Meet the MCs shaping South-East Asian hip-hop – DJ Mag

Indonesian rapper and producer Ramengvrl makes trap music with a twist. Her skeletal beats feel alive, somehow: squishing, chiming, and bouncing around, as her staccato rhymes grab at them. Her debut 10-track mixtape, ‘no bethany’, shows off her knack for playfulness, at turns goofy and serious in the same 16 bars. 

Ramengvrl’s hooks are catchy, but she’s stone-cold serious with them, too: using her lyrics to challenge the status quo and take shots at a patriarchal, sexist music industry. In countries like Indonesia, musicians can easily go international by crafting formulaic pop songs sung in English. For Ramengvrl, it comes from a postcolonial mentality that influences what’s considered necessary in order to break into the US and European industries. She wants to see that change. 

“I feel like a lot of rappers in the scene are too focused on what’s happening out there, with Migos, Travis Scott, Playboi Carti,” she tells DJ Mag.  “A lot of us are trying to copy that, and it’s not easy to get out of that tendency because they’re blowin’ up everywhere.” Though she may be one of the country’s rising stars, and a unique reference point when it comes to South-East Asian rap, she doesn’t want to be pigeonholed. 

“I feel like each one of us is collectively trying to make it out there… to show the world outside Asia that we’re dope too!” she says. “It’s not easy for Asian rappers to ‘make it’, especially in Indonesia, where hip-hop culture is still in its premature state. Slowly but surely, I wanna prove that I can make it while — alongside other dope rappers in the region — shifting the attention to Asia more. It just so happens that I’m a female, too, so the importance is amplified. Even now, I feel like hip-hop itself is shifting more and more to Asia. It’s time.” 

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