Return Of The Icelandic Grandfather of Rap
Dubbed the "grandfather of Icelandic rap", Sesar A – Eyjólfur B. Eyvindarson – is one of the most important figures in Icelandic hip hop. With more than two decades of work within all fields of hip hop culture he has released seminal albums such as 2001’s "The Storm in the wake of the Calm" (the first rap record entirely in Icelandic) and “Do It Yourself”, plus the first ever rap compilation entirely in Icelandic, 2002’s "Rímnamín". A few years ago the rapper and beatmaker went to live in Spain, where he teamed up with the IFS crew, an international ‘supergroup’ that boasts nine members from eight different countries, and who rap and sing in up to 10 different languages. Their first EP "Worldwide" was released in spring 2007, and some of them feature on Sesar’s confident, beat-heavy third album, “Too Good”, released this month…
You started working with your current crew, IFS, in Barcelona - what were you doing there in the first place?
I went to Barcelona primarily to study film directing, I worked for almost five years within that genre in Iceland prior to leaving. I also went to a chef school for one year.
So did you plan to ‘cook up’ an international hip hop supergroup, or did it grow organically…?
IFS was actually formed by Philsen, a rapper from Hamburg, Germany. It initially functioned as a collective of people holding freestyle sessions in his home in Barcelona. He later organized regular freestyle evenings in bars and clubs in the city, known as the “International Freestyle Sessions”. That was when I first heard of it, during spring 2004. Around that time we changed the name to the “International Family of Sound” with the intention of consolidating the group. That was when I became the recording producer who organized and made, along with Philipp, the “Worldwide” EP two years later.
This new album is your third: how does it differ from the others from your perspective? And did you write all the beats or is there input from everyone?
“Too good” is different to other IFS material in many ways. Firstly it was made in three phases over a four year period. I made a 4 song EP in 2003-4, then the IFS material from the “Worldwide” EP, which I reworked and re-arranged. Finally there were the new songs I made when I returned to Iceland last year. I worked on them for the first time with beatmakers in Iceland such as Lúlli from XXX Rottweiler, Earmax, the Yellow dragon etc. So there are a lot more people involved. The biggest difference is properly the greater variety the songs have.
How do you hold such a big group together when it comes to recording and shows etc.?
It depends on each member. Everybody has to push to keep the thing moving. If only a few individuals do that job, and eventually start doing it for the rest, the group at some point seizes to function. It’s just plain and simple teamwork. It’s a highly multi-lingual album - can that put some people off as much as it brings other people in do you think? I think it only makes it more interesting for the listener. To hear lyrics in so many languages can only open up doors in my opinion.
Are you taking the album on tour at all?
First and foremost it’s a Sesar A record, and I will be playing in Iceland but I will look for distribution abroad also. The focus will be on Iceland first and then we’ll see what happens. And are you living back in Iceland now? I went back to Reykjavík last year and I’m starting to settle here but I’ll live abroad again in the future.
How has Icelandic rap progressed or declined since you've been away?
It just gets better. We have the third generation coming up now and there is a lot of activity and a lot of people working but the scene has merged itself underground again. This happened mainly, I think, because there are very few hip hop promoters working in Iceland right now. The scene hasn’t made it’s way into the mainstream and therefore hasn’t been as accepted as other music forms in Icelandic.
What three things does the Icelandic hip hop scene need to raise its profile worldwide?
One thing is always distribution but also it’s the mentality. My new record, “Too good”, is my first step to make music for a wider audience and I think that’s an important first step towards making it abroad.
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