We meet Alvia Islandia in Reykjavík to talk about the country’s rap explosion, being kicked out of school and why the world needs everlasting gum
Our first impression of Alvia Islandia is when we see her onstage at Secret Solstice wearing red adidas three-stripe tracksuit pants, rapping over trap beats in Icelandic and enlisting members of the Gum Gum Clan (her label and collective) to launch packets of Hubba Bubba into the crowd from the front of the stage. It’s not unusual for rappers to hook up with brands – think Kendrick and Reebok, Young Thug and Calvin Klein or A$AP Rocky and J.W Anderson, but Alvia’s corporate collab is slightly more unusual. The self-described "bubblegum bitch” is sponsored by Hubba Bubba, not for cash, but an unlimited supply of gum, which goes some way to explain why her team have binbags full of it to throw into the crowd.
This may all look and feel quite gimmicky (it is), but there’s no disputing that her tunes bang and she’s a brilliant performer, keeping a packed tent captivated for a full 45-minute set. It’s interesting to note how much of an appetite there is in Iceland for trap, rap and hip-hop – there’s even a tent at Secret Solstice dedicated entirely to Icelandic rap. It feels very different to the last time I visited Reykjavík 18 months ago and saw a city centre dominated by “traditional” band setups, techno DJs and people mostly wearing black. This time round I saw crews of people dressing like Yung Lean’s sadboys, all velour tracksuits and Supreme caps.
We caught up with Alvia Islandia straight after she came off stage to drink Fernet-Branca, talk elf myths and her newfound freedom. Read our interview and listen to her album Bubblegum Bitch, exclusively on Dazed, below.
How can I be a bubblegum bitch?
Alvia Islandia: You just have to like to like to chew gum, like to dance and like to live.
I like all of those things...
Alvia Islandia: You are in!
You’re sponsored by Hubba Bubba – can you have any gum you want?
Alvia Islandia: I like the original one, I only asked for the original one, the pink flavour, I don’t like cola flavour, it’s not nice. Original Hubba Bubba, that’s what it’s about.
How could Hubba Bubba improve?
Alvia Islandia: An everlasting fruit taste. We want to see that. That’s what we are going to demand from Hubba Bubba.
As you came off stage you said ‘I'm finally happy with what I'm doing’. How long have you been doing this and did it take you a long time to become comfortable with what you're doing now? Do you finally feel happy?
Alvia Islandia: It’s been a journey because I started making music when I was 16, I recorded my first song back then and since then I’ve just been making music with different kind of people and trying things out. First, it was only Icelandic electronic music and then it went to more house and drum and bass, now I’m making trap. I feel really comfortable about it now.
Tell us a bit about your record – as someone who isn’t Icelandic I’m interested to know what you’re saying.
Alvia Islandia: This is the first time I’m talking about real stuff, not just about eating mushrooms and blowing bubblegum. Now I’m actually rapping about how nice is to be single...I’ve been in relationships since I was 15 and I’m really happy now. It’s really nice to be free and growing up a little, I was a troubled teenager, a street cat who moved out at 16 and never went to the school I wanted to.
What’s the Icelandic rap scene like?
Alvia Islandia: It’s really big and people are doing a lot of it. It's really blowing up right now, it's been blowing up for some quite of a while but now there’s seriously a big thing going on here. There’s a lot happening and a lot of new young kids coming in. When I started rapping, it used to be way more pop and rock here.
I’ve heard that a lot of Icelandic people believe in elves – do you?
Alvia Islandia: You’re speaking to an elf! One of the last songs I played was about how I love mushrooms elves. I need them, so I eat them.
How come you left this city to go and live in Copenhagen?
Alvia Islandia: I moved there seven months ago, just to get peace and quiet. I live with my mum’s sister. That’s how I managed to finish my album, because living here in Reykjavik everybody knows each other, it's like a small village, and you get island fever. I love the feeling of being anonymous.