The unashamedly soft rap collective ready to take on Iceland. Next, the world.
WITH ITS CHRISTMAS card landscape, penchant for renewable energy and tiny Nordic population, Iceland isn’t an obvious candidate for a blossoming hip hop scene. Not that emerging rap collective Sturla Atlas give a shit.
“Fuck it, people want something new. It doesn’t matter about the origin,” says the group’s frontman and namesake, Sigurbjartur Sturla Atlason. “The Iceland rap scene hasn’t even climaxed yet, it has years to run.”
Atlason fell into music by chance when he and friends Logi Pedro, who handles production, and Johann Kristofer (a.k.a. Joey Christ) made some songs parodying The Weeknd for a friend’s birthday. “It turned out pretty great and we decided we were maybe more than just a joke,” clarifies Pedro, whose beats sound like European electro thrown into a blender with Atlanta trap.
“The Iceland rap scene hasn’t even climaxed yet, it has years to run.”
Listening to Sturla Atlas for the first time creates a range of emotions. First you laugh at the playful lyrics – which include “heading out to San Francisco to buy me a pistol, want to bring you along babe” – and probably dismiss them as a joke. But before long you’re pressing the replay button and humming along to melodic hooks such as “this vino, got me screaming, ‘Fuck you amigo’” like they’re gospel.
The Sturla Atlas boys have bigger ambitions than music, with clothing and art just as central to their vision and fashion brand collaborations said to be “on the horizon”. Their third mixtape 101 Boys is imminent, as are tour dates across Europe. Atlason muses: “We don’t know where this is going, it keeps growing. You can’t calculate this stuff out, you just have to let it grow naturally.”
“You can be soft and still be real. That’s our appeal.”
Pedro says the guys have been doing graffiti together under the 101 Boys moniker since high school. The only non-white member of the group, he admits his race can be an issue when he ventures to other Nordic countries. “I’m half-Angolan and if I go to Copenhagen or Oslo, I notice I get treated like a second class citizen.” Atlason adds: “Fortunately it’s been pretty liberal growing up in Reykjavik. Maybe it’s because Iceland is so small but I don’t think racism has hit us yet. It might take another 10 years.”
Having recently opened on the European leg of Justin Bieber’s Purpose tour, who Pedro describes as being in a “really bad mood” practically the whole time they shared backstage, the rap-pop collective now have their sights set on gaining an audience outside of Reykjavik. Their USP, you ask? Softness.
“We are soft in the deep core. I won’t pretend I am anything else but soft,” clarifies Atlason, who credits artists such as Drake and Future Islands for giving him the confidence to rap and sing about a different kind of masculinity. “You don’t have to be one type of person anymore. I want to rap about having fun, love and being a fragile man. You can be soft and still be real. That’s our appeal.”