icelandic rapper gkr bares his soul on his impressive debut ep
Laying his life out diary style, GKR documents depression and embraces not fitting in. Look up, stand out, never give up.
A year ago, Gaukur Gretuson aka GKR, a floppy-haired familiar face in downtown Reykjavik, put out a colourful music video for his first single Morgunmatur. While on face value a track about breakfast, on a deeper level it was all about dealing with depression and waking up with a positive attitude. Blowing up in the land of ice, he became known as the cereal-loving funster he is today, and this summer dropped follow-up single Tala Um and provided the youth of RVK with another reason to get turnt up.
A long time in the making, and just in time to bring the nation out of its Iceland Airwaves comedown, his nine track EP dropped today as more than simply a showcase of his talent. Using music as a form of therapy, the record is honest, deeply personal and straight from the heart as it dips in out of love, mental health issues and never-wavering ambition. Having already sparked the interest of Mad Decent, his ascent isn't likely to stop any time soon. Because we don't speak Icelandic and you probably don't either, press play and let the 22-year-old talk you through his release, track by track...
Hi GKR! What's this EP all about then?
Every track has a different theme. The first is called Velkomin, which means welcome, and is inviting people to join me on this journey if they want to. It's just me openly counting up my flaws but still trying to give hope to the ones in need.
The second track, Treysta Mér, means 'trust me' and is about giving me a chance; the amount of work i've put into this will hopefully one day result in something good.
And why should we trust you?
Because my music comes straight from my heart - it's not a joke.
The third track, is it a bit of a love story?
It is! The song title Elskan af því bara translates to 'baby, just because'. I start my verse by saying, "I'm not like them other guys," which I guess is a classic thing to say when feeling unappreciated, but it goes on to talk about a break-up and I compare the world to the cold milk in the refrigerator or the right sink handle…
Good one! But yes, true. I keep on saying how much I want this person and it grows into anger. But the second verse is more happy. I go on saying how it's crazy how we can talk for 4 hours straight without loosing connection because I have so much ADHD and it's amazing. But then it spirals back to the bridge, so it's the balance of the ups and downs of relationships. But after that track, things get really dark. Next up is Slæmar Fréttir, which means bad news.
That one does sound pretty intense. So what's the bad news?
I start the verse by saying how angry and lost I feel, how I'm searching for something, that I don't belong here and I just wanna lay back and fade into the stars. The anger grows and grows, talking about trust being broken. Basically, I'm half Dutch, my father is from The Netherlands and I've not seen him since I was a baby so I don't remember him. The beat hits harder and I start saying that I won't depend on anyone else.
So even by track four, this is already shaping up to be an incredibly honest and personal record.
Yes, it's basically all my heart... it really is if I look at it.
Did it feel therapeutic to get it all out?
Of course. But that was the nightmare right before the dream, because after Slæmar Fréttir, Morgunmatur comes on, which is about bringing yourself out of depression and starting to do what you really love instead of waking up feeling really heavy all the time.
And the opening of the new version is so dreamlike too. Morgunmatur is the song that you are most known for in Iceland, right?
Yes it is. Tala Um is about to take over, everyone wants it live because it's a banger, but Morgunmatur is still the song all the mums know.
Tala Um is great, and the next track on the EP.
It's a collab with Marteinn who is one of my best friends and produces most of my music with me. Tala Um means 'talking about' and is a catchy turn-up track and the newest track on this record.
Did the success of Tala Um take the pressure off releasing the rest of the EP?
No. The turn up is super popular today but this is not at all aimed for the rap turn up, but this EP is also for people that need someone to talk to, a voice, etc.
Your music is your therapy. So then it's on to Lifa Lifinu?
Exactly, which means 'live life'. The beat is very smooth and it's super positive. The hook is me basically repeating 'I only came here to live life'. The next track is called Erfitt which means hard. The hook says 'life is hard and I have a hard time dealing with it - life is hard, but I always keep on trying.'
It's super feel-good but it has very sincere lyrics. Then it goes on to the last song called Meira, which means more. It's a crazy track produced by Marteinn. I think it's the best track to end it all, it's so crazy and after you listen through it all you feel like: woah, that was wild! What happened? The hook is me shouting, "I always want more! Enough is never enough! If you tell me to relax, I won't!".
What do you want more of? Fame? Money?
Success, but in general this track is the exact feeling of always wanting more. This party can't end! More beer! More candy! More everything! Not wanting things to stop and feeling down when it all ends, so I think it's ironic to have it as a last track.
But kind of perfect. Presumably you'll be performing this in the order of the EP?
I will. I really can't wait to put on release show. I think i'll reach new level of feelings when I do that.
And tell people not to listen on shuffle.
Yes they should not listen on shuffle at all. Very important to roll it through even though it's not a concept album.
Jumping back to the theme of the earlier tracks and into some serious chat now, I was wondering, given your love of Kid Cudi, what do you think about him recently speaking out about going to rehab? And then Drake's diss track?
I mean it's dope he spoke out so openly about it. It's really good.
It is. But not so cool of drake? Should there not be a line that's not crossed when it comes to mental health?
Iif the guy is in rehab it's just super weird to diss him for that. It's stupid and isn't helping anyone.
Too right. You're putting everything out yourself, without a label. A lot of the music industry in Iceland seems like it's quite DIY. That's down to necessity, right?
Yeah, of course. People don't understand what you wanna do -- they are stuck in indie music, and so many people are just now realising new possibilities outside of that scene. Even down to the engineers! They don't even know how to make the drums hit hard in Icelandic hip hop.
Which is why you have to go online to find people who get it...
Exactly! Also because I want to try a different sound to what is usually used here. Iceland is small and everyone just uses the same people, not that that's bad, it's just interesting to do something else. But that's slowly changing now and people are evolving. Technically I could start a label, but I don't care about a label in Iceland. I don't need it.
Especially if you're releasing things for free at this point.
Very true. But still you can purchase it if you wanna support your boy!
Noted. And the physical release is in a cereal box...
Yes! It's because of my track Morgunmatur, and the box has a USB of music inside.
Like a cereal box toy prize. So fun. And if there was actual cereal inside, what cereal would it be? in a dream world with no cereal copyrights or health and safety?
My brand! But I don't have one… yet. (Sponsor me!)
Text Frankie Dunn
Photography Ozzie Pullin