Pic: Unto Luoto
Pic: Unto Luoto

We invited Joni “Joniveli” Vanhanen and Ossi “Soul” Valpio to reminisce about the early years of the Jyväskylä rap scene. This fall, new and old artists from the area release an album together.

JoniJoniveli” Vanhanen and Ossi ”Soul” Valpio started rapping at the end of the last millennium. Finnish rap had not yet had its breakthrough, so inspiration was searched for from abroad.

”It just started bubbling beneath the surface, and suddenly rap began to be seen all around. I was listening to the American version a bit anyway, so I got interested”, Joni Vanhanen recalls the beginnings of his own career in rap.

In Ossi Valpio’s childhood and adolescence, rap was strongly connected with his basketball hobby. Valpio started rapping as a teenager together with Jonne Kuusisto who belonged to the same basketball team.

”We started basketball around the age of 6 or 7. Rap has always gone hand in hand with basketball”, Valpio says.

Both Valpio and Vanhanen had started with other kinds of music before rap. Valpio started in the elementary school as a drummer, Vanhanen made electronic music and played the guitar.

Vanhanen, Valpio and Kuusisto founded the hip hop group Urbaanilegenda at the end of 1999. Their most successful single, Päästä irti which was published in 2004, stayed in the official Finnish singles chart for three weeks.

As Finnish hip hop started to become more widespread at the beginning of the first decade of the 21st century, rap events and concerts became more common also in Jyväskylä.

”It was a boom then, and they had them even in Freetime. They had rap parties where I also went to play records for a few summers”, Joni Vanhanen explains.

Valpio remembers that Urbaalilegenda also performed in Freetime together with Fintelligens, perhaps the most popular hip hop group in Finland. The circles were small, so the rappers in Jyväskylä networked with artists from other cities.

”The strongest connection was probably to Tampere, to Paleface and others. Joni went there to produce Ezkimo’s record”, Valpio says.

This year, the JKL 101 album has given cause for reminiscing. The double LP that will be published at the end of November brings together rappers of several generations from Jyväskylä.

”As long as we’ve had Urbaalilegenda, it’s been talked about that some Jyväskylä-collection would be cool to make. Now there’s enough gang for it”, the record’s producer Vanhanen explains.

In addition to Vanhanen and Valpio, Matti Partanen – also known as Räme – represents older rappers on the album. Younger rappers on the record are, among others, Are, Gettomasa and Lyttä.

Ossi Valpio and Joni Vanhanen estimate that rap is experiencing a new heydey in Jyväskylä.

”We’re going like this now”, Valpio gestures steeply upward with his hand.

Rap has also got a firm foothold in Finland in comparison to the early 2000s.

”Rap is pop already, insofar that it is played in bars almost daily. In those days, it was played only on special occasions”, Vanhanen compares.

The rappers believe that new talents will be found among the youths also in the future. Valpio praises the Jyväskylä culture scene which makes it easy for newcomers to jump in.

”New crowds are always welcomed with open arms, there is not much tussle here. There are so many makers in the culture and art fields in comparison to the size of Jyväskylä that is makes sense to work together.”


In Finnish:

Urbaanilegendoja Jyväskylästä (8.10.2015)