meet reykjavikurdaetur: iceland's female-fronted rap powerhouse
Reykjavíkurdætur (which translates as Reykjavik's Daughter) are a fourteen piece all-girl rap group hailing from Reykjavik. While fourteen people might feel and look a little crowded on stage, the girls take turns in lead vocal duty, harmonizing and sharing bars. Tracks range from sing-song RnB numbers to heavy bass-led tracks where they each sing a line. Song topics range from political rants to ditties about the sensual side of falling in love. Working with other Icelandic producers, friends, and anyone who might cross their path, they form a formidable powerhouse on stage, bouncing in unison to the beats and passing the mic between verses. Having released their debut album, RVKDTR last year, we caught up with them to discuss the highs and lows of being possibly the world's biggest all-girl rap band.
Who are you all, and how did you all meet?
We are 14 rappers from Reykjavík, Iceland. We met three years ago when two of us planned a women-only rap night in Reykjavík. One thing led to another and now we're a band called Reykjavíkurdætur, or Daughters of Reykjavík.
Other than make music, what do you all do?
Anna Tara studies in Barcelona, Bergþóra is a dance teacher, Jóhanna studies fine art, Solveig sells lingerie, Katrín is touring with Sóley, Ásthildur and Þórdís Björk study acting, Kolfinna is on maternity leave, Þura is a graphic designer, Sara and Steiney are making a TV show, Salka studies music, Steinunn is in another band called Amabadama, Valdís studies product design, and Blær is acting at the City Theatre.
What is your writing process like? Does everyone chip in?
It varies — we work more like a collective in that way. We do solos, duos, trios, and some songs we write all together. We've tried it all, really! We like trying new methods of writing or composition and like challenging ourselves and each other.
Is it complicated having so many people involved?
It has its pros and cons. It's very expensive to fly abroad, for example, but we always find solutions and have the most fun together. Sometimes it seems undoable to plan a meeting but surprisingly, it always works out. We've also mastered a technique of not all speaking at the same time; it took some practice and is really difficult to explain, but you are welcome to join a meeting to watch and learn. We probably won't even notice you, you will blend in, there are so many of us.
You are really tight on stage. How often do you rehearse?
We put a lot of thought in our shows and always take time to plan each show together. But what is probably most important for us is to spend time together as friends. When we do that, the energy is high and there is so much love between us that we feel free as performers when we get on stage.
Who makes the beats; what's this process like?
Just whoever makes a nice beat — someone that wants to work with us or we are interested in collaborating with. It depends on what atmosphere we are looking for, what mood we are in or what we want to say. By the way, we are always open for new beats, so producers: hit us up!
How do you put the beats with the lyrics and break up the rapping?
Since we are a collective it depends on which girl is making the song. Sometimes it is just a discussion between whoever's made the beats and one member of the band. Sometimes it is a discussion with the whole group. For example: when we made the song "ÓGEÐSLEG," we got a sample from Icelandic producer iamHelgi and each girl made her verse to the sample. Then we mixed it together in the studio and the result was the song. But "Tista," our latest song, was written by a few members from the group that then divided the lines between us. That was a new method of writing music that we tried out to make the song a bit shorter. So it depends on the song and the context.
You sing mostly in Icelandic, but it's pretty clear what your songs are about.
Songs we have made so far are for example about: daddy issues, tourists, Tinder, our politicians, love, how cool we are, sex, being a first world hype, etc. There is no typical topic. We write about what is on our mind each time. One day we are angry how corrupted some politicians are and writing a song about it is our way to express that anger or to have a voice within the society. But then the next day we might just feel like writing a song about falling in love. So, no limit really. We just write about what is important to us at that time and how we feel.
Is there a reason that some words are in English over Icelandic?
It's a different way of expressing ourselves. Sometimes the English just word fits better or sounds better or has the right attitude.
Who are your musical heroes? Do you have specific memories of hearing certain songs that inspired you?
I [Steiney] don't really have a musical hero but right now I am listening to GKR, he's an Icelandic rapper. Look him up. For me [Sigurlaug Sara], I grew up listening to rap, mostly Tupac, with my father. From there I started listening to RnB and hip-hop. I recently realized that I've always listened more to music by women: Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Kelela, Angel Haze, Beyoncé, and Rihanna are all musicians that have influenced me a lot. I am interested in soul and RnB but that doesn't mean that the other girls in Reykjavíkurdætur are as well. We have different interests and like different music genres and that is one of the reasons why the group is so dynamic.
It feels like there's healthy music scene in Reykjavik, is this right? What's it like?
There is a lot going on in Icelandic music scene right now and many Icelandic bands going abroad. It is still quite male-dominated but that is hopefully changing.
How do you make your videos? Do you all take part in the creative process for them?
Usually we do that. It is, like everything we do, very different each time. We try to take part in the creative process. Many of us have art degrees so we try to activate everyone in an artistic process like this one.
What would you like people to take away from listening to Rvkdtr?
It is hard to focus on what the crowd wants. Each crowd is different and you can't please everybody. As a performer it is draining to think about how to influence others or demand someone to experience something. If we focus on doing things that we want to do, saying the things we want to be said, and act on our own instinct that energy hopefully spreads. We just want to do our best. Do what inspires us as individuals and as a group. What people take out of our performance is then entirely up to them.
Text Hanna Hanra