KUALA LUMPUR, May 23 — After 14 years of cultivating the local hip-hop scene, from boiler room gigs to full fledged festivals — the grassroots Raising The Bar (RTB) festival is returning for one block party before it closes its doors.

Old Head Jin, one of the brains behind RTB told Malay Mail that the upcoming RTB Fest 2024 will be the series’ farewell, as he and his team shift their focus towards other plans in the pipeline.

Jin or his real name Tang Eu-Jin said that he had mixed feelings of excitement for their new endeavours while admitting it was hard to call it a day for RTB.

“The community has just been so supportive from day one and they really are family to us.

“I just feel like RTB has had a good run, we did what we said we were gonna do, and it’s time to pass the baton.”

He hinted that future projects included another new festival in the works.

RTB Fest started in 2013 and was last held in 2021 in the form of a livestream festival due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with the last physical RTB Fest in 2016.

What’s good at RTB Fest 2024?

While RTB Fest 2024 is happening this May 25 to May 26 at KLPAC in Sentul West might be the last, be assured that they going out with a bang.

The fourth RTB Fest will mark their first time holding a two-day festival laden with an all out programme, from live performances happening simultaneously at three stages to workshops and community collaborations such as graffiti jams, battles and more.

RTB Fest 2024 will also feature a combination of both local and international hip hop artists and DJs including Brooklyn-based rapper Oddisee, Indonesian rapper Tuan Tigabelas and local talents such as 53 Universe, Airliftz, Sonaone, Loca B and more.

In solidarity with the plights of Palestinians and as part of the Hip Hop Against Genocide movement, they are also organising a fundraiser to aid in rebuilding a dance centre in Gaza.

Taking inspiration from the Red Bull Music Academy workshop series and the Sydney’s SXSW Conferences and Festivals, RTB Fest 2024 will also have academic conferences happening on both days.

This includes talks from industry professionals such as Lembah Jaya state assemblyman Syed Ahmad better known as Altimet, local producer Yogi B as well as Sunway University’s associate professor, Tom Pierard on numerous topics from music industry to community building.

“I think our duty as event curators — in addition to entertaining — is to educate and inspire our crowd.

“These conversations we’re about to have at RTB Fest 2024, are with some of the industry’s best, all of whom are eager to share their unique perspectives, ideas and stories with the next generation of artists and professionals.

“I’m glad that this new platform allows them to do exactly that,” Jin said.

Jin sees a lot of local hip-hop artists embracing their identities these days which is a good indication of the growth of the local hip-hop landscape. — Picture courtesy of RTBMY
Jin sees a lot of local hip-hop artists embracing their identities these days which is a good indication of the growth of the local hip-hop landscape. — Picture courtesy of RTBMY

Growth in the local hip hop scene

The local hip hop scene has been flourishing with the emergence of new local hip hop artists who are not afraid to embrace local elements fused with modern sounds.

From using samples of old hits by local artists to casually rapping in local languages and slangs, the growth can be seen by the likes of 53 Universe who made waves through their hit track PP At Bukit Tabur which samples the late 80’s singer Azman Idris’s Zuraida on the track and the likes of Dato’ Maw and Arunboii in their rhyme schemes.

And for Jin, this is a healthy indication on the landscape of the local hip hop scene.

“I see more and more local hip hop artists embracing their identities by rapping in colloquial Malay, Chinese and Tamil.

“I think has given the scene a renewed sense of pride and self-confidence, resulting in more authentic music being made.

“The output is just nuts at this point. I just wish more labels, agencies and brands took chances on these guys you know — instead of focussing on the numbers all the time,” he said.

“These are literally the people who are shaping the culture as we speak.”

He said for RTB Fest 2024, they have prepared a healthy mix of different styles and iterations of the hip hop genre including party rap, conscious rap, hyper-lyrical rap, jazz-infused rap and political rap.

Tickets for RTB Fest 2024 are still available online with all access pass prices starting from RM99 (day pass) to RM149 (two-day pass).

For more ticketing information, please click here.