In the three Scandinavia countries, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, with a modest total population of about 21 million people, the thirst for rap music is huge. Here we present a mini encyclopedia of fascinating Scandinavian rappers in alphabetic order. From rap legends to fresh talents, some may be omitted, but that’s not our intention.
What is rapping?
Here is our list of the most noteworthy Scandinavian rappers and talents in alphabetic order:
Arif – Norway
Arif Salum, known by his stage name Arif and former Phil T. Rich, is a rapper from Oslo.
His first EP, Kom, Så, Tok, Færdiih (2012) made it big after winning the radio station NRK URT’s new talent competition. And from that point, he was free to spread his underground sound across the country.
With praise and plays from Norway’s biggest radio channels, a sequel EP and a record deal in his pocket, things were just in their humble beginnings for Arif. And within a short amount of time, the promising young artist proved to be one of Norway’s most important contributions to the rap and r&b genre.
With his figuratively choice of words and flows, ability to tell the stories of today’s generation and grasping productions from label mates «Aksel “Axxe” Carlson» and «Filip Kollseter», it made necks turn, heads nod and feet move with joy and fascination.
His last record (2017) Meg & Deg Mot Alle (or Me & You Against All in English) was a fast-paced rap beast that sonically feels like A$AP Rocky went full pop rap. He has embraced his position as a mainstream power now, and you can regularly see him linking up with the Lars Vaular (see below) and trap kid Unge Ferrari (Young Ferrari).
Cezinando – Norway
Born Kristoffer Karlsen in Norway’s capital city of Oslo, Cezinando spent the past half decade rising to the upper echelons of his country’s rap scene. He has a Norwegian mother and a Portuguese father, and spent a part of his childhood in Lisbon. He has won two P3 Gold awards for his work. His album Noen ganger og andre (Some times and others) was the best-selling Norwegian-language album of 2017 in Norway. It was nominated for IMPALA’s European Album of the Year Award. Known for the way he flits between rap bars and soulfully sung lyrics, his music deals with everything from heartbreak to hip-hop’s sillier, throwaway themes – and he’s gained a massive following for it so far.
Dutty Dior – Norway
One of the most promising members of the new wave of Norwegian hip-hop and member of the SDKT collective is Dutty Dior. At just 21-years-old, the autotune-favoring rapper, born Kristoffer Eriemo, tore up the Vice party at the 2019 OYA Festival, and is already getting some serious support from Spotify in Norway. He’s perceived to be the Scandi version of Playboy Carti. ‘HALLO’ was the summer hit of 2019.
Songs like “Famous” have that pre-set air of arrogance and selfbelief that feels vital when it comes to making it big in Nordic rap, while the production on “Fantasi” in which he link up with Isah (see below), is giving us real Drake feels. If you like your rap music big, unambiguous, and catchy, Dutty Dior might be your boy.
Emil Stabil – Norway
This deliberately loose sounding and knowingly weird rapper comes from the same school of odd as Young Thug and 2 Chainz. If you like old-school lyrical rap you will probably hate him – but if you like no-f**ks-given new-school trap stuff, then this is for you.
Erik Lundin – Sweden
Rapping in both Swedish and English (under the name Eboi), Erik Lundin is known for being a wickedly talented storyteller; a rap that was verified when he took home the award for Best Lyrics at last year’s Grammis Gala (yes, that’s the Swedish Grammys).
Born to a Gambian father and Swedish mother, Lundin’s lyrics tackle immigration and the political climate, all with a biting sense of humor. If Mwuana (see below) is the Swedish Drake, Lundin is the Swedish Kendrick Lamar. Just listen to 1999’s “Välkommen Hem,” which, of course, translates to “Welcome Home” if you don’t believe us.
Gilli and Sivas – Denmark
These two rappers are probably the biggest stars of the new school. Sivas is very future-inspired in his breezy, autotuned trap universe, while Gilli incorporates lots of North African and Middle Eastern vibes in his music – a huge trend that he started, with inspiration from French rappers such as Jul. Sivas displayed his trap and autotune chops on his neo-classic DAUDA EP while Gilli gave the sound a unique twist with his big hits Cest La Vie and the ballad Tidligt Op.
