CELL7 is making a splash in the Icelandic and international music scene. Cited by some as the Icelandic MIA, CELL7 is multi-talented Ragna Kjartansdóttir, a Filipino-Icelandic rapper, songwriter and sound engineer.
Previously of Icelandic hip-hop team Subterranean, CELL7 returned to the music scene in autumn 2013 with her album, CELLF. CELLF was brought to life with well known producers, Earmax and Introbeats. CELL7 also collaborated with singer songwriters Lori Walsh, Drífa Sigurðardóttir and Sunna Ingólfsdóttir. The song with Drífa, ‘Feel Something,’ is wonderful, described by CELL7 as “an old fashioned love song about lost opportunities” but is so much more. Other contributors to the album include the Polish powerhouse production team PlanB. Not, as I thought, U.K. rapper Plan B. See below for my embarrassing mistake!
CELLF is far from the stereotypical view of Icelandic music. It’s a hugely appealing mixture of hip hop, rap and dance. Her star is rising too, with a recent successful performance at Sónar Reykjavík, and appearances in Europe and at Airwaves planned too.
How would you describe your music?
I would describe it as versatile. I hate being boxed in so as rule of thumb, I just make music that I feel is good, period. Its everything from good old fashioned 90’s hip hop to party driven dance hall music. Whatever moves me at the time.
Iceland is better known for a different type of music. I’m thinking of the success of Björk, the ethereal Sigur Rós or the neo-classism of Ólafur Arnalds. Does this make it difficult as a new artist emerging from Iceland?
No, I don’t think so, because their success, as well as other artists such as OMAM and GusGus, contributes to the overall exposure of the Icelandic music scene. Their success has made more people aware of Icelandic music and I think people from all over have an eye open for what is happening here on our island. For example, the DJs at the Seattle based radio station KEXP, are really up to date what’s happening in the Icelandic music scene. Even though their focus is mainly on indie rock music they somehow noticed my album, CELLF, and recommended it to their listeners.
It is also inspiring to see other Icelandic musicians succeed abroad. It doesn’t necessarily have to be on the same major level as Bjork, Sigur Rós and OMAM. Many Icelandic artists have been able to go on minor tours in Europe and/or North America, and have managed to achieve some fan base abroad. That within itself is a great achievement.
Where does the name ‘Cell 7’ come from?
It doesn’t come from anywhere in particular, at the time I really didn’t have any plans of becoming an emcee, it just happened really quickly. As I started recording and performing I had to have an artist name, Cell7 was the best I came up with at the time.
You’ve recently collaborated with Plan B? How did that come about? How was it?
These guys are actually the Polish PlanB, a producer team signed to Warner Records in Poland. The team consists of Bartek Krolik; singer, bass player and producer, as well as producer Marek Piotrowski. They contacted me through MySpace a couple of years ago and we just worked on the song through email and a couple of Skype meetings.
What do you have planned for 2014?
My dream has always been to perform with a live band and as I’m writing this I have actually begun the transition. I’ve always wanted to play overseas as well so I’m hoping that will happen this year as well, so I guess 2014 is all about making dreams come true.
Previously published on Iceland Review online.