YUNG RAJA. This name shouldn’t come as a surprise to you, for he is one of Singapore’s fastest-growing artists with some smashing hits that have all of us bobbing our heads and reciting like a chant. YUNG RAJA. This artist is so much more than just rapping. He wants to share who he is and what he loves through his music – a bilingual Singaporean boy, raised by South Indian parents, who is in love with his culture. YUNG RAJA. Get used to this name because he brings with himself big things, starting with his most recent release, ‘Spice Boy’.
We’ve all heard of the legendary Spice Girls. But ever heard of a Spice Boy? Well, that’s YUNG RAJA! On 30 July, YUNG RAJA dropped the bomb that is Spice Boy, and it was rocking the Viral 50 Singapore charts on Spotify! This comes as no surprise as his previous single Mami was also a hit that didn’t just earn Singapore’s attention, but was recognised on a global platform – The Jimmy Fallon Show.
I got to chat with the Spice Boy himself, which was a huge honour, and today, I would love to share his story with you!
When I asked him about Mami’s feature on the world-famous talk show, YUNG RAJA’s humility shone as he shared that it was a very unexpected moment of validation that made him realise that the whole experience was not just a win for him and his team, but for Singapore, and in fact, Asia itself.
Music knows no boundaries, and especially not borders and languages. So having Singapore’s home-bred artist take on a global stage is indeed a moment of pride for us all. YUNG RAJA shared that he and his team are working towards putting Singapore Hip-Hop and Rap on the map, while keeping in touch with his cultural roots. We’re excited about the future, but let’s dive in and learn more about Spice Boy!
When I asked YUNG RAJA about what this song means and the story he wants to convey, he shared about his exposure to spices living in a South Indian household. It’s an experience that makes his life and lifestyle unique. It’s his personal flavour (see what I did there?). And YUNG RAJA has always strived to make his rap unique by infusing his own flavour and culture into his craft. Spicing things up and bringing something new and fresh to the table is always the goal. And in this aim to keep things interesting, YUNG RAJA also sought inspiration from the Spice Girls cover art for the artwork of Spice Boy. Spicy!
He also shared how the song and music video pays homage to one of his biggest inspirations, a living legend in the South Indian community, Rajnikanth! Superstar Rajnikanth has been YUNG RAJA’s idol since he was just five years old, and throughout his career, he has always wondered about ways he can translate his influences into his art. In the Spice Boy music video, YUNG RAJA makes an iconic move with his sunglasses, native to Rajnikanth himself! He said he’d been practising and perfecting this move since he was about eight years old. But didn’t he nail it?
In fact, more of his music videos share little hints of the influence of his idol. Remember ‘Mad Blessings’? The intro of the music video with ‘SHTAMBI RAJA’ was also recreated in tribute to Rajnikanth. The more you look, the more you find!
To me, something that always sets YUNG RAJA apart from any other rapper from anywhere around the world is his unique composition of Tanglish – Tamil and English – lyrics. He shared with me how in the early days of his career, he had the biggest epiphany of his adult life: “As a bilingual Singaporean boy born and raised in Singapore, the bilingual nature of our tongue is deeply ingrained in our DNA.” He realised that he couldn’t just choose between Tamil or English for his music. When he chose one over the other, he never felt satisfied. He could feel dissonance in his flow, like he was trying to emulate someone else.
This was also when he learnt to embrace his culture and be comfortable enough in his skin, combine his two worlds in his music, and create his own universe – the YUNG RAJA universe, if you will! And when he did, it all felt right. He felt like his music was truly becoming an embodiment of who Rajid is, the person behind YUNG RAJA.
As soon as he had this massive ‘Eureka!’ moment, he could find inspiration everywhere – from his conversations with his parents, to words in Tamil that sound similar to those in English and vice versa, which is so uncommon in the Hip-Hop scene! So the Spice Boy really does spice things up, huh?
As an artist who has redeemed success from struggle, he has so many words of inspiration to other aspiring artists. So even if you’re a secret bathroom singer or rapper, if you have this little voice in your head telling you to make your shower-concert rendezvouses a reality, you might want to hear this.
YUNG RAJA shared that people who are starting up as artists, but specifically as rappers, “It’s imperative to understand what and who you are!” He shared that Hip-Hop and Rap are genres that demand authenticity, and the way you package your song, it’s always going to be your words and your style speaking to your listeners. “If you try to write lyrics that do not align with your reality and your truth, people will call you out!” In the end, it truly boils down to what your story is.
Find your truth, find comfort in your own skin, and embrace who you are. “I think there’s too many stigmas attached to what people think rap is because of what western artistry paints to us”. Wouldn’t it be lovely if Singapore could establish its own community of artists held together by love, unity and brotherhood? Well, that’s the dream! YUNG RAJA himself hopes that with his artistry, he breaks the stigmas of what people perceive Rap and Hip-Hop to be, and repaint them to that of authenticity, and all about sharing your story. Truly an inspiration.
Spice Boy was a banger, but I’m sure everyone is already waiting for his next drop! Well, I gotchu! I asked him what was coming next, and he very passionately and emotionally shared a message for all his fans:
“To everyone that has been supporting me since day one, walking this very interesting part of my life with me: the first couple of years… there were a lot of uncertainties. I wasn’t sure if I could do this for real, for real. But I’m very excited to share that right now; we are at a place in our artistry where we are thinking of elevating in many different ways. There’s no longer going to be just one song a year, no longer going to just be periodic drops.”
There’s so much coming, and we’re not sure we’re ready because we can barely get over his latest releases! On that note, be sure to check out the exhilarating Spice Boy music video on YouTube, and stay up to date with all of YUNG RAJA’s happenings on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook! He has also just launched his very own clothing line, Peace Oeuvre, so show your support right now!
He said that it’s a very exciting time, and there’s so much in the works and so much to look forward to. We’re counting on you, YUNG RAJA! We can’t wait to hear and learn more about you through your music and your stories.
Visuals courtesy of Universal Music Singapore and Hans Goh.