Thailand’s hip hop 'little kids', all grown up

Thailand’s hip hop 'little kids', all grown up

Thaitanium released its sixth album this week. We sat down with the trio to find out about their evolving sound
Thaitanium, featuring Khan, Day and Way, is credited with blazing the trail for Thailand's growing hip hop scene.

It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since we've seen a release from Thailand’s top hip hop group, Thaitanium. That’s probably because the trio, made up of Khanngoen "Khan" Nuanual, Prinya "Way" Intachai and Nay Myo "Day" Thant, haven’t exactly been shying away from the spotlight.

Like true hip hop entrepreneurs, there have been side projects, business enterprises, a burgeoning acting career and constant performances all over the country thanks to the high demand for their skills. Basically, they’re everywhere.

Thaitanium’s sixth studio album, “Still Resisting,” was unleashed this week, which coincides with the group’s 10th anniversary together. The three Thai dons have divided it into a “mainstream” section and an “underground” side as a way to clarify their messages.

“We feel that we’ve grown up. It’s more emotional, and we’ve displayed more skills. Before we might have come off as little kids with big mouths from time to time, but this time around we touch on life and our experiences,” says groom-to-be Way Prinya, who’s also an actor.

It’s also the first time that Thaitanium -- or Thaitay, for short -- recorded an entire album in Thailand, in their fully loaded new studio, while enjoying a bigger budget, which allowed them to work with international artists and live musicians. 

“We’ve built this studio to rectify all our shortcomings in the recording process,” says Khan. “With our studio, we’re now able to do a lot more that we couldn’t have done a few years back. The end result is so much better that I feel like I want to remaster all our past works.”

Thaitanium acknowledges the invasion of electronica into their beloved hip hop over the past few years, but refuses to let the trend redefine their sound and soul. Though they all spent a big chunk of time in the United States (Way is American born), they insist that their brand of hip hop is more deep rooted in the Asian traditions, yet fuses Western elements as they see fit. The best of both worlds from the first “YO!”.

“There are more varieties [in this album], I’ll say that. There’s a bit of jazz, swing, neo-soul and much more. We feel that this is our best album to date. It’s like our thesis for a bachelor’s degree. It’s the best we can do now. It’s infused with our values and philosophy,” says Khan.

Among these varieties is the unlikely pair-up with Thai folk legend Add Carabao, who Thaitanium teamed up with for their first single on "Still Resisting," Sud kob fah. 

On the flip side, near legend American producer, deejay and sneaker aficionado Clark Kent was recruited for Thaitanium's “underground” disc. Clark Kent has been credited with discovering Jay-Z and has produced for the likes of 50 Cent and Mariah Carey. The collaboration with Thaitay stems from a firm friendship.

“I feel humble and honored to be working with Thaitanium. They’ve ‘Run BKK’ [one of their slogans] for 10 years. Respect to them,” says Clark Kent, who flew in for the album release press conference on Tuesday and deejayed at the after party. 

The men have come a long way from their beginnings as teen stars with limited career successes that were peppered with missteps. They recuperated and regrouped in New York, and the result was Thaitanium. Debut album “AA” came out a decade ago, and since then Thaitanium has been slowly building their empire with their own hands, reaping experience, admiration and awards, including an MTV Asia nomination in 2006, along the way.

With lists of accomplishments and accolades as well as commercial deals thrown their way, Thaitanium has become a brand unto itself, while the connections have extended to the the city’s hip hop deejay crew, Bangkok Invaders, and emerging Thai talent Southside.

Next up, the hip hop godfathers plan to embark on a Thailand wide campus tour, to recruit a younger generation of fans given the gap in album releases. Besides promoting “Still Resisting”, Thaitanium is now working on a full English language album and cross-national project with Japanese rappers entitled Samurai Tomyum.

“I don’t know if we’re a success or not. But we just never stop. Whatever you do, if you put your heart and soul into it, people will feel you,” says Khan.

“People seem to use us as a standard these days, but we’re Thaitanium," adds Way. "You just have to use your experience. Be yourself and you’ll get to where you want to be." 

O. Pravatti works for a major newspaper, freelances for magazines, sits around waiting for shooting stars, and runs a clubnight.
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