Karri “Paleface” Miettinen (known also as Daddy Pales and Kalkkilaivan Kapteeni) is a leading figure in the political Finnish rap. Besides his music he is often in the headlines related to activism or because of his public statements. When he started his rap career soon after Millennium he wrote rhymes in English, which is also the language on his first three succesful albums each one of them making it to the official charts of Finland. His artist name stems from his years as an exchange student in the USA, where his Afro-American and Latin American-rooted friends nicknamed him as “Paleface”.
Paleface made his final breakthrough with his first album written in Finnish, Helsinki–Shangri-La, in 2010. Thus Paleface has mainly written his songs in his native language. The lyrics delt with several social problems, topics and phenomenon of the current Finnish society, which has been the concept of his later albums as well. The sales of Helsinki–Shangri-La reached the platinum status in 2011, and it is considered as one of the classics of Finnish rap music. His next effort was the album Palaneen käryä (2011) including new remixes of the original songs, also making it to the official album sales chart of Finland after the release.
The album Maan tapa in 2012 introduced Räjähtävä Nyrkki (= exploding fist), the new live band of Paleface. Two years later it was another album titled Luova tuho which continued the success, but in between these Paleface also released a split album Food for the Gods, where one can listen to Paleface rapping again also in English, together with American rapper Matre. His latest collaborations include more marginal independent releases: the album Tie vapauteen with Laulava Unioni including new versions of American-Finnish working class protest songs in 2019, and the collaboration album Ruma (2021) together with the Elektro GT outfit founded by jazz drummer Mikko Hassinen. These never made it to the Finnish album charts contrary to all the other Paleface albums.
“The Pale Ontologist” has worked together with several musicians, such as his orchestra Räjähtävä Nyrkki, both on albums and live performances. This is one of the big reasons why his music has been able to find fans among different genres, and one can easily hear strong influences of especially funk, rhythm’n’blues, jazz and folk. The musicians in Paleface’s live band have included for example singer and keyboard player Tuomo Prättälä (Tuomo, The Q-Continuum), guitarist Aki Haarala (The Q-Continuum, Lightboxer),keyboard player Emil Luukkonen (Lightboxer), drummers Jaska Lukkarinen (Ricky-Tick Big Band, Dalindèo) and Mikko Pöyhönen (Lightboxer, Rhythm Funk Masters), bassist Heikki Laine (Elektro GT, Njet Njet 9, The Q-Continuum, Tomi Salesvuo Funk Attack) and Tuukka “DJ Leijonamieli” Rahkola.
Paleface has also been one of the main vocalists in the outfits of Ricky-Tick Big Band & Julkinen Sana, GG Caravan and Conscious Youths, featured on several songs and concerts of other acts and produced the 50th Anniversary Album titled Mitä vapaus on for Amnesty Finland in 2011. He has also been active in several other roles during the years, such as a radio host, deejay and a non-fiction author of Finnish hip hop.
He has been granted several acknowledgements especially related to his album Helsinki–Shangri-La. These include three EMMA Awards (the Finnish equivalent to Grammys) for the best album of the year as well as the nomination as the best male vocalist in 2010. Funky Awards equally rewarded him for the Album of the Year, Song of the Year as well as the Artist of the Year the same year. Also the album Luova tuho was selected as the Hip hop Album of the Year in the same Funky Amigos’ gala in 2014.
Paleface has been granted a remarkable award by The Finnish Cultural Foundation in 2016 “for creating modern-day folk poetry and for social insight” of particularily his Finnish songs and work with the Ricky-Tick Big Band & Julkinen Sana collective. He and author Esa Salminen were also awarded with the State Award for Public Information in 2019 for their book Kolmetoista kertaa kovempi – räppärin käsikirja (Like).
Text: Joonas Kervinen / Funky Finland
Main photo: Timo Happonen
2nd photo: Jere Elo