When TangBadVoice’s debut EP ‘No One Plays With Me’ dropped in early 2020, no one was quite prepared for what was about to hit them. Yes, the sound was rooted in stock trap beats – but the rapping and what was being rapped about turned heads. Instead of leaning on tired hip-hop tropes, the street photographer-turned-rapper crafted tales of a Thai ghost and a hitman, filling his bars with puns and malapropisms. It was the kind of novelty rap destined to go viral, which it did: all three tracks on the EP have racked up just over 10million YouTube views combined. It also made our list of best Asian albums of 2020.
Tang, whose day job includes the title of director of photography for hit coming-of-age series I Told Sunset About You, suddenly became an ‘it’ rapper. When the pandemic was in full swing, not only did he remain prolific, but was also keenly observant of the world around him. He addressed topical issues like quarantine-induced anxiety (‘Wad Reu Vid’) and growing anti-Asian sentiment (‘Love Yellow’). This trend continues in earnest with his full-length album, ‘Not A Rapper’.
Self-produced and self-released, the new eight-track collection finds the self-proclaimed non-rapper at his most hawk-eyed yet. Set to sparse trap beats, opening track ‘Mak Pang’ is a hilarious parody of a real-life politician whose default response to any accusations of corruption or wrongdoing is the mantra-like “I dunno”. Similarly, in ‘Hed Duan’ Tang tells the story of a sycophantic policeman who exists to serve not the public, but the boss: “We police the brave, we suck up to move up / We sacrifice blood, only when it’s blood of those around us”.
Aside from debased politicians and police, Tang also takes the opportunity to call out rappers for their toxic masculinity. “Not a big fan of patriarchy or who’s more manly / I’m friends with anybody – girls, boys, lesbians and gays”, he spits in ‘Bon’, over beats that happen to hark back to ‘The Slim Shady’-era Eminem (a coincidence?). Snarky social commentary is not the only thing ‘Not A Rapper’ has going for it. Tang switches things up by delving into pop territory with the synth-pop ballad ‘Chan Yaak Dai Yin’ and lite-funk earworm ‘Kid Mai Ook’ (featuring Billkin).
He even raps about himself on the semi-autobiographical ‘Jit-ta-pad’. In this mind-bending story within a story, he confides to a shrink that he’s created an alter ego called “TangBadVoice” before engaging in a pun-laden rap battle with himself (“Listen to my flow, it’s uber fit… I’ll stage a coup, I’ll take over this body and you’ll be cut loose”).
Equally exhilarating is ‘Lin Tid Fai’ (“tongue set ablaze” in Thai) whose premise involves Tang auditioning for the position of a boat race commentator. Like its title suggests, the result is a three-minute barrage of tongue twisters in both Thai and English. There are many highlights on this album, but Tang’s technical skill on this track will leave anyone, rap heads or otherwise, in awe.
‘Not A Rapper’ is solid proof that Tang is more than capable of just a few viral tracks. All eight songs on the album have hit potential, which is a ridiculous feat for someone who makes music as a side hustle. A rapper or not, TangBadVoice sure is one quick-witted satirist with an uncanny knack for absurd humour, rhythms and wordplay.
- Release date: July 2
- Record label: Independent