Yung Parents On Being A Creative Southeast Asian Duo

As we continue to live our lives in the new normal, musician and creative duo Yung Parents share with Music Press Asia, their identity as Southeast Asian, their latest work, and future plans.

Singapore rap duo Yung Parents Interview with Music Press Asia

I. Malaysia/Singapore

Q1: Hi Yung Parents, welcome to Music Press Asia! We’ve recently seen your excitement over the opening border of Malaysia/Singapore, which resulted in the release of a music video. We saw you rap about some of the most basic things you’d like to shop for although they are still available in Singapore. Do you think it seemed like a satirical expression of a relationship Singaporeans have with their shopping list across the border? Which part is comedy and which part isn’t?

Andre: It’s all comedy, but completely based on reality though. Singaporeans’ love for Johor Bahru is funny but I can’t deny that I love visiting Johor and Malaysia too. So yes, we rap to amuse people but this song was inspired by how much we miss JB. Malaysians and Singaporeans are practically siblings; we share so much culture and history that no one else will relate to.

Ning: Yeah I guess many like us were having some serious cabin fever with being stuck for so long. I was jogging across Labrador Park and Keppel bay and saw a bridge, and couldn’t resist the urge to cross it because it looked like the Johor causeway bridge. The song was an apt response to these sentiments.

II. Yung Parents

Q2: How did you come to write and release music together? And how did the name Yung Parents came about?

Andre: We met at a whiskey event. I found out from Ning that he was into writing and recording rap, and I was inspired by this genre too after writing, rhyming and publishing two children’s books. Ning and I get along well because we’re both ambitious and have similar morals and beliefs. We wanted a funny name like “Lil something” or “Yung something”. I liked the idea of “young parents” because people are always judged when they have kids. If they have kids at a young age, some people will have something to say. Parents who have kids when they’re old, attract criticism too. I also wanted to push the envelope with our name, because many rappers are homophobic.

Ning: Years back, I didn’t have many friends my age who were into rap and hip-hop. Maybe it was the cultural setting I grew up in, but when I met Andre, we bonded over a mutual interest in writing Singaporean-style trap. Andre’s a genius when it comes to lyrics and quality content (he’s really talented) and this is a creative outlet for both of us. As for the name, it’s quite silly, we were chatting at Starbucks or something, and I saw the Young Parents magazine on a shelf and had a eureka moment.

Q3: Why Yung Parents need to exist today?

Andre: One – we love making good content. Today’s world is full of advertising forced down our throats, indifferentiable influencers (human billboards) who post sultry photos and have nothing meaningful to offer, and everyone relying on manipulating algorithms in order to be seen. People need good content. We need to help others smile and laugh. When I was a child, I knew I was probably going to become an entertainer but I didn’t want to. I wanted to do great things as a scientist or doctor or something, but you know what, I came to realise that entertainers contribute by bringing joy to others.

Two – African-Americans use rap to discuss their societal issues. Asians should too. There’re so many rappers in Southeast Asia rapping about drugs and guns and sports cars. Yeah right, you do you. We want to rap about real stuff that Asians and Asian diasporas can relate to – our quirks and our challenges. Our friend Eugene Soh ( who is a pretty famous augmented reality programmer once said to me, “keep making Yung Parents music, because if we are not proud of our heritage, no one else will be proud of our heritage for us.”

Ning: To be honest, we don’t exactly need to exist. We just like entertaining people, and we’re happy if people enjoy it like we do. I poke fun at my own heritage of being from China because that’s not a bad way to deal with it, or to express my ownership over my identity. That said, the fact that our content is light-hearted and often done in a scrappy, amateur way shows that anyone can be a musician or artist if they want to.

Q4: What skills do you both have and how do you distribute the work needed as a duo?

Andre: Before the pandemic, we were just writing and performing rap. We relied on producers to help us make beats, record, mix and master. Covid-19 cancelled all our sponsorships and upcoming live shows. This downtime also forced us to sit tight and really hone our craft. We’ve both been learning how to make beats, record, mix and master better. For example, Where Do You Get Your Gig was produced by Evanturetime, who sampled Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s speech about nightclub closures, but the song and video for Walk To Johor Bahru was recorded entirely by us.

Ning: We’re kinda lazy people, and don’t have super solid musical pedigrees. Actually, maybe that’s just me (laughs). We also have full-time jobs, so it’s a matter of finding time to learn how to make music or write our bars. Andre writes more verses, I write more hooks, and we both come together when something’s worth spending some time on.

III. Identity

Q5: What are the challenges you face being Asian and also a youth today?

Andre: Some of the issues we’ve discussed in our songs include racial stereotypes and bureaucratic racial categorisation in Singapore (“CMIO”), the challenges that come with ride-hailing apps (“Uncle Can You Skrrt Skrrt For Me”), people who hustle you with flyers (“RUN UP”), partying and Ning’s grandma fermenting her own liquor (“Granny’s Moonshine”) and the difficulties of buying and selling stuff online (“Carouhell”).

I rapped about several different pandemic-related topics in freestyle videos on our Facebook page and I think we covered the most topics in our debut single “CAI PNG”, including lack of work-life balance in Asia and our love for various Asian cuisines.

Ning: Woah, we’re youth? I guess just young at heart haha. As grown-ass men in Asian-majority Singapore, I guess now I don’t face as many challenges as I would elsewhere. But growing up and being Mainland Chinese with migrant worker parents, it was a little tough, and I was very conscious of my status as a foreigner. It kinda shaped who I am today as well, something I’ve channeled into my alter ego PRC Ning.

Q6: In comparison with other Asians worldwide, how do you describe your Southeast Asianness? And why you’re a special breed.

Andre: I don’t know. In our globalised world, Southeast Asians no longer have stereotypical behaviour. Many of us have traditional parents who still have common idiosyncrasies like wrapping furniture in plastic and nagging us to study medicine or law. Perhaps that might be worth rapping about in the future?

Ning: Singapore is a unique place to be in – we’re still watching our national identity evolve – a hodgepodge of East Asian and SEAsian cultures with a bit of colonial colours and western media mixed in. For example, I identify as Singaporean, but I cannot deny my Chinese roots and its grip on my being, and I think that’s something other local Chinese don’t have to think about.

Q7: What/Who do Yung Parents aspire to achieve in the near future?

Andre: I’d like to reach a larger audience. I like helping people feel happy through my work. The smiles we see at our concerts are priceless.

Ning: I have been saying this for years – to spend a few months full-time on making a solid album haha.

IV. Food

Q8: What Singapore/Malaysian/Chinese/Asian food best describes both of you and your music?

Andre: If I were a dish, I’d be cai png/nasi campur/nasi padang/mixed rice. I like to keep things eclectic and tasty, and the barrier of entry low. When people are weary, my stall is open to make them happy.

Ning: Mixed rice/cai png man, it’s why it’s our debut song. I grew up eating it because my migrant parents didn’t know how to order anything else in Singlish and this was just point-and-order. You can’t go wrong though, it’s nutritious, affordable, and filling.

Q9: What’s next for Yung Parents?

Andre: I’m working hard to make better beats. In terms of hip-hop beats, my biggest influences are Quincy Jones and Kanye. We want to make more and more songs that Asians around the world can relate to, that will make them feel proud of what we have in common.

Ning: Live shows if possible! We’ve plenty of ideas and we’ve so much performative energy to express. And more songs of course.

Yung Parents Facebook page.

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