During a town hall meeting in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnamese rapper Suboi shared a universal moment with U.S President Barack Obama. It echoed the conversation she and I had during her U.S debut last year at the Baby’s All Right venue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn: access to creative freedom, for her, is a means to challenge society’s perception of materialism and gender stereotypes.
Suboi is a female Asian rapper navigating Vietnam’s restrictive Communist environment. But Obama made it quite clear that human rights violations and social disenfranchisement extends far beyond her country of origin.
Her concerns aligned well with Obamas overall message about the importance of human rights and free speech. Hip-hop, one of America’s greatest cultural exports, coincidentally became part of Obama’s soft power pitch during the Q&A session; free artistic expression was ironically in full display. As Obama was ending his week-long trip to Asia, which included the end of the long-standing arms embargo against Vietnam, he called on Suboi in the audience to give an impromptu rap.
She handled her business. The crowd applauded, and Obama continued his message.
Her artistic drive for humane representation and social solutions reminded me of the brief pairing between Kendrick Lamar and Barack Obama. There is a profound acknowledgement of art’s power, and silencing it does a disservice to social progress. But its awakening power is apparently too dangerous for the status quo.
“Let’s be honest, sometimes art is dangerous,” Obama said, “and that’s why governments sometimes get nervous about art. But one of the things that I truly believe is that if you try to suppress the arts, then I think you’re suppressing the deepest dreams and aspirations of a people.”
Suboi expressed her dreams to us in our exclusive video interview below:
Main feature image credit: Carolyn Kaster/AP
article by Wilkine Brutus