Singaporean Rapper Yung Raja in the Spotlight
Within a year, Tamilian Rajid Ahamed has grown to become one of South East Asia’s popular hip-hop artists, with songs like ‘Poori Gang’ and ‘Mustafa’
In January 2018, Singapore-based actor-rapper Yung Raja aka Rajid Ahamed made his official debut with his take on the hit of the season ”“ American rapper Lil Pump’s “Gucci Gang.” Yung Raja called his version “Poori Gang,” rapping in Tamil and English about South Indian cuisine with a swagger that was boastful but also hilarious.
After all, where else are you going to hear someone rap, “Go to Tamil Nadu got my Thatha gang/Freedom for my macha call it Gandhi Gang”? While he’s throwing dance moves in a studio for the lo-fi video, you can tell Raja looks his happiest. It might be a pretty funny take, but the rapper says over the phone, “That’s my authentic representation of who I am and who I feel I am.”
Raja is a first generation Singaporean, whereas his family are originally from Tamil Nadu. He says, “I got to see the real cultural aspect of my roots in my house. I speak Tamil at home, I eat with my hands, my mom cooks South Indian dishes three times a day, every day. That’s what I grew up on [”¦] In Singapore, they didn’t change their ways and they lived as they always did.”
There’s more to Yung Raja than just that Tamilian identity, though, even if he cites acting legend Rajinikanth as his influence. “Poori Gang” may have accrued over 200,000 views but more importantly, it caught the attention of the South East Asian music industry. His official debut single “Mustafa” ”“ a nod to the shopping complex in Singapore ”“ was released via Malaysia’s Kartel Records and distributed via Sony Music. Over a beat produced by FlightSch aka Ezekiel Keran (who is also Raja’s manager and launched him on Made You Famous records), Raja throws in a few Tamil words but it’s mostly English verses and hooks like “I’m for all races” and “Keeping it simple like Lamar” over piano parts that certainly remind one of American rap star Kendrick Lamar’s hit “HUMBLE.”
The most important takeaway, perhaps, is in the chorus: “Call me Yung Mustafa/Brown superstar.” Raja has been invited to India twice over already, courtesy of the Singapore Tourism Board, performing in Mumbai in November and most recently with rapper Prabh Deep in New Delhi last month. Raja is understandably amazed at the vastness of India, since he’s coming from an island city-state. “Our trip was short, we came on Friday, we left on Sunday. We weren’t really planning on anything,” he says.
Yung Raja played a 30-minute set including bangers like “Mustafa” and “Poori Gang” but also unreleased material and verses he’s performed for popular rap cypher YouTube show 16 BARIS. While 2018 was the launchpad year, Raja says everyone is “more sure of what we’re doing” in 2019. There’s more singles and he promises his next song will have more of a Tamil flavor as well. Raja’s goals remain clear. He says, “It’s not just about me doing what I like. I’ve always tried to earn a living, do something great and give back to my family. I’ve tried to make it as real as I can.”