Rap Is Now is a local phenomenon. It’s a competition featuring rap battles between contestants from all over Thailand and it has absolutely blown up over the last few years, with live auditions in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Songkhla, Nakhonratchasima, and Udon Thani this year.
Picture 4,000 people surrounding a stage the size and shape of a boxing rink where two rappers are rap battling each other and you’ve got yourself a taste of what the competition’s finals were like last year. The competition is in its third year now and has a following of over 700,000 people on Facebook! The live auditions are coming to a close now, but the much anticipated knockout rounds are ahead, where contestants will face off 1 on 1 with the chance to get to the next round and ultimate glory.
Last Saturday was my first taste of this event, as we got the chance to attend the live auditions in Bangkok. I must say I was impressed. Of course all the rapping is done in Thai but as a viewer I found it very interesting to see how it’s done and how it’s different to the more familiar American and UK styles.
Picture 4,000 people surrounding a stage the size and shape of a boxing rink where two rappers are rap battling each other and you’ve got yourself a taste of what the competition’s finals were like last year
Walking into the venue at Suan Lum Night Bazaar I had no idea what to expect, and was surprised to see the casual yet controlled organization of the event. There were hundreds of people present with multiple sponsors and ticket types, yet it still had that personal air and I got to meet and briefly chat with a couple of the founders, one of them even handling change for my beer.
We got a chance to talk to some of the contestants as well, with one noting “Rap Is Now is a serious competition for those of us who want to pursue a professional career as a rapper. There aren’t many hip hop gigs around in Thailand and Rap Is Now provides an opportunity for kids who enjoy the scene to partake of the drama that is a rap battle”. Another contestant going by the stage name of G-Zon felt nervous as this was his first time in the competition. “I’ve prepared some bits but I want to also feel the audience out and connect with them” he told me. Throughout the event I also got the sense how this competition has given a lot of Thai youth a scene to be a part of. American culture and street style is hugely popular here, but Rap Is Now has finally given kids who love that culture a place to be and acts to follow and support.
The opening act was a sort of rap medley performed by all the candidates together on stage, each taking turns spitting out their lyrics to the rhythm of the others beat boxing. Whether it was practiced beforehand, or free styled off the top of their heads, I found it incredible to say the least. The audience, divided by standard and VIP ticket barriers, were engaged and entertained throughout as well. The first two contestants were obviously well known amongst Thai rap fans as they drew a huge reaction when on stage. As I mentioned before, I wanted to know how Thai rap compared to western rap styles and was surprised to find out it was quite similar. The topics they rapped about, the amount of profanity used, and even the structure of the rhyming were all more or less the same. But I must say, Thai profanity used in this way is way more entertaining than English profanity in rap music.
If you are interested in Thai rap or just love good hip hop beats, Rap Is Now is for you. There’s nothing quite like it and it’s the perfect opportunity to experience something you never have before, underground, messy, energetic and exciting.
The MC’s on stage kept the whole show running smoothly in between acts and engaged with the audience well enough. The atmosphere from the audience was simply electric especially when there would be two good rappers were going at it. Even when the less skilled freestylers were on stage the crowd showed their support as well. I guess it isn’t quite in Thai culture to boo someone when they under perform which does help boost the confidence of those who lack it.
All in all, this Rap Is Now audition event has made me more curious about what is to come in the next stages and I’m for sure looking forward to covering the final audition event on the 29th of October. If you are interested in Thai rap or just love good hip hop beats, Rap Is Now is for you. There’s nothing quite like it and it’s the perfect opportunity to experience something you never have before, underground, messy, energetic and exciting.
— Written by Brian Legnell, edited by Abner Olivieri, images courtesy of Rap Is Now.