King of vibes: Tamil origin hip-hop artist Yung Raja discusses new single 'The Dance Song'
This virtual newbie to the rap scene found viral success in Malaysia and Singapore following the release of his debut single, ‘Mustafa’.
Singaporean hip-hop artist of Tamil origin—Yung Raja—is set to finish 2020 with a bang. Recently, the video of his single, ‘The Dance Song’, went viral for its unique take at pairing traditional dance moves with the catchy hip-hop beats. The video has dancers performing Malay zapin, Chinese fan dancing, and Indian Bharatanatyam.
Raja followed it up this December with ‘PrettyGirlBop’—a song focusing on the resilient women in the face of a global pandemic. He collaborated on the same with Malaysian rapper SYA. He also performed at the NH7 Weekender. Raja presented a pre-taped set for the virtual event, something he describes as “the craziest thing to have happened to him professionally”.
But there is another side to this avant-garde bilingual South Asian artist. Not many know that Raja considers acting his first love. He spent a good chunk of his teenage and adult years dedicated to becoming an actor. Like many who grow up on Tamil cinema, Rajinikanth was a pivotal influence. In an effort to achieve his goal, Raja even featured in advertisements, TV series and a few movies. It was only later that he began pursuing rap music. And Lady Luck smiled on him.
Raja migrated from Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu to Singapore in 1992. His father is a recognised poet in Singapore’s Tamil diasporic community and has also taught Maths and Science as a college professor for 17 years in Chennai. The themes of Raja’s songs are primarily a celebration of his identity and life’s abundant blessings. “I enjoy sharing my truth, culture and context through raps,” he explains. With ‘The Dance Song’, he was able to showcase the colours of his life and personality, while packaging it all in a fresh and catchy sound.
This virtual newbie to the rap scene found viral success in Malaysia and Singapore following the release of his debut single, ‘Mustafa’. His second single, ‘Mad Blessings’, received commendation from Lupe Fiasco and M.I.A., and was the first English-Tamil song to be played on Malaysia’s leading Malay Radio Station, Era. With over three million streams on Spotify and more than three million views on YouTube, the 25-year-old first-generation Singaporean Indian is also a prized member of the Def Jam South East Asia roster. Today, he is associated with the marquee music label Def Jam. The label is known for its association with big names such as Jay-Z, Rihanna, Ludacris and Kanye West.
Raja says he thoroughly enjoyed creating ‘The Dance Song’, adding that it is a narrative on self-empowerment. “The track is merged with a dash of humour and a distinct self-belief that manifests in a hybridised English-Tamil unification of culture. The idea was to make something fun, light and fresh—both sonically and visually—and share its vibe with the world. It’s meant to make you forget about anything that’s weighing you down and just be entertained!” he says. Raja believes that a good song should always have a good rhythm and tempo that would ultimately make the listener want to groove. “A trance-like vibe should always be there,” he adds. In the coming months, he promises his fans more rhythm and vibes.