With one eye on community and the other on profitability, Singapore-based Indian-origin Yung Raja – Rajid Ahamed to his mother – is the latest to launch his own brand: Peace Oeuvre with creative partner Darren Chen, which released its first drop on August 6. “When we started out, it was all about just free-form expression,” says Yung Raja to Music Plus. “We never really planned on keeping it just as a clothing line, we wanted to be a brand. Next year, we might even do furniture and stuff that is different because it aligns with our personality which is peace and love.” After all, the whole identity of ‘Peace Ouvre’ is the 26-year-old’s wish for ‘peace in your heart forever’. Wearing a t-shirt from his next drop, the multi-faceted creative beams over a Zoom call, pointing out that his hat is unreleased and could be part of a future line. Like peers in the West, including Tyler, the Creator and Travis Scott, the rapper is part of a new wave of musicians who are transcending mediums and platforms. Instead, they’re focusing on the creation of an immersive lifestyle.
Rooting for pride
Yung Raja, who first hit the scene with 2018’s “Poori Gang,” has in many ways been the bellwether for the current wave of Tamil music breaking into the mainstream. Take artists like Priya Ragu, Lady Kash and Arivu, from India and abroad, bringing Tamil into the mainstream. “We’re all trying to put our ethnic and cultural backgrounds on the map,” says the rapper. “All we have is one and another, so from day one of my career, I’ve been looking out for people that are kind of fighting the same fight, in a sense.” So will there be any collaborations on the horizon? Yung Raja teases, “I have worked with Sid Sriram and Arivu, but with Covid it just becomes a little trickier, a lot of the plans might be delayed but there’s some stuff in the vault.”
Unlike most musicians though, Yung Raja has eschewed putting out an album, instead dropping a steady stream of singles, most recently, “Spice Boy.” The rapper explains the phenomenon to be a result of a proceeding cultural atmosphere. “Here, in Singapore, we don’t have a super fleshed-out music scene,” explains the rapper. “We don’t have like a wide, diverse group of artists here. We don’t have that culture of people who listen to albums or the body of work from local artists. What we are doing is building that culture.” Naturally, then dropping periodic singles is a strategic move without “saturating people’s attention”. An album though is forthcoming in 2022, but he’s keeping the details close to his chest.
Meanwhile, as the album is gestating and being worked on, there are ad campaigns for Sephora Singapore; the influencer posts schilling Louis Vuitton speakers and even a podcast with Adidas. When asked, where his music stands at the moment he says, “I am working on it simultaneously. Because making music is a very vibe-oriented job. Sometimes when you’re not feeling it, you’re just not feeling it and it comes and goes, it comes in waves,” he says explaining that creativity is tied in to his spirit. He sees himself as a creative person and now that he has other outlets, he has learned, “you cannot always be on go mode.” To keep his creative juices going at the moment though, there’s a new café launching in the Lion City next month — Maha Co., that the musician is now the proud owner of.
Being signed to Def Jam South East Asia is one of the strongest support systems that Yung Raja ever has been a part of. The label has facilitated his artistic career firmly entrenching him in a rich musical legacy that Yung Raja feels connected with on a deeper level. “I’m a Tamilian guy, making Tamil rap and my family is Def Jam South East Asia, my family is Universal Music Singapore – the fact that they support and they believe in the vision… it blows me away.”
As a multi-faceted creative person – his words – Yung Raja is aware that, “constantly tapping into the creative part of your spirit can be very taxing”. But he’s surprised by how different expressions both renew and enervate him. Ever savvy, Yung Raja has built an audience for his brand while staying humble and grateful. He signs off, “I consider myself very fortunate to be where I’m at,” and that’s something you can’t put a price on.
Words: Aatish Nath