Just six months after Aron Can became Iceland’s newest Hip Hop phenom, I trained my worn Canon 7-D camera on his boyish frame, as he leaned, wearing a yellow Champion long-sleeve, toward the silver microphone in Radio Kronik’s studio (then broadcast on X-ið).
Like most everyone else, I’d become mildly captivated by the young Auto-Tune crooner ever since the release of Enginn mórall—a sparse and somewhat spooky Trap earworm—but remained, nevertheless, firmly skeptical of his chops as an emcee; as a former acolyte of old-school rap music, I nursed a low opinion of the singsong simplicity of Millennial rappers, and thus when the young Aron Can declared, in a rather offhand, blasé manner, “Let’s rap, man,” („Röppum, maður“)—having been prompted by the host of Kronik, Róbert Magnússon—I hoped for the best but expected something far from it. It felt like Britney Spears, overly confident following the success of Baby One More Time, was casually suggesting she belt out an aria (contrary to prevalent opinion, not everyone can rap). Also, there were rumors that the young Aron Can wasn’t quite as good live as he was, post-mix, in the studio.
Boy oh boy, however, was I in for a surprise.
Aron Can’s Kronik “freestyle” (as seen above) remains one of my favorite moments in recent Icelandic rap history. The young rapper’s sincerity still perfectly complements the poignancy of the beat’s melody, and his performance, I like to believe, may have served to reconcile (or at least soften the hearts of) a generation of old-school heads to the idea of an inevitable changing of the guard. Watching his performance a day later (during the filming, I could only hear Can’s a cappella), I recall being deeply impressed, immediately juxtaposing Can’s impossibly slick, debonair demeanor with the fidgety awkwardness that I myself had displayed doing the same thing at the same age; (Kronik is Iceland’s oldest Hip-Hop radio show. I was a guest on the show, along with my band mates, in the early aughts.) Although he was only 17 or 18 years old at the time, he seemed so polished, so sure of himself, so swank.
These days, when I revisit the clip on Youtube, I find myself glancing over at Óliver—the boy sitting opposite Can in the studio, and the son of Kronik’s progenitor—trying to observe the performance vicariously through his eyes. Although Óliver kept his cool, he was visibly start-struck.
As far as I know, the song itself has never been officially released, and I actually hope that it never is. I like the relative inaccessibility of Youtube; it prevents it from growing stale.
As one of the commentators on Youtube noted: “I always come back to this when I need a vibe.”