I mean, what would Ben Stiller say?
The general impression that you imagine the rest of the world has of Icelandic music is one characterised by Björk’s pop daring or Sigur Rós’ ambient grandeur, so on the face of it, news that the nation only had one widely recognised female rapper up until 2012 wouldn’t have seemed all that shocking. It was around the time that said artist, Cell 12, returned from self-imposed exile with her debut record that the spectacularly uncompromising Reykjavíkurdætur – ‘Daughters of Reykavík’ – came together, as much as a feminist collective than anything else.
The nineteen-piece (a number that fluctuates) have done a hell of a lot of rabble-rousing since, including being thrown off of a live TV show in 2013 for telling the Prime Minister to “suck my pussy”, so this past-midnight show at their hometown’s Art Museum always looked likely to be a wild affair. On that front, Reykjavíkurdætur deliver and then some. Their outlook and live show are both peppered with reversals of tropes from the male-dominated world of hip hop, including a switching of the male gaze when mid-set shots are delivered by guys who look like extras from Magic Mike. The aggressively bend each other over and bare their teeth. Renders of green and pink cocks spiral behind them.
The lyrics, meanwhile, focus on feminist empowerment and deliver constant rebukes to toxic masculinity – ‘Pussypics’, particularly, reclaims the idea of sending nudes in a manner that leaves precious little to the imagination.
If none of the thirty-five-minute show’s messages are surprising, though, based on what we already know about the group, their sheer musicality is. They’ve faced criticism from all quarters in the past over their rapping ability, especially given that many of the members had no prior experience before joining the outfit, but this is an impressively tight performance over thumping instrumentals – almost 20 different rappers overlapping is a lot more involved than they make it look. With Fever Dream, too, one of the most talked-about acts at this year’s Airwaves, Iceland’s feminist hip hop scene is taking on the idea that Iceland’s music is all about sound-tracking nature programmes and slow motions of waterfalls.
Reykjavíkurdætur @ Iceland Airwaves, Reykjavík Art Museum, Thursday 2 November 2017
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