking of keeping it positive—what’s with all the Xanax lyrics?

H: Xanax is in apparently.

“Welcome to the Xanny family.” But yeah, what is the Icelandic music scene like from your view?

G: There’s so many artists that are so fucking good but are not getting enough attention. Andsetinn, Jesus and 24/7, those are my favorites. They need more attention.

H: Jesus is a crazy rapper.

G: He’s always preachin’.

Oh yeah—where do your names come from?

H: My name is Andri and “hland” means “piss,” so Hlandri. Wordplay just like Smjörvi. For Icy G, he got that name when he lived in America.

Xanax is in apparently.

G: I lived in New Hampshire for two years. New Hampshire is shit but the people are chill. It’s kind of a depressing place but I miss cigarettes being cheap. I started fucking around with loops there and I got even more into rap there, so I guess that’s good.

Any crazy American stories?

G: There was this one teacher in my school. She gave us extra homework or something and I was like “Jesus,” and she said “You can’t curse in my class!” I was like, “Is that a curse word? Is Jesus really a curse word?” Apparently there, it is.

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