Read that title again because the face of Singapore Hip-Hop and our music scene, YUNG RAJA, has done something once again that raises our heads with pride! This time, our home-grown artist has gotten in the good books of Hip-Hop icon, Snoop Dogg himself! Featuring him in a track on his newest album called ALGORITHM (The Global Edition), on the song Qualified, Snoop Dogg proves that YUNG RAJA is indeed qualified and capable of so much! Also featuring alongside them on this track are Larry June and October London.
First of all, as we end off this 2021’s interesting year (for the lack of a better word!), we look back to YUNG RAJA’s 2021 wrapped. From releasing the raging single that was Mami, which even earned a shoutout on Jimmy Fallon’s popular talk show, to amassing over 8 million streams and 4 million views on Spotify and YouTube respectively in light of his newest EP, ‘MIKE’. YUNG RAJA’s 2021 has been on fire! But he will not bid farewell to this year that easily. This latest collaboration with his idol is bound to be the hottest and spiciest (throwback to Spice Boy) part of his artistry to date! And this is just the beginning – NME Magazine (New Musical Express) has forecasted the Tanglish rapper as one of the essential emerging artists of 2021 worldwide!
Wow, the man’s had a busy year! Now placing the spotlight back onto quite possibly the most iconic collaboration ever, YUNG RAJA’s verse on this banger pays homage to who he really is as people all around the world listen to his tongue roll those bars with ease and skill. But to answer the question on everyone’s minds: How did this even happen?
Earlier this year, Snoop Dogg joined Def Jam Recordings as Executive Creative and Strategic Consultant. The Hip-Hop legend and global superstar released the massive 32-artist, 25-track Snoop Dogg Presents THE ALGORITHM as a first project with the label. There is also a worldwide version of this album, ALGORITHM (The Global Edition), which reprises the 25 tracks from the original album, but is topped with 15 unique newly-recorded bonus remixes of those songs. Each track features one or more artists from Universal Music Group’s worldwide roster! Nearly 50 hip-hop and R&B stars were a part of creating this revolutionary album!
But why the Global Edition? Snoop Dogg says, “There’s so much talent on this record, so many styles of music, it breaks the algorithm. Right now, the algorithm is telling us you have to rap this way, you have to sound this way, but they’re not telling you how it’s supposed to feel. My algorithm is going to give you a feeling, not a sound.” It’s admirable how he proves that good music isn’t just from the same popular artists we’ve come to love. Music stems from the soul, and it can come from anywhere around the world! And this album stands testament to that. Now that is the algorithm.
YUNG RAJA shared in a press conference that he’d found out about this life-altering, mind-boggling news through a zoom call with his team. He described the memory as a blurry one since it was so surreal. In fact, he didn’t even believe it! “I was taking it with a pinch of salt. I didn’t want to get excited until the song was ready and about to come out,” he shared. He’s always looked up to and idolised Snoop Dogg, even having purchased his album as one of his first few. This truly must have been overwhelming!
Apparently, YUNG RAJA had already been at the top of the list from Def Jam to Snoop Dogg! Snoop had loved his tracks, and his past performances had already garnered lots of interest. That’s when he decided that the collab had to happen!
YUNG RAJA described the whole process as really fast and smooth. After he was sent the beats, he sent them his self-written lyrics (we will get to do that!). Within a week, the song was pretty much ready!
Now, the lyrics. When I heard the song, my biggest curiosity was how he would have written his lyrics. How would he have conveyed his artistry and himself to the world listening to this song? Here’s what he told us: “I grew up speaking Tamil and English, and mixing them both is my truest flavour. And by being able to pursue my raps and my music with that flavour is something I take great pride in because it’s true to me, and it’s something that I’m very happy that I get to share with people.”
He wanted people to hear his verse, not just to learn about who YUNG RAJA is, but also about Singapore – letting them hear our mix of languages and cultures and how we take immense pride in it. This is specially echoed when he mentions “Singapura” in his rap! He never forgets his roots and who he is. It’s one of the reasons why Singapore loves YUNG RAJA!
With the firecracker of a year that 2021 has been for YUNG RAJA, his humbling response rattled me when I asked about his biggest highlight this year. It immediately snapped me into awareness about the little blessings: “It’s a difficult time. Look around; people are suffering, people are going through some real dark times. But I feel that God… the universe, has been continuously blessing my family and I with opportunities that I have no idea how they come knocking at the door, like this for instance, or Jimmy Fallon for instance. Just appreciating them as they come and taking stock of all the wonderful things that crossed my path, that’s my highlight.” He echoed this further, saying, “People are suffering. People are going through dark times. I still get to do what I love with the people that I love. What more could you want, you know?” I loved this.
This collaboration taught him that anything is possible, as long as you’re bold enough to dream it. Truer words have never been spoken. It’s also a reminder to us to have faith in our dreams and trust in ourselves. With 2021 coming to a close, let’s all enter the new year with this reminder!
But where to now? What else is in store? He did not disappoint as he left some crumbs for us to pick on as we eagerly wait for his next release, which he says is underway! He shared that he is looking forward to more music and collaborations next year! From here and now, he told us that “it’s all elevation” and that this opportunity and experience has elevated his psyche and what he’s aiming for. No one could have said it better.
Last year has been electrifying. With everything going on around the world, we’re sitting on the edge as we recall the ordinary days we’d taken for granted. We spent another year hoping for better times, but before we fall into another rabbit hole of despair and anguish, think of all you’ve accomplished this year. Think of all that we, as Singapore, have achieved to this day. Look back, and be proud of another year that’s passed; another year we’ve made it through. 2022 is coming, so let’s put it all in the air and manifest for happier and brighter things.
As you take this trip down memory lane, let ‘Qualified’ be your theme song! You can also stream it on Spotify and Apple Music. Stay tuned to YUNG RAJA and all his endeavours in the new year on his Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
And as we begin this year, let’s look forward to bigger and better music too; as YUNG RAJA said, “Stay tuned, 2022 is gonna be exciting.” We’ll hold you to it.
Have a Happy New Year, everyone!
Visuals Courtesy of Universal Music Singapore and Hans Goh.