Gisli Palmi will probably be forever known as “that Icelandic wrapper who knocked out Bam Margera”. There are, as is often the case in these situations, conflicting versions of events, even though the whole thing was caught on video. Regardless, the incident guaranteed Palmi and his “Glacier Mafia” their 15 minute of fame, and the timing couldn’t be better with his debut album coming out that same year (2015).
We saw Palmi perform at NASA during Airwaves last year (above), and while the stage performance may have seemed to try a bit too hard to be tough, the music was pretty damn good and Gisli can certainly spit some rhymes. Now, to be clear, he does all of his songs in Icelandic, leaving me to catch just the odd English word here and there, mostly things like oxycontin and pina colada (OK, that last one isn’t even English…), but the beats pop and the cadence is tight.
The album opens with “Efnið,” which appears to be in part about the previously mentioned oxys, and it’s got a super slowed down vocal delivery, just what you’d think Gisli would sound like if you were tossing back the oxys like they were Pez, all deep and slloowww. My favorite track comes a few songs later, the very intentional and precise “Meðnóg,” the first of a trio of killer tracks that includes “5AM” and “Geysir.” While the beats are generally pretty kickin’, the music is made even more intriguing by the electronic influence that permeates so much of the local music scene, with the sonic feel of songs like “Draumalandið” sounding more like dancefloor groove than the base for some hip hop.
In many ways listening to hip hop in a language you don’t understand can be frustrating because you’re missing the message, which is so core to the rap game; but it also gives you the opportunity to focus on the sound and the cadence, and that’s where Gisli Palmi shines. I’ve been told that writing songs in Icelandic is actually quite difficult, but Palmi makes it sound pretty easy.