I always like to check out rappers from other countries. It's interesting to watch the genre spread across the world, and it's fascinating to see how young people in other countries are putting their own spin on rapping. To be completely honest, though, I rarely go back to hip-hop that isn't in English.
That said, I can't stop listening to Aron Can, a 16-year-old rapper from Iceland. Maybe it's because Icelandic is such a pleasant language. Maybe it's because understanding lyrics has become less important to me, as a fan of newcomers like Young Thug and Desiigner, who are both supremely entertaining despite the fact that half of their lyrics are indiscernible.
I first heard about Aron Can when Conner Youngblood emailed me after a trip to Iceland. "As you can imagine, Iceland is pretty tiny, Reykjavik is pretty tiny, but for some reason the rap scene there seemed huge," Conner said in an email. "I was going to this one club every night with Icelandic friends called Prikið (Prikid) and the place was an absolute zoo.
"Some of the friends I was staying with had shown me some of Aron’s music earlier in the week (as well as a bunch of other Icelandic rap... and there’s a lot of it) and took me out to one of his album launch show at Prikið. I’m pretty sure the kid is like 16 or 17, so not entirely sure how he was even allowed in the bar at that time of night, but people absolutely lost their shit once he started. All of the lights hanging from the rafters were violently swinging around, people were climbing on shit, jumping off shit, and a lot of pushing. A lot of pushing…people really like pushing each other in Iceland..but that was kinda every night."
Aron Can's video for "Enginn Mórall/Grunaður" was my starting point, and I was instantly drawn in. The dreary visuals served as a hypnotizing accompaniment to ominous trap-influenced production, and Aron weaves his native tongue into it effortlessly, with a flow you'd expect from a teenage kid who likes Future. Except in Icelandic.
Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Aron Can Gultekin and I’m a 16-year-old musician. My mom is from Iceland and my dad's from Turkey. I’ve lived in Iceland all my life but I visit my family in Turkey every summer.
When did you start making music?
I started writing rhymes and rapping when I was 10 years old.
What music did you grow up listening to, and when did you get into hip-hop?
I grew up listening to a variety of music. My mom listens to all kinds of music but I guess rock music is what she listens to the most. My dad listens to Turkish music so it was all mixed up in the house. My introduction to hip-hop was some Turkish rap group when I was seven years old.
Is there a hip-hop scene in Iceland?
Yeah, it feels like all eyes are on hip-hop right now in Iceland. The scene has been getting bigger every year. There are some big rappers here and they’re kind of like the new rock/pop stars. There are also a lot of young rappers coming up that are really good.
Who are your favorite rappers right now?
My favorite rappers right now are J. Cole, Young Thug (Jeffery?), Drake, Future and Lil Uzi to name a few but honestly I haven’t had a lot of time to listen to anything other than the things we are cooking up lately.
Did you ever consider rapping in English? Why did you decide to rap in Icelandic? Are there many other rappers who rap in Icelandic?
I’ve often thought about rapping in English but I’m not stressing it right now. I like writing in my native tongue and I feel my lyrics are different from what everybody else is doing, not that everybody else is doing the same thing necessarily. I’ve always listened to US music and me and my producers are obviously heavily inspired by it so it’ll definitely happen one day but for now I’m good.
I've always found it really hard to listen to rappers speaking a different language, but was immediately drawn to your music. Do you aim to be accessible beyond Iceland?
I feel good music is good music no matter where you’re from. Obviously music in English will always have the most reach but if it sounds right it sounds right, right?.
I see you're racking up some big numbers on Spotify and YouTube. Do you already have a big following outside of Iceland?
I’ve gotten messages from people all over the world that listen to my music and that makes me really proud. I feel it’s a validation that we’re doing something right and that’s a great feeling. I have no idea how big the following is but hopefully it’ll continue to spread.
Who are the other guys in the video for "Grunaður"?
Those are some of my best friends. We were just playing, trying to make the video fun. We came up with the idea, got another friend to direct it and managed to do a one-take. It was a fun day.
What are the songs "Enginn Mórall" and "Grunaður" about? What do those titles mean?
I’m not sure how the word translates to English but having a “mórall” over something I guess just means having a guilty conscience or something, feeling bad or in low spirits. Enginn (No) Mórall means just that. Not feeling bad or stressing over things. Just making good and not taking life too serious. That’s basically what the song is about as well as just me and my friends’ lives.
Grunaður means suspect (or being a suspect) and that’s what the song is about. Me and my friends are always suspected of something, ha.
What's next for you?
Just keep on making music. Time will tell where that’ll take me. Oh and shout out to my producers, NoJudgingEyes skuhhh.