Hồng Vân & Paul Kennedy
On July 18, 2017, rap and hip-hop music officially surpassed rock and roll as the most consumed genre of music in the United States.
A pivotal moment in music history.
Often criticised for its violent, homophobic, and misogynistic lyrics, it’s safe to say this often misunderstood genre of music is not everyone’s cup of tea.
In fact you could go as far as to describe rap as the marmite of music. You either love it or hate it.
But if you do favour the latter, there’s no getting away from the fact that rap music is big business.
American multinational investment bank and financial services company, Goldman Sachs, estimate the rap industry is worth a staggering US$62 billion.
By 2030, hip-hop profits are projected to increase by more than double.
And it’s not just an American phenomenon as its roots are far more international with many historians saying rap can be traced back centuries to West Africa when village elders would tell rhythmic stories to the simple beat of a drum.
Today, rap music is everywhere, in every language, in every city, in every country, and Việt Nam is no exception.
Only a week ago, Daniel Kritenbrink, the US Ambassador to Việt Nam tried his hand at spitting out some lyrics, producing a Tết [Lunar New Year festival] video featuring local rapper Wowy.
His efforts may have been slightly tongue in cheek, and its unlikely Death Row Records will be contacting the Ambassador anytime soon, but one up-and-coming artist based in Hà Nội is far more serious about his art.
Canadian Luc Loewen, who goes by the name Nuce, is quickly finding his footing on the music scene.
His recently produced music video It’s Alright was shot on the streets of the capital with Luc posing as a Grab driver.
It’s already pushing 40,000 views on Facebook and Luc insists there are plenty more tunes on the way.
“Many of my lyrics are influenced by Việt Nam,” said the 25-year-old. “It’s Alright is quite a lot about me being in Việt Nam, and now things are good and many of the lyrics in my other songs are related to Việt Nam.
“The first time I wrote lyrics in a notepad I was probably about 15 years old. It started as a coping mechanism for me, with mental health issues. I struggle with Tourette's and a couple of other neurological things so rap has always been my outlet.
“So that was my hobby and coping mechanism for many years, up until 2018 which was when I started actually making songs and I decided this is what I want to do. I want to fully go into it, and put my soul into it.
“Now I’ve got about eight songs and I’ve started doing music videos.”
A scene from the music video It's Alright featuring Canadian rapper Nuce.
His latest video was produced by fellow Canadian, Stephen Parcalidis from production company World Trippin.
He feels the idea of Nuce becoming a Grab driver for the video was the perfect fit to go with the song.
Parcalidis said: “We had sat down and talked about the idea of him playing the role as a Grab driver and we needed a song of his that was more uplifting and happy, and It’s Alright was the perfect track to have him popping around and picking up passengers and I feel like the music and the video really came together well on this one.
“We got lots of stares, lots of attention, and it probably looked a little ridiculous with me hanging off the back of a scooter and him with the oven mitts but we just had a lot of fun on production day, whipping around and getting the shots.”
Right now, Nuce’s career may just be at the fledgling stage, but he is setting his sights extremely high.
He added: “Before there was always this self-doubt of ‘that’s just a ridiculous pipedream’ but now if I just do as much as I possibly can to make that happen, and enjoy doing it, then there will be no loss because I enjoy doing it so much, so that’s my goal.”
And if he doesn’t quite make it as an international rap star, Nuce certainly has the experience now to become a Grab driver, and a rapping one to boot! — VNS
Rap music grew out of 1970s New York City block parties by isolating the percussion elements of funk, soul, and disco songs.
Jay-Z is the most financially successful hip-hop artist. He reached billionaire status in 2019.
The term hip-hop was likely coined by Keith Cowboy, a member of the group Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, around 1975.
The 1980s rap group Run-DMC was hugely influential in bringing rap into American popular consciousness.
Nicki Minaj is the wealthiest female rapper, with a net worth of roughly US$80 million.