One of the first “Asian rap” songs I heard was ‘Learn Chinese’ by MC Jin. Probably not that surprising seeing as how Jin was the first Asian American solo rapper to be signed to a major record label (Ruff Ryders) in the United States. This then opened the gates to other Asian hip hop acts like Machi (Jump 2003) and the likes, and even while I couldn’t understand a word of what was being rapped, for some reason I was drawn to hip hop songs with Asian elements. I mean, I love Wu-Tang and all, but I never really got what "I slam tracks like quarterback sacks from L.T" meant till much, much later.
And while the “general masses” for some reason only consider Chinese/Korean/Japanese artistes to be “Asian” (or if you’re part of the 88rising collective), we’ve also got people like Humble The Poet
and don’t even get me started with our very own homegrown Malaysian rappers. Hip hop, being a culture, is widely embraced (just don’t go throwing the N-word around unnecessarily), and what I enjoy the most about Asian hip hop artistes are the references and relatable words/phrases in their lyrics which makes the whole listening experience all the more satisfying and fun.
Close to home, Singapore too have been doing a stellar job at putting Asian hip hop on the map while bridging East and West with the likes of Masia One, Kopi Kat Klan, Shigga Shay, Fariz Jabba, Yung Raja, Akeem Jahat and only very recently have we discovered one more to add to the list. Meet YETI PACK. After listening to their Oriental trap banger, 'FENGSHUI' (why are we shouting?) and becoming an instant fan, we got in touch with the guys to find out more about the alternative hip hop quartet and their music.
Just a disclaimer, this article isn’t about questioning the line between self-expression and cultural appropriation. No. It’s just about these guys and why you should check out their music. Now let's get to it.
Tell us a little more about Yeti Pack.
YETI PACK is a Singaporean rap group that formed in October 2017. AFRO JUNIOR, YELLO, RVND and Rush Martines form the eccentric hip hop quartet. We're a fun-loving bunch that want to bring hip hop love and culture to the East.
How did the journey into Hip Hop begin for you guys as individuals?
We all had such different forays into the genre. Nigerian-born AFRO JUNIOR grew up with the sounds of old-school hip hop in the American suburbs and he found solidarity in the genre. It’s been part of him as a person since he was a kid. For RVND, Timbaland was his first introduction to rap. With sizzling beats over tribal melodies, there was just an undeniable flow that made people want to dance. YELLO and Rush Martines both actually transitioned from the early 2000s era of rock to the onset of hip hop later on in the decade. They both found the two genres to have huge similarities in the street culture - clothing, moshing, parties and even lyrical content.
You’ve all got such diverse and different backgrounds. How did the group come about?
AFRO JUNIOR knew each member separately and we all met through him. The synergy was instant. We started off as friends just making music and having a good time. We’d game together, party together and one night, we decided to have a freestyle session. Something just clicked and eventually we started hanging out solely just to make music. We’d find a beat online and we’d just write together. The first few times we did this, it just felt so right. The whole process was energetically organic, but we never predicted that this could actually become a proper thing.
People started to notice our tracks and we started playing shows. It was honestly down to the DJs at clubs that started repping us. Shout-out to DJ Senter for real.
Now, tell us a little about your music style.
It’s a little bit of this, little bit of that. Some Migos, some Higher Brothers, some Rich Brian, some Lil Dicky. We’ve always tried not to get too ahead of ourselves with our style and content, we don’t lead the lavish and Hollywood-like lives of the American artists, so we rap about things that actually happen around us. Sometime last year we realized we were just dead ass broke. So, we made a song about it. And it blew up! I guess you can say that we’re real and we like to make fun of ourselves - but at the same time we want to be going HAM in the club. It’s all about good vibes man!
What’s the hip hop scene in Singapore like?
When we formed, they weren’t many notable acts coming up. Fast forward 16 months and it’s great to see just how fast the culture has caught on. There’s mainly a rebellious undertone to the rap scene in Singapore, a very us/me against the world vibe. It brings people together. All you need to do is check out WAVY SZN and you’ll see the insanity that is their parties.
There’s just so much talent coming out of the South East Asia region, yet only a handful really hit it big and get global recognition and appreciation. Why do you think this is the case? And how do you guys feel this can change?
It’s only recently that non-American artists are getting known around the world. Now more than ever, it’s easier to get global recognition due to the convenience of digital marketing. 88rising is playing a huge part in that with its niche foray into Asian hip hop culture.
The Asian continent has taken a while to catch on to rap and its only been prominent here for a half a decade or so. It’s still a growing movement and we think all we need to do is give it time. It is developing exponentially, and we think the 2020s will be an interesting decade for Asian rap culture. With pop labels such as Universal and Sony setting up shop in Asia, it won’t be long before we see Roc Nation and maybe even Def Jam.
What is the main aim with your music?
Seeing the reaction so far, it’s been nothing short of surreal. We just want to keep making music so long as people listen to it, it’s a really a vague but honest long-term aim. We never want to lose things like living in the moment - no time like the present. In the short term though, we feel like we’ve found exactly who we are as a band and we’re ready to release an EP this year. So, stay tuned!
What’s the big dream?
If we’re talking dreams, let’s talk big. A tour would be amazing. While we’re at it, if we could snag a performance at a big regional/international festival anytime soon that would be so crazy.
Can we expect an album to be released anytime soon?
By the end of the year! While YETI PACK won’t be releasing songs as a collective till the second half of 2019, we will be releasing music under our individual monikers and those are very different sounds. Follow us on Instagram
to get updates.
Lastly, when are you guys coming to Malaysia?
We want to say this summer, but let’s just say we’ll definitely come there before the end of Summer 2020.
You can check out more of their music on Spotify
. And don't forget to follow 'em on Facebook
for more updates and great tunes!