In the face of a cut-throat music world, Yung Raja never fails to count his blessings every single day.
In fact, the homegrown hip-hop artist turned his gratitude for life into hit song ‘Mad Blessings’ last year, ditching lamentations for a dose of much-needed positivity.
The upbeat track has collected over three million streams on Spotify and YouTube combined, showing his listeners that sometimes, you do get to the places you dreamt of.
An actor through his teens, Yung Raja strictly manages his expectations when it comes to music-making. Now almost a year after the release of ‘Mad Blessings’, he has been dealt a new set of cards – and he is beaming.
“It’s the first time I've ever experienced what it feels like to have a global release and a global push from my team at Universal and Def Jam. It is very crazy. A lot of great news. A lot of highs, you know what I mean?” the rapper said, referencing his latest release, rap anthem ‘The Dance Song’.
“Back to back, I’m so grateful, so fulfilled with this process. I guess this is what we were working towards over the last three years, coming from an indie label when we started out and now with Universal and Def Jam. I have been very happy and very grateful. Feeling very fortunate.”
Featuring his signature, seamless mix of Tamil and English, the lighthearted and captivating track is his first venture under US label Alamo Records, proving that music grounded in Singaporean roots can still have universal appeal. Beginning with a leap of faith, his dogged attitude and practical mindset readied him to take on any challenge, no matter how intimidating or seemingly far-fetched.
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“It was very much an introduction, getting people familiarised with my sound and my vibe. How do we convert people to fans, right? How do we convert non-listeners, or non-Tamil rap listeners, to become Tamil rap fans?” he explained, breaking it down. Acknowledging his tight-knit group of friends and creatives, he expressed heartfelt thanks – “They have been around me and supporting me and providing me the framework for me to do what I do best, and allowing me to elevate with every project or with every move forward.”
“I would say they are the reason why just in the third year in, with the third song, we're able to do things that never have been done before.”
It is a remarkable feat, considering Yung Raja only has a total of four singles in his discography, including ‘Mustafa’ and ‘Amazing’ featuring ALYPH and Trifect. Out of the four songs, two have picked up over a million streams through the course of his career, and three of them were created in collaboration with Flightsch – known affectionately as Zeke – whom the rapper continues to have utmost respect for.
“It’s always a joy [to work with Flightsch]. If I get a chance to go in the studio with Flightsch, I count my blessings the very second I lock in the session with him, because he's one of those dudes that... are quiet, reserved, not everybody gets a chance to be friends with him, you know?”
“So to go on another level, and to create with him, and to share a vibe with him, and to share the same headspace or try to crack the same code is an added privilege, I feel.”
This sentiment bears even more significance as Flightsch has since moved on to new endeavours. As the manager and producer of MADEYOUFAMOUS, Flightsch’s departure brought about fear and trepidation. “[Flightsch] is like the engine to Yung Raja, in many ways” – and the closure of MADEYOUFAMOUS signalled the end of a chapter.
He recalled, “When [Flightsch] said that he was going to close and join as the head of A&R, I was so scared, because I'm still new to the game, you know. I have two three songs, I hadn’t experienced this world long enough for me to say that, you know what, I'm good independently, I can do this on my own – “Don't worry about it, I got this.” I wasn't able to say that.”
But call it divine intervention, or the pure workings of friendship, Flightsch wasn’t quite done with music creation yet – at least not for Yung Raja. Before embarking on a new career as the head of A&R at Universal Music, he offered the hip-hop star one last collaborative undertaking, and one last proper session before putting a pause on producing. Finding themselves back in the studio, vibes were shared, and ideas bounced around. That eventually settled into a distinct beat we would all come to know as the backbone of ‘The Dance Song’.
Describing it as a eureka moment, Yung Raja said, “It sounded current, but it didn't sound like any of the other songs that are out now. It sounded like it was slightly ahead of time, like a sound that isn’t that popular now, but can be popular, like five or six months later.”
Simply put, “If it’s neither past nor current, that means it's from the future”.
Employing an infectious chorus set against a simple yet mercilessly catchy rhythm, ‘The Dance Song’ actually packs more of a punch than one would expect in such an easy earworm. Containing deliberate references to Tamil culture, and motivational reminders of self-worth, the lyrics were clearly not written on a whim – taking Yung Raja from one to two weeks just to “flash out as much as [he] could”, and “explore Tamil and English on a totally different level”, to “push the envelope on [his] creative process”.
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Recognisably, the bop contains all the traits one would expect from Yung Raja’s new single. When asked for his secret to success, Yung Raja boiled it down to the simple but necessary process of “cracking the code” with his team by asking themselves, “Okay, how do we do this in a way that it can’t be done better?” – in order to push the boundaries both sonically and visually. Directed by Vadbibes, the music video is also an aesthetical treat on its own, elevating the track in all its glory with vibrant colours and Yung Raja’s charming million-dollar smile.
“Audio and visuals, they come hand in hand. Sometimes the visuals can make or break the song, and likewise, the audio can make or break the song. It’s like 50/50 in some ways,” said the rapper. It is part and parcel of the artistry he has taken on, packaged in the all-encompassing path of hip-hop he feels so passionately about.
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“I have always understood that art is expression, but I've never experienced the feeling of expressing my truth through my art,” Yung Raja looked back fondly. “For the first time in my life, rap and hip hop provided me that unique opportunity of knowing what it feels like to be able to express my truth, at the same time, simultaneously, exploring and understanding myself going deeper in words. I'm so grateful that hip-hop gave me this avenue to just speak my truth. That's something that I don't take lightly and I wouldn't be able to get if I was to do anything else with my life.”
“I'm happy with this. Very happy with this.”
Stream ‘The Dance Song’ on Spotify below: