Ramengvrl: Asia's hottest rapper of 2021
Raised by a conservative family in Indonesia, Ramengvrl’s forward-thinking style made her an unlikely candidate to become one of Asia’s foremost hip-hop artists – yet Ramengvrl’s artistic risks have paid off, breaking through and using her platform to challenge conservatism; her rebellious spirit encouraging listeners across Indonesia to find the courage to do what they want to do, and be who they want to be.
Why do you think Indonesian Rap is thriving right now? What do you think have been
the key moments in the scene?
It’s definitely the rise of Rich Brian, but at the same time, there was also the rise of new young rappers and producers who now know how to use the tools and social platforms thrown at them (thanks Soundcloud, YouTube). There was also a time when a lot of Youtubers wanted to rap as well and even though it’s got a lot of resistance, like it or not, it did push rap in Indo, even to the non-hip hop listeners.
Why did you keep your music-making private from your parents and day-job colleagues,
and was there a particular moment when it struck them?
I’m the type of person who doesn’t really like to announce things if I’m “not about it” yet. From the start I wanted people to know about me themselves—from interviews, videos, whatnot because when that happens, that means I’ve succeeded in what I’m trying to do. There’s no need to argue about my dream or my vision anymore because they’ve already seen it. There was that one time when I was still working in an office and a group of colleagues somehow found my SoundCloud and laughed at it. I wasn’t mad or anything, but I do remember saying to myself: “one day you’ll see”. Haven’t heard from them since.
What’s it like to be signed to such a highly-regarded label like EMPIRE (responsible for
the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, Anderson Paak and more)?
Blessed. That’s it. To think that I started out thinking “Nah nobody’s gonna listen to this” but to be deemed worthy enough to be on the same label as these legends??? bro...
Who are your inspirations? I know you're a big fan of Jay Park.
Of course. You know he’s fuckin’ 33 years old? From boyband, scandal, going back to the States and making a legend out of himself in hip hop like that..., wtf. I’m also inspired by Nicki Minaj. In a male-dominated scene, she’s managed to rise to the top and just keeps killin’ it, not even only in female hip hop but in general. I wanna be like her.
You recently jumped on Bassgod by Dutch DJ-duo Yellow Claw. Can you tell me how
the collaboration came about?
It started way before COVID-19 hit. Yellow Claw and I have always been kinda flirting with each other for a couple of tracks, and this just was one of them. So... I guess expect more? :D
The Power Rangers inspired video looked like so much fun. Tell me about the filming
It was! But sorry to break it to you but the Power Rangers thing was all a stunt. I mean we were supposed to be the ones acting ourselves in FREAKIN’ JAPAN last year but you know, the pandemic, So I only wore the Rangers suit to flaunt my quarantine body I guess.
Your music is often fiercely feministic in its approach, and your lyrics contain references to sex, sexuality, and gender dynamics. I’ve also read that you don’t like being referred to as a feminist. Can you explain this?
I actually like being called a feminist—I just feel like I’m not exactly “right” for it because for me it’s a term only for those who’ve really been doing things significant for the cause and I don’t feel like I’ve done enough. I think it’s because when people see my songs as being “women empowerment”, “equality”, or “girl power”, it’s not me consciously deciding “hey I wanna make a song to empower the girls!!!” but at the same time, it’s really just ME expressing myself and what I believe in. Apparently what I believe in coincides with feminism so if expressing myself can bring encouragement for women to act or dress or speak how they want, then that’s dope.
Can you explain your creative tongue-in-cheek approach to names, for example, ‘RAMENGVRL’ and your debut album ‘CAN’T SPEAK ENGLISH’?
Hmm, I never really noticed it as tongue-in-cheek—I don’t really know how I came up with those terms, it just came to me. I guess instead of “tongue-in-cheek” I’ve always wanted people to get what I’m trying to say but in a fun way without confusing poetic words or whatever. With Ramengvrl, I like Japanese pop culture, I like Ramen, and I didn’t want a serious hip hop name for myself. With Can’t Speak English.. that’s a representation of my inferiority complex and saying “can’t speak English” 1000x was one of it. Not now though. :D I guess I just like to make it fun.
Your music is so diverse, from your single with Ted Park, Look At Me Now to your track The Emo Song. What kind of music would you like to be known for making?
Hmm, Ramengvrl music. Hahaha. When they listen to my music they’re gonna know it’s me. I’m genre blind, and I don’t like to put too many words into my music.
Talk about the reception of your debut album, CAN’T SPEAK ENGLISH released in November last year.
It is better than I expected! I was beating myself up before especially during the pandemic with the added fact I hadn’t put out new music (before the album) so I figured, oh well maybe people weren’t really hyped up about it, but apparently my fans were super supportive. So yeah, very thankful for it.
Interview by Oliver-James Campbell
Editor Jheanelle Feanny