I both love and hate using cliches. Cliches are usually true and there’s a familiarity to them that resonates but they’re also lazy and unimaginative, which makes the ego in a writer go “I’m better than this.” That being said, there really is something to them. Like “Music transcends language.” It’s something that we all tend to agree with and understand. Regardless of the language someone is singing in, we can connect with the song as a whole regardless of whether or not we understand the words. I mean, look at La Macerena, Asereje aka “The Ketchup Song”, or Gangam Style… Ok, I’m joking, but also I’m not. We know those songs are about having a good time (Also, they all came with simple dances so white people can dance to them at weddings). We know Rammstein’s music means “The world sucks and we should burn it all down”. And we get that Cypress Hill’s Spanish songs are mostly about smoking weed and doing gangster shit, although you probably figured that out from their English stuff.
Anyway, I bring this all up because today we’re introducing you to a Swedish rapper by the name of Lilla Namo. Lilla recently put out an uptempo pop song telling Donald Trump to shut up, which I’m pretty sure is something we can all relate to. “Håll Käften” has had me dancing around my bedroom singing into a hairbrush, which is awkward ‘cause I don’t really know the words – yet. But hey, music transcends language so I’m not going to feel too bad about it.
I got to have a brief email chat with Lilla about telling the POTUS to shut up, Swedish politics, and using humour and satire in her music. You can give it a read it below whilst you give Håll Käften a listen and then check out her Youtube page for some dope music videos (Forlat is particularly great)
From what I understand “Håll Käften” means “Shut Up” and is aimed at President of the United States, Donald Trump (still feels weird to type). I take it your news media and news feeds are as congested with news about the troll as ours is?
It is somehow absurd, but I was not at all shocked, that Trump won the election. If we can learn something from history is that all things move in cycles (As long as we don’t break patterns it’s gonna continue to happen. That goes for both micro AND macro level). The song really started like a shut up to all the bullshit that comes out from his mouth. People laughed, created memes and his popularity increased. Donald Trump is like an evil character from a Disney Movie, but he is also real and now one of the most powerful people in the world. The shut up was just me being tired of hearing his name and his capitalist, sexist, racist etc. statements wherever I logged on or went. It was also a shut up to people around me that had disappointed me in life. So I merged the two into a person, like I usually do in my texts and created this song called Shut Up (Håll Käften in Swedish). So when you listen to it you would think it’s about a relationship between two people. And really when it comes down to what the World is, it’s all about relationships and connections between people.
What made you write a song about a foreign politician? Is Sweden’s political climate that great or is American politics just that invasive?
The Swedish climate is fucked up as well. However, the welfare-state that was built up in Sweden has laid a strong foundation for the country as a whole. But today, the Swedish Welfare is nothing but a myth. Most important functions in society are privatized or semi-private which we can see bad results from today. A lot of my music is about the issues we have in Sweden but from a more everyday-life perspective. Writing about Trump was also fun because it becomes fictitious. So answering your question, both Sweden and America are invasive but in different ways. Everything is relative to the context. I love Sweden and can’t even imagine how it is to live in the States with a carrot as a president. Basically he is a vegetable….
In South Africa, a lot of rappers used to rap in English with an American accent, but nowadays there’s a focus on rapping in local languages and creating art that relates locally more than globally. Through that, a few have found international success because what they’re doing sounds unique and interesting. I bring this up because you rap in Swedish and I wanted to know if you ever considered rapping in English to appeal to a broader audience, or is relating to your local audience more important?
I think rapping in Swedish just makes it feel so much more real for me. I don’t master the English language in the way I do Swedish. Swedish is a simple language even when we write music, it is more about the metaphors and how we phrase things that makes the music interesting. How we chose to build up sentences or play with slang. That I can’t do with English. With that said, I’ve tried to write in English and I guess if I would be a nerd about it I would learn to master it…maybe in the future. I usually just go with the flow (no pun intended…)
I know “Music transcends language” is a cliche, but cliches are often true. Do you think it is true, and if so, how does it do so for you?
I listen to a lot of French rap and I understand zero. Music is really more about a feeling than anything else. Some notes just makes me cry and I can’t explain why. Some force you to dance and you can’t control it. Everyone knows this and I guess that’s why it’s a cliche.
Your song “Haffa Guzz” is a satirical look at how you’d spend your time if you were a guy and “Håll Käften” seems to also take a lighthearted approach (I couldn’t find translated lyrics but the song feels fun and upbeat). Do you find humour and coating things in sugar helps deliver your message, or is it just fun to do? Maybe both?
I’ve always had self distance. So I guess my music reflects my personality. I can’t take my self or life too serious at all times. I find the approach I use as a challenge when writing, it’s a smart way of explaining how things are fucked up…haha. If I would have written too literal, the essence would disappear. It’s to easy to write a song and say: FUCK DONALD TRUMP, because everyone (or obviously not everyone but most) would agree. It’s too boring for me. I don’t want the cheers of the mass. I’ve always taken the difficult paths because I know the shortcuts are not long term decision, maybe sometime I’m too complicated and I don’t even make sense to people. But that’s me. Take it or leave it.