A chat with the Queen of Rap about music, spirituality and being a woman in hip hop.
Over the last couple of years hip hop artist Suboi has emerged from the underground scene, where she has been active for a decade, to firmly establish herself in the mainstream conscious as a strong voice for her generation. And increasingly (aided by run-ins with Obama and the odd modeling gig with big brands) is making a name for herself in and out of Vietnam’s music industry.
We met her by the river in Saigon for an afternoon of cà phê sữa đá and chit chat with her about writing music, building her own production company and what it means to be embracing being a female role model and fame.
Suboi on Soundcloud
Suboi on Instagram
This is Vietnam’s Renovation Generation. Sonic portraits of young minds re-shaping the country’s future.
Something like that right
This is Vietnam’s Renovation Generation and you’ve probably guessed who that is, seeing that she is one of the biggest influencers and most instantly recognisable individuals of her generation. She is on of the few born and bred alternative Vietnamese voices to have found ears outside of her home country. For our 19th episode we travelled to Saigon for a day to talk about everything but Kenzo and Obama with Suboi.
Actually my name at home is just Su. My sister is Si right. And then people like hey I never see you like a girlie girl at all, I'm gonna call you Suboi, but you're not a real boy so the y turned into an i.
She has gone through a few familiar stages of rebelling against gender norms
I wished I was a boy
Do you still?
I love begin a woman now
She took her first tentative steps into Vietnam’s budding rap scene 10 years ago in all boys crew.
I tell you this, when a guy put out a song, put on a hat instant favourite rapper and when a woman do it, you have to show really you have skill, not just your face, you don't sleep with nobody until you get anywhere so I'm the only girl in the crew, but I'm the one who really wanna make good music.
Did it allow you to break through stereotypes of what a woman should be?
Oh definitely that's why I'm with it.
She says there are more and more rappers, but there is one gap that isn’t closing
I don't see any girl coming up yet. At first I didn't want to draw the line between no my skill is rapper like just call me a fucking rapper. My skill is the same, my delivery is the same now I kinda changed like a little, you know just own it, you're female rapper ok female rapper
Is there also down sides to being one of so few and having no, not just competition but allies as well to learn from?
It's actually exactly what my life is about. Cause ok I don't want to be the only one. I want to be the number one. But to get there you have to like beat somebody too. Me, I don't have nobody to look up to. That's why I was angry. At first I was like this country is so funny, I think it's stupid. Now I don't say that anymore. All my message is about this. It's about you're from a really small country, but don't think that you're not the same with everybody else in the world. I show people ok I can be on a billboard in New York and I'm from Vietnam. Nobody believed that shit. When I discovered rap I was like woah, this music is so fucking angry and it's ok you know. I am angry.
What were you angry about?
I was like a teenager you known i didn't know shit and I couldn't talk to my friends I wasn't in the popular kids in the school, I don't hang out with a group of friends, I'm kinda just like by myself all the time and when I come home I couldn't talk to my parents or I couldn't talk to my sister. She always yell at me.
Suboi stopped being confrontational and found she could and should us...