If you know anything about the fall of Saigon, you should also pay attention to the rise of its offsprings, namely Vietnamese Hip-Hop. Tip-toeing ones artistry is no easy task in a Communist country, but Suboi is inviting the world into Vietnam through her introspective rap music, and we’re fortunate she made space for us.
Suboi debuted her music in the United States after being invited to perform at the annual Center for Asian American Media festival, CAAMfest. She’s now rockin’ shows at SXSW, and we’ll do a video interview with her after her performance at the Baby’s All Right venue in NYC next week.
She provided us a few in-depth answers to our OogeeWoogee 10.
OogeeWoogee 10: A tailored set of ten thought-provoking questions to explore an artists’ state of mind:
1.You’ve been rocking the international scene for quite sometime, and you’re dubbed the queen of Vietnamese Hip Hop. Which is more difficult– being a female Hip Hop artist or being an artist in a Communist country?
It’s quite a challenge for me being a female Hip Hop artist in a Communist country. For the majority audience in Vietnam, Hip Hop is a genre that is not new but they don’t really understand what it’s about. Korean Pop has been taking over the scene in a way that somehow “Rap” is just part of a pop song, which is fine, but rap music is more than that. So for a Communist country, they want to make sure music, film, and art are general forms of entertainment, and other creative expressions are censored. If we don’t talk about the reality of life here, what do we rap about?
2.Is the evolution as an artist a natural progression or somewhat forced by the fans and/or society? Was your maturation process short or long?
It’s just about the experiment called life, as a young woman and as an artist pursuing her dream. I do not let anyone control or force me to be anything I’m not. But it took me a while to find my own voice, to know how things work, to see who stays with me in the difficult times, and to overcome the battle with myself, with obsession, trust and focus.
3.You’re making your U.S debut this week by co-headlining with Awkwafina. That’s great—we did a video interview with her last week. Do you see yourself trying to make a mark in the U.S music industry and, perhaps, collaborate with Awkwafina?
We just performed at the same show for CAAMFest in San Francisco so a collaboration would be great since CHOPS said he would like to produce the beat. He wrote it on Instagram so no taking it back, Chops!
4. You named your albums “Walk” and “Run,” respectively. Is there a theme? And what is the main thing you’ve tried to avoid in your music?
Music to me is also like a diary, when I wrote “Walk” that’s how I saw myself, a young girl taking careful steps on this path with hopes and dreams, but still wandering. That’s when I was on a record label in Vietnam. Our contract ended, I started to make it on my own, and years later I wrote and produced my second album “Run”. Things happened not the way I planned … or maybe I didn’t really have a plan but I learned some hard lessons in the music industry. I set up my company Suboi Entertainment the following year and started to travel a lot more. Living in Vietnam, the main thing everyone tries to avoid is to talk about politics, young people are all about expressing themselves and stating opinions so I guess no one cares enough since there’s no “freedom of speech” anyway.
5. Young fans are looking up to you now. There will always be pure admiration and hate. Can you describe your greatest experience on stage and your fondest human interaction with your fans?
I put my heart in almost every song and do my best whenever I perform. When I started to performing again after 2 years “disappearing” from Vietnamese stages, I got mad due to some backstage bullshit and again, I remembered why I didn’t care that much to be on “those stages”. I’m always nervous before my act, that’s when I know I still love what I do. I remember making my return, the crowd was silent because they didn’t know who it was but then I started my newest song and as soon as they heard my voice, the audience started making noise! I bursted out into tears singing the chorus “I have that one life just to give it to you love (it’s the music y’all)”, it also reminds how much I miss the stage.
6. How do you prepare for your next project? Any mishaps/strengths you keep in mind from previous works?
I’m working on some new songs right now and I don’t want to make the same mistake I did 2 years ago and depend on other people to be proactive about my work and getting it out there. I want to try doing everything as much as I can on my own but of course with the help of my friends and collaborators who have always supported me.
7. What previous works would you suggest OogeeWoogee readers to check out?
8. Do you have a favorite quote(s), or anything you’ve written that can be used to encourage our readers, and other Vietnamese rappers?
“Đời nhiều người bạc phước nhưng trời trêu người bạc nhược
Mình thì chậm mười bước, cung cầu theo người đặt cược
Trò chơi cuộc đời – trời cho cười đùa
Họ chơi vì thời thì mình mời lơi cười hùa”
Meaning luck is not for everyone, it’s only a shame when the people don’t even try. I know we have to do a lot of work in order to be successful and build our dreams.
“Society will never hold your hand” (-Kendrick Lamar) but what the fuck, just do your shit and give them a smile.
9. How easy is it to lose faith in your work? Are there greater challenges at sustaining your level of mastery?
I used to hold on to that trust issue every time I worked with someone but then I realized that if I don’t put my trust in people, they won’t do the same. On the other hand if I donate my trust too much they might take advantage of it. Everything is about balance, that’s the lesson I learned from time to time, it’s like a circus sometimes, don’t fall off the tight rope!
10. What’s your next project; what inspired you?
A new mixtape, inspired by everything around me especially this present moment when I’m on my first U.S. tour. I’m trying to add more positivity into my mind to see things in a different way, with a little bit more of political mindset.