We LOVE hip hop and beats music, and so, of course, we have been on the lookout for Nordic artists in this genre – and right now Oslo-based Ol’ Burger Beats is certainly at the top of his game. He has an incredible CV when it comes to production work, as well as creating his own music.
We caught up with him to find out what lead him into the scene and sound, who he has worked with and what he has lined up next – mixed in with some incredible recommendations! This is a treasure trove of fascinating beat artists.
Your debut release ‘High Rhodes EP’ back in 2014 got compared to the likes of J Dilla and Pete Rock – that is one way to drop a first album! How did you get into this sound in the first place?
I grew up listening to a lot of hip hop and jazz music. I played both the piano and the saxophone, and learned a lot of jazz music on those instruments. Compositions by Oscar Peterson or Chick Corea on piano, and Weather Report songs on sax, to name a few. I started collecting jazz and rap records, and when I started making beats, it felt natural to try and combine the two genres, much like producers like Pete Rock and Jay Dee was known for. My first album High Rhodes LP was the product of all the styles and sounds I had explored until that point in my life, so I don’t think I had found my signature sound yet in 2014. But I guess I’m still working on that to this day.
What/who were your influences growing up?
My first meeting with hip hop was through OutKast, which turned into a huge inspiration right away. I listened to Gang Starr a lot, so DJ Premier was an early inspiration, and he still is. I bumped a lot of Swedish rap too, I had all the Petter and Timbuktu CDs. I also loved the local rap group Side Brok, who I now have worked with on several occasions. When I got older, I got more into underground producers like Madlib and the whole Stones Throw crew, and you can tell by my music that they have made a large impact.
You have ended up producing for a number of American artists – how have your paths crossed?
I think it has to do with the fact that Norway’s hip hop scene is quite small, but the kind of independent rap music I’m interested in has been more alive in the US. I love the “Producer’s Albums” where one hip hop producer invites a lot of rappers to be featured on a verse each. You mentioned Pete Rock, who made many classics in that field, and Norway’s Tommy Tee did that as well. “Mind Games” from 2017 was an album like that, which introduced me to a lot of great, young rappers that I hope to work with again on my next projects. But the paths are mostly through the internet unfortunately.
Do you think there is a hip hop scene in Norway (or even in Scandinavia as a whole) – who should we be keeping an eye on and listening to?
Sure! Me and Oslo rapper Vuyo have an album that’s coming out soon on Jakarta Records, where we also released the “All Yours” EP a couple months ago. If you’re familiar with our music, you probably also know about Ivan Ave, another great vocalist that has also released with Jakarta. I’ve also worked a lot with Norwegian rapper Kjartan Gaulfossen. We put out two EPs on vinyl recently, with lyrics in Norwegian. There is a lot of young beatmakers here too, and I recently tried to document that scene in this playlist.
You are Oslo based – where should we be checking out to hear the best beats or pick up some vinyl?
In my opinion the best record shops in Oslo are Rock&Rolls for used jazz and soul vinyl, and Big Dipper, Tiger or The Garden (where I worked for many years) for new records. The Garden usually has the best selection of instrumental and independent hip hop I think.
We have spoken to other producers and it seems a lot revert to producing a record more jazz–focused (rather than beat) further down the line of their career. Do you think that is more to do with experimentation?
That could be the case. Rap music is still a very young genre, and traditionally it’s music made for and made by youths. It seems like some people turn away from this music when they get older. But to me, jazz is at the core of hip hop, so turning to jazz is like returning to the roots of the music. I’m working on albums that are definitely closer to the jazz genre than hip hop, but I think there will always be a bit of both in my music.
We always love recommendations – what have you been listening to, watching or reading recently?
I love Swarvy’s music. His “Due Rent” album with Lojii is one of my favorites! He released a new album a couple days ago that’s well worth checking out too. And I’m reading two very good books at the moment, Jeff Chang’s “We Gon’ Be Alright” about the resegregation in the United States, and “The Immeasurable Equation”, a collection of poems by Sun Ra.
Finally what is your tip of the day?
A lot of creatives and small businesses struggle to get by because of Covid, so support the ones you like a little extra. Buying music and merch through Bandcamp is a great way to support your favorite musicians, since streaming pays so little.
Get listening and supporting Ol’Burger Beats by checking out his Bandcamp page HERE
Interview by Alex Minnis
Photos by Lisana Preteni