Hester V75 – Norway
This hip-hop collective from Bergen is comprised of a bright bunch of rappers, singers and producers. With a self-run label called Vibbefanger (which is the talk of the music scene in Norway right now), their sound is gentle, soulful and differs from everything else out there. Typically rapping about the everyday experiences of young Norwegians, their distinct and cool DIY identity sets them out as an act to watch.
Isak Shorty – Norway
Born and raised in Ålesund, a sleepy port town on Norway’s West Coast, he started making music in his bedroom, collaborating with producer Halvard Ivarjord over the internet before eventually winding up meeting in real life. Together, they make slickly-produced hip-hop that’s harnessed by Isak’s tongue-in-cheek and ironic style of lyricism.
When this dude burst out onto the stage at OYA 2019, decked out in a beanie, Beatles tee and paint-spattered denim, he might’ve looked no older than 14 but had a flow and stage presence we could really fuck with.
Recently, the powers that be in Norway’s music scene stepped up and took note. He might be one of the few artists not signed to a major label in the country, but he’s already been blessed with an accolade courtesy of Momentium, a huge festival promoter in Norway, and it’s helped his tracks becoming minor streaming hits on Spotify.
Ivan Ave – Norway,
Ivan Ave is a Norwegian rapper who credits his sisters’ CD collections, something he scoured through as a kid as an important experience in the formation of his sound. He’s spent the past five years breaking out of the notoriously small Norwegian music scene, making waves internationally, and performing for the revered YouTube music show, COLORS.
He’s known for his ability to mix flexing lyrics about wooing women with the more existential shit, and his style is significantly old school – a true homage to the rappers of a bygone era that taught him how to make it through their work. Three LPs in – all released by Berlin’s supercool label JAKARTA – and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
Jamaika – Denmark
The biggest new rapper/singer on the Danish scene, Jamaika’s trademark sound is his incredibly beautiful and vulnerable voice. A sensitive soul, his stock in trade is very powerful and personal lyrics which shine thanks to his strong songwriting skills.
Kamelen – Norway
The young rapper Kamelen, born Marcus Mosele and raised in Bergen can also be found working under the name ‘Slim Kamel’. He’s a hard one to keep track of. Part of the NMG/G-House roster alongside Myra, Kamelen has had a bunch of monikers lately.
He’s one of the scene’s few controversial faces too. Rising to fame back in 2015 with a millions-streamed breakout track “Si Ingeting” his success coincided with him running into legal troubles; Kamelen was arrested at a gig on charges related to car theft and violence. He’s taken the time to consider redemption, and released a record titled Ambivalence in the process. About the changing nature of modern life, it’s a part-party, part-redemption record that fans of his have been bumping for the past few months, waiting patiently for its follow-up.
Karpe Diem – Norway
Karpe Diem is the country’s most prolific hip-hop group, something of an inescapable force in Norwegian rap. Formed of two friends who met while studying in Oslo – Magdi Omar Ytreeide Abdelmaguid, who’s half-Egyptian, and Chirag Rashmikant Patel, who’s Indian by heritage – have become glowing symbols of unity and diversity in a rap scene that’s prolifically and traditionally dominated by white voices.
First joining forces back in 2000, the duo has come to dominate the Norwegian scene for the past two decades with their brand of slow-burning, often sung hip-hop that will resonate with anybody who’s a fan of Drake and The Weeknd’s piercing R&B. Imagine that, laced with a sonic championing of a background that’s so far flung from the rest of Norway’s hip-hop crowd, and you’ll have a good idea of what Karpe Diem do so well.
Related: Scandinavian Sound of Success
Lars Vaular – Norway
Described as ‘alt hip-hop’, Lars is definitively not the ordinary kind. His grimacing electro production and frantic delivery makes him sound a bit like Tommy Cash, if he came up during the dubstep era. It’s bizarre, but brilliantly catchy.
Linni – Norway
Previously a member of the mysterious rap group Yoguttene, Linni has now gone solo and delivered two-thirds of a conceptual album series. His is a darker sound than many on this list, but his complex lyrics – touching on personal issues and experiences – are something everybody can relate to.
Madi Banja – Sweden
Born in Gambia, Madi Banja moved to Stockholm when he was a teenager, so at least part of his singular sound can be attributed to his atypical accent. His tracks are heavy on the autotune and trippy trap beats, which have, unsurprisingly, led to comparisons to Future. He, however, would rather characterize what he does as “Madi Banja Sound.”
