KUALA LUMPUR, April 8 — YO! MTV Raps is set to premiere an Asian edition of its franchise this year.
After a successful pilot last year, the YO! MTV Raps Cypher rap battle, which went viral, the show was approved for a full season.
Singaporean rapper Yung Raja and Vietnamese-American model turned DJ Kim Lee will host the show for its first full season.
It is set to feature a plethora of rap and musical talents from across Asia including Joe Flizzow, Zamaera, Suboi, Dynamic Duo, Abra and Daboyway.
In an interview with Malay Mail recently, host Yung Raja, also known as Rajid Ahamed, and Vietnamese rapper, Suboi, shared their thoughts about the show.
Yung Raja said that he was excited when he heard the show got extended for a full season and was grateful to be a part of it again because he had fun on the set of the pilot (Cypher rap battle) which had 2,000 to 3,000 people on set.
“We were all hyped because we had a chance to do something together, to show the world that Asian hip hop is flourishing in its own beautiful way,” said the 23-year-old Singaporean.
It is the “first time ever” that such a large pool of Asian rappers have come together to be a part of something like this.
“The show will showcase emcees from all around Asia, like Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Phillippines, South Korea, Malaysia, and more which helps to educate consumers about the community of Asian hip hop and Asian rappers,” he added.
Yung Raja rose to the spotlight after appearing on Joe Flizzow’s 16 Baris, and subsequently signed a deal with Flizzow’s Kartel Records Sdn Bhd.
Starting out as a bit-part actor in Singapore, he switched to rap after a chat with Fariz Jabba, his rapper friend and fellow countryman.
“I feel that rap and music bring out the authentic self, you know? Because you have maximum freedom of expression,” said Yung Raja.
“You can say whatever you want in those 16 bars, you can’t get that in any other career, maximum freedom of expression, it’s one of the most beautiful things any human can have.
He added that there was an element to hip hop that demands authenticity, and all great rappers are unique because they rap about their story and their struggle.
Vietnam’s hip hop queen
Another great rapper in her own right, Suboi, considered by many in her home country as “Vietnam’s Queen of Hip Hop”, also had much to say about YO! MTV Raps Asia and what it is like being a female in the Asian rap industry.
Suboi, 29, whose real name is Hang Lam Trang Anh, is one of the first female rappers to gain fame in Vietnam.
Suboi said that she felt very nostalgic on the set of YO! MTV Raps Asia as it reminded her of the shows she used to watch on MTV back in the 90s.
Because there is such a wide range of different rappers coming from different cultures set to appear in the show, Suboi added that “it is really cool and colourful, like a playground for artists”.
She said she was naturally introverted and had trouble expressing herself to others, but hip hop gave her a platform to do so and to connect with other people.
“After I gained a name, I now have a voice and I tell my story. What if someone else hears it and feels the same way? I don’t even have to know them, but I’ve already connected,” said the Vietnamese rapper.
She draws inspiration from other great female rappers like Lauren Hill, Aaliyah and Erykah Badu adding that she would like to be like them, but she has to first adapt that brand of hip hop into Vietnamese culture and tell her own stories.
Although being taken seriously as a female rapper always has its challenges. But, instead of getting riled up about people not taking her music seriously, Suboi takes a different stance on the issue.
“I could diss people in my songs for saying I’m not good enough because I’m a girl, but for what? If I’m stuck in that battle, I’m stuck in it forever. It took me a while, but now I just want to focus on sending my message and connecting to people,” said Suboi.
MTV will broadcast the premiere of YO! MTV Raps Asia on April 15 on its television streams all across Asia.