For me, there were two stand-out performances at Iceland Airwaves.

Ho99o9 – a two-piece hardcore rap outfit that showcased a sweat-fuelled performance during the early hours of the morning at NASA. Their energy relentless, their passion ruthless, it was like being shaken from a slumber you didn't know you'd been in. Secondly, there was Reykjavíkurdætur, a 15-piece female rap group that performed a mammoth 7 times over the weekend. Pointing fingers at the patriarchy, and unafraid of the repercussions, the language barrier makes no difference once you get listening.

I was lucky enough to chat to The OGM aka BLUEFACE of Ho99o9 as well as Salka, Valdis and Sara of Reykjavíkurdætur before their performances.


Why do you have a stage name?

The OGM aka BLUEFACE: I love alter-egos and stuff like that because when I'm on stage I kind of feel like a different person. I love going under different monikers and playing around with stuff like that.

I'd probably describe your stuff as hardcore…

OGM: Yeah it is. It's essentially hardcore rap mixed with hardcore punk. And then there's a couple of other elements in there... I don't even know how we started doing it. We grew up on hip-hop. We're from the urban community. We were always into stuff like Bone Thugs N Harmony, DMX… just like hardcore rap. I guess later in our years, when we started hanging out, we started discovering punk bands and really dope bands.

We love going to live shows where people are like really expressing themselves and where the energy is crazy. Like with punk shows, they're the livest. When you go to a really dope punk show people are going crazy – moving around and throwing shit – stuff like that. It's not the reason why we started Ho99o9 but it's certainly an inspiration to our style and why we do what we do.

So did you guys grow up together? How did you start making music together?

OGM: We didn't grow up together but we knew each other for a few years before we started making music. We were friends for like 3 or 4 years before music started happening. E.D. had never made music before – I had always rapped – he was more of a just a wild dude that would just go to shows and be crowd-surfing and pushing people and doing all this wild shit. Like that was his thing.

I was more of the shy guy. I mean, I've evolved as a performer. When I first started performing, it really wasn't like that y'know? Like trying to entertain people – all eyes on you, just waiting for you to entertain them – that shit can be scary. Once I conquered that fear then everything was great.

So me and this fool met and then we just started making music; it was just a genuine thing that had happened. We wanted to work on a project – the project was supposed to be me doing all the music and he would do the illustrating because he does all the artwork – our flyers, our t-shirts, our albums… like he does everything. So it just started off as that, like 'You can do all the artwork' and I'd do all the music and then it turned to 'Oh, well since you've never rapped maybe let's get you to rap a couple of lines on something' and it was kind of good y'know? I was like 'Oh shit, that's not bad! Maybe you should write a couple of more things' and then it just started happening.

So does E.D. do the videos too?

Every video that you see, we always have a hand in it. We always come up with creative concepts and then we might just get a director to kind of like piece it together.

You wear a wedding dress and wrestling mask on stage, so is the visual aspect of your performance important to you?

It's very important because it's like another pressure point. Like you hit someone and they're like 'oh, wow, I didn't know I could get hit that way. And feel that, in that spot' and that's what it is for me. I'm pretty sure no one has ever seen a black dude in Iceland wearing a wedding dress doing rap punk – that shit is crazy. To me it's crazy! So that's why I enjoy it.

It makes you look at it and think 'oh shit, this is serious.' Like, where I'm from, the urban community, if I were to be wearing a wedding dress, they would be like 'Oh, he's gay!' and 'Oh he likes men!' that's what it's like where we come from, it's so close-minded y'know? Like I'm comfortable in my masculinity so I'm just rolling with it. They wouldn't look at it as an art piece or a conceptual piece y'know?

I just want people to get out of that whole state of mind that as a rapper or as anything else you have to look a certain way or do certain things. You don't need that shit at all. You can just do your own thing and it's just as good – that's what people remember. And people are going to be talking about that, like 'oh yeah that's the motherfucker who wore the wedding dress!' like it's for that.

You guys are really physical during your performance too. Do you have to get amped up before you go on?

It just comes out like that to be honest. We don't do anything before the show. We just like chill, we have a good piece of mind, we're focused, we're like very serious about our performance and then right before we get on stage we just go, y'know? We just let all of that pumped up energy out. It's like if you had a bad week at work or somebody had pissed you off, it's like that's your moment to let that off. I'm not going to go and hit somebody but I'd like to, so I'm going to express that when you see me. It's pretty cathartic.

Can you explain the Ho99o9 for those that don't know you?

It's Horror just with the 9's. The triple 9's are basically a flip on the whole 666. Our 9's are code for non belief in that. Like, those are all man-made myths to us. Our shit is just like, there's no rules, there's no masters, there's no one telling you to do something, there's no God saying how things should be. It's straight up, you live how you live. Be true to who you are and don't believe in man-made shit and you'll be good.

Ho99o9 are on tour in the UK this week. Dates here.


How did you all meet?

Salka: In 2013 there was this women's rap night, which two of the girls in the band held. They had been rapping together at parties – not performing – just rapping for fun. Just walking down the street rapping… they were nonstop! They realised that there were no women in the rap industry in Iceland.

