Icelandic hip hop: From ‘Selling American Fish to Icelanders’ to Reykjavíkurdætur (Reykjavík Daughters)
Tony Mitchell [+]
University of Technology, Sydney
Rímur is a form of alliterative, chanted poetry used to perform the Icelandic sagas, which has existed in Iceland for six centuries, although it goes back to the 12th and 13th century, when Snorri’s Edda was first produced. As in many other parts of the world where traditional forms of spoken verse, poetry and rhyme have been drawn on to create hip hop, rímur has been a foundational influence on hip hop in Iceland since rappers stopped performing in English in 1998 (after Quarashi had gained some international success) and began to embrace Icelandic linguistic traditions in 2001. Traditional forms of rímur have been revived by Steindor Andersen, and in 2001 Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson instigated a project involving rímur performers, folk singers and rappers recording together. This resulted in the 2002 compilation Rímur & Rapp, which involved hip hop artists Blazroca and Baejarins bestu, along with Andersen and other more traditional exponents of rimur. Blazroca (Erpur Eyvindarson) has emerged as one of the foremost Icelandic MCs, his track ‘Reykavik-Belfast’ commenting on the protests against the government after the 2008 Icelandic economic meltdown, and his group XXX Rottweiler selling 10,000 units in 2001. He has stated ‘I feel now like part of a heritage where Steindor [Andersen] is the old school and I am the new. … rap is a kind of update of rímur, but only coincidentally … all old cultures have a way of getting stories and feelings out in a similar way as rímur, from Greenland to Africa’ (Sullivan 2003:84).