Michel Dida – Sweden
Michel Dida grew up in a Stockholm suburb on “the outskirts of the blue line, between two hoods,” an area that boasts its very own, very specific lingo (Stockholm-dwellers often describe their surrounding suburbs as being off either the blue or red subway line). Dida is known to incorporate his area-specific slang into his rap, which is heavy on clever wordplay and turns of phrase.
His less-than-serious lyrics on tracks like the recently released “Gucci Song” are juxtaposed against trap beats and hard-hitting bass. It’s no surprise that Dida is a local favorite among Swedish rap fans and other artists alike – he’s collaborated with just about everyone on this list. Clever as his lyrics may be, Dida insists that he’s “just having a good time” with his music, and what could be better than that?
Mwuana – Sweden
With his softer, more lyrical style, Mwuana, whose name translates loosely to “brat,” might just be the Drake of Sweden. He even boasts vintage Caribbean influences and groovy afro-beats (though we’d argue that he pulls them off more naturally than Drake does). Just listen to one of his most recent singles, “Allting” (which translates to “Everything”) and you’ll know exactly what we mean.
After a string of popular mixtapes, he dropped his debut album, Triller, in May 2000. It’s a culmination of what he’s been building since his first mixtape came out in 2015: proof that eclectic influences and big, catchy tunes can effortlessly go hand in hand.
Myra – Norway
Growing up in Bergen, a hotbed of new Nordic musical talent, it was the arrival of Nicki Minaj and her early mixtapes that hooked Myra, real name Regina Tucker, on to hip-hop in the first place. But her IDGAF aura doesn’t feel like the by-product of those who came before her, it’s strong enough to help more young women in Norway step into the rap spotlight.
Not to be confused with the short-lived noughties American pop star, Myra is one of the few women in Norwegian hip-hop making a name for herself on her own terms. Famed for her intuitive flow and poppy, seductive beats, she’s become notorious on the scene as a deliverer of knockout live sets. In the past, she’s both jumped out to deliver verses in the crowd and rocked up on stage riding an effing superbike!
Noah Carter – Denmark
This newbie Danish rapper has a very melodic Drake-inspired sound. His first-ever show was with Red Bull Sound Select in November 1999 and he released his debut track, Do You, around the same time. With 2.7 million Spotify streams and a guest gig at Roskilde Festival in the summer, expect to hear much more from this guy.
Sammy & Johnny Bennett – Sweden
With their glitchy, distinctly UK vibe and laid-back swag, it’s no surprise that brothers Sammy & Johnny Bennett have international appeal. One look at their YouTube videos, which juxtapose covetable streetwear against various Gothenburg backdrops and you’ll be sold. It’s hard to pick just one standout track off their latest offering, ST. RECK, but “Titta Fram,” is especially vibey.
Silvana Imam – Sweden
We hesitate to label Silvana Imam a rapper, just as we hesitate to open with the labels lesbian, feminist, activist and Sweden-born daughter of a Lithuanian mother and Syrian father. Of course, Silvana is all of those things, but the term she best embodies is artist.
Silvana’s lyrics pull no punches, as she takes on the patriarchy, racism and queer issues. “You say my love is breaking the law / I say you have super thin dick / Go kiss your fucking swastika,” she raps on her track “IMAM COBAIN.” Her tracks are hard as nails and is on track to become the queer feminist icon we didn’t know we needed.
“In the beginning, it was really annoying because it wasn’t about my lyrics or the music, it was like, so you’re a female rapper,” she says. “But it’s different now, thank god. I answered all those questions so the next generation won’t have to answer those stupid questions.”
Softcore Untd. – Norway
If you listen to rap music to party, these guys might not be your thing, but their experimental production and somber sound has us thinking that they’re making some of the most fascinating and complex rap music we’ve heard in a while now – period. They’re based between Bergen and Oslo, but we predict mad things internationally for these guys in future.
Their single “Skolebenken” sounds part inspired by both UK garage and rulers of sleepy indie-electro, The XX.
Suspekt – Denmark
Initially known as the naughty boys of Danish rap – thanks to a propensity for explicit lyrics – they’re now the biggest and most long-lasting Danish hip-hop act. With an incredible producer in Rune Rask (who’s produced for Kendrick Lamar among others), they continue to go from strength to strength.
Fascinating Scandinavian Rappers, compiled and edited by Tor Kjolberg
Feature image (on top) Fascinating Scandinavian rappers, photo: YouTube