Sara: Well, there's Cell 7 who started in '98 and she kind of just disappeared afterwards and started again like, 3 years ago and before that there was one girl called Nadia who made a song in 2012 which was like an answer to the patriarchy in Iceland. It was kind of inspired by that as well. She was performing on the first women's rap night.

Salka: So the two girls from our group met up with this girl who was working at this bar called Bar 11 and she gave them the venue downstairs there. It's a really small stage that's basically a cellar. They got like 10 girls signed up and many of them were just poetry slammers – it was a really cosy gathering.

Valdis: Originally they only invited like 30 people to come along to just like sit through it and watch but then 2 days before the event, a lot of people wanted to come so they opened up the event on Facebook and I think like 200 people were attending!

Sara: A lot of the girls who joined Reykjavíkurdætur were there that first night. We were so inspired just watching them that we had to become involved in some way.

Salka: I wasn't performing on that first night. I went and it was completely filled and these girls just thought they were going to perform in front of like, 20 or 30 girls and then they were all of a sudden presented with this huge crowd, rapping for the first time in front of people. So they were shaking but the energy was so crazy. Many of the girls who are in the band now, they were watching and just thinking 'I have to do this too' -- like, "If they can do it, I can do it too" kind of thing. I went outside with my friend afterwards and just wrote something to rap because I was so inspired. But I was too afraid to perform it so I made one of the other girls in the band perform it.

Valdis: It showed how important it is to have role models and to see somebody else do it because as soon as we saw them do it we were like 'Of course! Why have I not done this before?'

Salka: It was all so incredibly supportive. Even with the audience as well. They were cheering us on even though we probably sucked at that time! But then they did another night – that's when I performed the first time – and then after that we started getting a lot of attention from the media. We started getting pictures in the paper and two of the girls went to one of the main talk shows in Iceland before the night and did a performance which was really about sucking their pussy and stuff and everyone was really upset. I mean she told the prime minister to suck her pussy on TV! And she says in a song now 'Oops I said fuck again but you can't be shocked' to the host.

Sara: For the third women's rap night, we basically wanted to make it a bit bigger so we wrote a promotional song for that night. And at that point we were not a band, we were just a bunch of girls who had been meeting up occasionally.

Salka: I hadn't met a lot of the girls before we did the video because some had already been performing but some were new and some had just shown interest in coming. The first time we all met we were rehearsing before we went to the studio and then we recorded the song and then we recorded the video the day after and the song is called 'Daughters of Reykjavik' but it wasn't a band at that point. The song just got very popular in Iceland and then we basically became a band because of that song. I remember when Sara just performed, it was the first gig we got that wasn't a women's rap night and when we got there we were like 'oh, this is actually a concert!'

Valdis: Everybody just joined on their own terms. I just contacted some of the girls and I went along alone.

So is there a big scene for women's rap in Iceland?

Salka: The girls just started it. We still do it now. We do it like every 3 months or so. We still get interest from new girls who can come and perform on the nights.

There are a lot of you – how do you work well together?

Sara: Of course we have different opinions because there's like 15 of us.

Valdis: But we can have great discussions about what we want to do and then we get to an agreement.

Salka: I think the key is just to meet regularly. We're usually able to just talk everything out.

Sara: And we have solo songs, duo songs, trio songs – we have group songs. So if I maybe want to write something I can do it by myself or maybe one of the other girls is like 'Oh actually I'm really interested in that too'

Salka: It's more like a collective where you maybe have like a partner. There's another girl in the band who is like always with me but then sometimes there's something where I want to do a song with another person. It's a treasure chest of talent where you can pick out who will work best.

Obviously we can't really understand the lyrics but is there a general message that you want us to take away from Reykjavíkurdætur?

Valdis: Do it! If you want to do it you can.

Salka: We want people to know that they can do anything and I think we are – that's like our motto in the group – just be yourself no matter what; the only way for us to show that we are not just this name but that we are 15 different individual personalities and people, the only for that to shine through is to always follow our instincts and our hearts and that the friendship group is the core of this. The support and the platform we have created for women with this thing we've made? That always comes first. The songs have a lot of different messages but I think that are songs are quite vulnerable and we're usually trying to open ourselves in some way.

Has your quick success affected your lives a lot?

Valdis: It's changed for all of us. For me, it's that I now know I can do so much more than I previously thought.

Sara: For most of us – besides from being busier – that's the biggest thing. You believe in yourself more.

Salka: It's also amazing to be able to perform. To be able to stand in front of people and say something that you wrote and you really believe in.

Valdis: It's a really good place to showcase our criticism too

Salka: It's like a test on society. We are always reflecting society's opinions on women and any other oppressed people and it's often hard but it's also I think, really necessary for people to be able to see this reflection of themselves.

What do you have planned for 2016?

Salka: We are working on releasing an album next summer. And we are hoping to go on a European tour next summer. We're always releasing new stuff. I think we've released like 30 songs by now? There's more coming though!