While researching this post I was surprised to see that I’d somehow missed writing about Úlfur Úlfur’s 2015 album Tvær Plánetur, a CD that includes appearances by many of the luminaries of Iceland’s burgeoning hip hop scene like Gísli Pálmi and Emmsjé Gauti along with more traditional vocalists like Agent Fresco‘s Arnór Dan Arnarsson. Plus it spawned one of the best new music videos I’ve seen in the last 10 years or so, the hot dog and burnout fest that is “Tarantúlur”. We caught them live doing a stripped down set at Reykjavik’s Íslenski Barinn (♠) during Iceland Airwaves 2015 (below) and enjoyed them tremedously.
Now, hip hop in foreign languages can be a bit tricky sometimes. If you have some experience with the artist’s language that helps, but you’ll likely miss out on some nuance or references; but when it comes to a language you don’t speak at all, as is my case with Icelandic, well… hip hop becomes more about the beats and the cadence. And fortunately Úlfur Úlfur bring it in both areas (plus they give me the occasional “homey” and f-bomb to keep me at least a little connected to the lyrics).
Unlike Tvær Plánetur, 2017s Hefnið Okkar sees the wolves (♣) relying on themselves and not bringing in guests, with only one track credited as having backing vocals. Musically Hefnið Okkar brings a more R&B vibe to the beats and music; this isn’t a straight-up bass-fest, but instead more nuanced with a number of slower, deeper jams like “15” that are defined more deliberate rapping. But don’t worry, fans of Úlfur Úlfur machine-gun-like lyrical delivery will also find some stuff for them here too, like the second half of “Ofurmenni” – hearing the guys spit rhymes that fast in Icelandic is a treat to the ears. If I’m picking favorites, though, I’ll take “Úlfur” with it’s slightly 1980s horror movie soundtrack vibe and building cadence, arguably the best blend of the styles of their most recent two albums.
The guys dropped three videos all on the same day to support the release of the album, so you can give them a listen on YouTube. The most visually interesting one is for “Bróðir”, which is linked below for your viewing and listening pleasure.
(♠) Notable for having what is arguably Reykjavik’s best hamburger.
(♣) Úlfur means “wolf” in English.