Gathering wisdom from rap veteran Emmsjé Gauti
Every person I pass on my way to meet Emmsjé Gauti seems to be loading a car for a trip to the countryside or to lug unwanted junk to the recycling centre. The same goes for the rapper, who is preparing the celebration of his 20th rap-iversary party at Gamla Bíó on May 20. When I arrived, Gauti and his wife were prepping for a big trip to Sorpa – a staple of Icelandic-ness on those days when the sun makes an appearance during our sad excuse for a spring. We venture inside for a cup of coffee and the hope of a thorough conversation about his 20-year career.
Instead of regurgitating his biography back at him, I invited Gauti Þeyr Másson to take stock of his career.
Having pondered the request, he tells me that he considers himself to be the frontman of the band Emmsjé Gauti, because he couldn’t function without the great people around him. “For these things to work, you must consider the work you just released to be your greatest,” he says. “Even though I’ve been in the business for this long, I’m just as excited to show my dad new demos and get feedback on whether it’s good or not – or I know that it’s great and I want the acknowledgement.”
The most important thing Gauti has learned regarding the business side of music is that he is merely a cog in the wheel. “I would be nothing without the people taking care of the tech side of things, or the people that perform with me. I’m not trying to reduce the significance of me standing in front of people. I believe in being humble towards what you do and how it can’t be taken for granted. Sometimes I forget that and I have to remind myself because from time to time it can feel like a normal job.”
“Even though I’ve been in the business for this long, I’m just as excited to show my dad new demos”
Gauti also mentions that making music isn’t that different from other jobs. Artists have to grind and struggle to get to where they want to be, just like dentists, builders or athletes. When asked if he would still be making music if he hadn’t already reached this level of success, Gauti takes pause. “It would definitely be harder to give yourself the time to create,” he finally says. “There have been many artists who came up with me that have fizzled out because the main focus wasn’t music. Whether they would have made it or not can’t really be answered.”
Not your average rapper
Over the past 20 years, Emmsjé Gauti has started a family, released seven albums, dabbled in acting, had a few successful business ventures and established himself as one of the country’s most popular artists. He perks up at the mention of his acting career. “The season of Trapped that no one watched,” he quips.
Despite his long list of accomplishments, Gauti says he feels like he’s just getting started. “I find it so boring to do nothing. We don’t have infinite time here so why not make the most of it?”
“The sad part is I know that when I was that age, I would never have listened to that kind of information.”
On top of everything else, Gauti has also started working with Geðlestin, a collaboration project between the mental health advocacy group Geðhjálp and the Red Cross that aims to educate teens on the importance of mental health. Asked whether he has been diligent in looking after his own mental health throughout his career his answer came fast. “The answer is a definite no! I learned it the hard way. The sad part is I know when I was that age, I would never have listened to that kind of information. Regardless, the point is not to make everybody an expert in mental health but to plant the seeds so if the time comes, they know where to ask for help.”
Back to the party
Regarding his anniversary concert, Gauti aims to thoroughly enjoy himself, which hopefully spreads into the crowd and translates into a fantastic party. “I’m going all out! As things are right now, we have a setlist of 32 songs that we are trying to chisel out. I have never done a show like this before. I’ve done Jülevenner [Gauti’s annual Christmas concert] but I’ve never had one where it has this element of nostalgia and getting past collaborators to pop by. It will be a great time!”
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