…(Vietnam)- Suboi “Đời” Review

So upon my regular internet hunting for new music I discovered Suboi, the Vietnamese “Queen of hip-hop” and in particular this song which immediately grabbed my attention! 

This was my first ever time listening to a Vietnamese rapper and upon further internet delving I discovered that Suboi is a very big deal in her home nation and even gained attention from around the world following a performance for president Obama during a visit he made to the country in mid 2016.

What immediately struck me about this song in particular was the beat. Opening with pitched up vocals chopped into a melody, resembling chanting and adding an eerie darkness to the song. At other times this is layered with a repetitive, sharp string melody and chopped up samples of Suboi’s vocals pitched down. The drums are relatively subdued in the beat but this allows the sampled vocals to dominate and give the track a slightly  trippy, wandering sound in my opinion (if that makes sense). Overall the beat has a very “eastern” sound in my opinion, courtesy of the strings and chanted vocal samples, but there are hints here of western hip-hop influence. This is seen in the drums which features snares and snare rolls as expected in trap music.

Vocals wise I must admit Vietnamese rap is different from what I’m used to. I have listened to Korean and Japanese rap  in abundance and normally find myself rapping along  to the words but found myself unable to pick up on this here. It must be noted that this was the first song I have ever heard in Vietnamese and that I am much more used to hearing the other two languages. What’s clear in the delivery though is Suboi’s attitude and swagger with the lyrics being delivered in a chilled and authoritative manner.

Now I love listening to rap music in other languages and having no idea what is being said. Seriously it’s a great way to zone out and serves as great background music when I’m doing other tasks that require my attention. But of course I can’t review a rap song without looking at it’s lyrics (as found translated on the YouTube video for the song). The lyrics tell the story of a rebellious girl and her relationship with her father whilst a crisis befalls him and the family, with themes of family and  disregard for authority being present in the narrative. This gave me the impression of teenage rebellion and the balance between independence as a young person and family commitments; something that is immediately relatable to listeners.  Whilst the song features lines that would not seem out of place in a typical rap song “Then go home, pop the bottle, puff twice, ain’t no thang”, these are set alongside deep lines like “Big trees must come with big roots – climb too high, prepare to injure yourself” and lines that hint to a more normal young person’s experience “Settled in my blanket at one o’clock – Playing video games with my headphones on”. Now obviously it must be noted that this may not be an exact translation but the lyrics and overall narrative of the song are unlike any I’ve seen in a rap song before! Combined with the unusual beat this song I found this song highly intriguing and look forward to hearing more of Suboi’s music!

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