While Swedes are known for many things – reasonably priced, intelligently designed furniture, well-constructed, minimalist fashion, producing the world’s finest pop music, the Skarsgård family, meatballs – they aren’t necessarily the first nationality that comes to mind when you think of rap. Well, forget everything you thought you knew (or never even bothered to consider) about Swedish rap, because as it turns out, Swedes are just as good at rapping as they are at designing kitchen cabinets.
One fairly substantial reason you may not have delved into the Swedish rap scene is because you don’t speak Swedish. That’s a fair point – lyrics are paramount in all musical genres, especially rap. Still, there’s something about the sound and cadence of the Swedish language that makes it uniquely pleasing to listen to, even if you haven’t the faintest clue what’s being said. Meanwhile, as some Swedish artists, like Silvana Imam, grow in international popularity, they’ve taken to putting English subtitles on their videos. “A lot of people in the UK dig the beats, the feeling and the vibe of my music,” she says. “So they would tweet at me and ask if I could put subtitles on my songs.”
So what are the Swedes rapping about? Sure, there’s the usual weed/guns/gangster/Gucci stuff – especially via the younger cohort emerging on YouTube. But the most successful Swedish rappers also tackle immigration issues, sexuality, gender and political issues. Sweden may be a progressive utopia (especially compared to our Trumpian America), but it isn’t without its issues and its rappers don’t shy away from talking about them.
There’s no telling why Swedes are so damn good at everything, including rap. Maybe it’s the weather. “I don’t want to go out, there’s no sun and it’s cold!” says Michel Dida, whose new track, a remix to his song “Gucci,” has gotten 100k plays on YouTube since it dropped last week. “I go into hibernation half the year. I think it helps.” Whatever the reason, it’s working, and it’s high time we all expanded our understanding of Swedish rappers beyond Yung Lean. To get you started, here are the 6 Swedish Rappers you should be listening to right now.
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?
Sammy & Johnny Bennett
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,” which translates to “Look Forward,” is especially vibey.
Born in The 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.” Whatever it is, we’re into it.
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 afrobeats (though we’d argue that he pulls them off more naturally than Drake does. Sorry Drake). 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. 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.
Rapping in both Swedish and English (under the name Eboi), Erik Lundin is known for being a wickedly talented storyteller; a rep 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 is the Swedish Drake, Lundin is the Swedish Kendrick Lamar. Just listen to last year’s “Välkommen Hem,” which, of course, translates to “Welcome Home” if you don’t believe us.
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, she dresses like a boss (seriously, check out her gram) and with a new documentary (which just premiered during Stockholm fashion week) and new merch you’re going to want to cop (including this fantastic collaboration), Silvana 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.”
For more like this, take a look at our round up of the 10 Emerging Korean Rappers you need to know here.
- Cover Image: @silvanaimam / Instagram