Thursday 19 February 2015

Elliphant @ XOYO

Elliphant XOYO

Elliphant bounds onto the stage, a ball of aggressive, masculine energy. She snarls, she spits out her lyrics, she eyeballs the audience, she grabs her crotch. In one of her videos she pisses in the street.

It’s the sort of behaviour you’d expect from a young American male rapper. But Elliphant, real name Ellinor Olovsdotter, is a white female rapper from Sweden. She’s rude, crude and provocative, but that’s all part of her, frankly terrifying, charm. She chews up and spits out the stage; resistance is futile. Even when she makes a mistake, she rewinds and starts again because she "wasn't feeling it" - she's Elliphant, she can do what she goddamn likes.

What’s somewhat jarring is hearing this white Swedish rapper with a Jamaican accent. That, alongside the constant barrage of crass language, almost feels like she’s a parody of Jamaican rap artists. Yet living in LA and frequently visiting Jamaica, she’s clearly surrounded herself with that culture. It comes naturally to her, making her far more authentic than Iggy Azalea.

Musically she’s heavily inspired by dancehall and reggae. Sharing the stage with her DJ, she raps over heavy beats and shuddering bass lines in thick Patois. If anything, she’s akin to a Swedish M.I.A or Santigold in her mix of electronic and world music influences, as well as her half-sung half-rapped vocal delivery. Alongside dirty, grinding tracks like Booty Killah and Look Like You Love It (both taken from her most recent EP, pictured), there are tracks like Down On Life and Live Till I Die that have a greater electronic slant and sing (shout) along choruses. She’s Swedish after all and isn’t afraid of a good hook. Then there’s All Or Nothing with production from Diplo and Only Getting Younger with Skrillex, which give an idea as to the hard, raw edge of her music. 

Occasionally her political views get in the way of her music. In one break between songs she raps about Save The Grey – nothing to do with that recent film, but her activism project. It’s a little intrusive and preachy when fans just want to see and hear her perform, but equally it’s refreshing to see an artist connecting with politics through their music. Elliphant represents the outsider and difference – her music is a loud, brash celebration of that, crotch grabs and all.

The best track of the night, though, is One More featuring Danish singer MØ (sadly not in attendance). The two artists share a punk attitude and pair together in total unison, but MØ’s inclusion brings more creative and interesting production than the usual dancehall beats. It makes you wish Elliphant would embrace her Scandi roots a little more (musically at least) rather than the faux-Jamaican style she’s adopted. Still, she’s a powerhouse performer who deserves to be globally recognised beyond the usual token rap feature on most records these days.