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Marketing podcast: Rapper Yung Raja on the demand for authenticity

Marketing podcast: Rapper Yung Raja on the demand for authenticity

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Singaporean hip hop artist and rapper Yung Raja (pictured) received a shoutout from American TV show host Jimmy Fallon last July when Fallon played his single "Mami" in the “Do Not Play” segment of The Tonight Show. The "Do Not Play" segment is when Fallon typically roasts songs. The shoutout catapulted the rapper into the international spotlight and his stream numbers for the song jumped nearly 4,000 overnight to more than 583k. Universal Music Singapore's spokesperson also previously told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that his MV views increased by more than 11,000 to 170k overnight.

Unfazed by the diss, Yung Raja reposted the clip on Instagram, highlighting the fact that the song made it to The Tonight Show even though Fallon might not be a big fan of it. Born and raised in Singapore, Yung Raja is known for mixing Western and Tamil culture in his lyrics. He also aims to reinvent societal views in and out of Singapore, inspire the next generation of cultural conservators, and elevate Southeast Asian hip hop to world-class stages through his music. 

Authenticity is ingrained in his brand and while in general, it might be increasingly difficult to remain authentic these days, Yung Raja believes it isn't impossible. So how can brands cut through the clutter then?

Listen to the podcast here.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What did it feel like to be roasted by Fallon?

Yung Raja: What can I say? That was so wild. I have come across a lot of people who don't even know where Singapore is. The fact that we were introduced as Singaporean rap puts Singapore on a whole different map. I don't see it as a win for me or my team but a win for all of us who are trying to push boundaries. 

Coming back to the roasting part, it really depends on what people consider roasting. Fallon is a funny guy who always makes fun of things. What is really cool is that he followed me on Twitter and sent me a direct message saying that they actually enjoyed the song. So was he roasting? I don't know. I read a lot of mixed comments from people saying: "Why are you celebrating this? He's making fun of you. You shouldn't be celebrating this."

Are you a glass-half-full or half-empty kind of person because I see this as a win for all of us. The gate has opened for us to show the world what we have in store here and it's a small but remarkable step forward. 

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: As the saying goes, there is no such thing as bad publicity. Are you a believer of that now, Yung Raja?

Yung Raja: Most of these things that I've experienced in my career were pretty unexplainable, such as the timings and other alignments of things. This whole Fallon incident was not planned. But it was such a big deal for me, at least at that very moment when I found out, and to know that it was completely random was baffling.

Like, wow, you're telling me this just happened out of nowhere? How do you explain that? I'm a believer in the universe aligning things. Whether it's bad PR or good PR, I don't want to get into that. Things happen and things change. So I would say that you never know when that comes. And for me, I've been fortunate enough to experience these incidents a couple of times, with Fallon being one of the biggest. I'm very grateful for them all.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What can brands do to cut through the social media clutter

Yung Raja: People can tell when content had too much effort going into it. People don't like that. These days, people want to see the real person behind the post or the social media profile, they want to connect with the person. They like it raw and organic. I think people are veering away from those YouTube videos that are scripted. 

The organic connection arises when people are being just normal, vulnerable and open. It's an amazing thing, right? You can straightaway relate to some big celebrity, whoever they are, wherever they're from, you can connect with them right away if they're being vulnerable, and being raw and authentic.

I'm very inspired by that. As a matter of fact, we actually consciously thought of that when we were putting out some of our freestyle videos at the beginning of my career. We purposely didn't want it to be overly produced because people can tell when you try too hard. People can tell when you took 100 pictures to get it right. You want to relate to people without changing yourself at your core and without being fake. I have always been inspired this school of thought from the get-go. 

Now with TikTok and these new social media platforms, it is becoming easier for people to be raw, vulnerable and authentic. Now with everybody being vulnerable and authentic, how are you going to differentiate the real voices from the ones that aren't? That becomes tricky. For me, I try my very best. It's very challenging at times but it's a challenge that we all take on.

The challenge to always maintain your authentic voice, your truth and be yourself will always persist. It's becoming increasingly difficult but it's not impossible.

It takes more effort these days to be more authentic now. But if we have the awareness and the understanding of these platforms that are constantly changing and evolving, we can navigate this space pretty well. 

Meet Asia’s top PR and communication leaders in-person. PR Asia sets the stage for the future of purpose-driven contemporary PR. Join us on 9 November as we gather Asia’s top PR and communication practitioners in-person in Malaysia. Deep dive into the next necessary steps for PR as we head towards 2023. Only at #PRAsia.

Related articles:
SG rapper Yung Raja ventures into F&B, plans NFT passes as part of marketing
SG rapper Yung Raja gets surprise publicity from Jimmy Fallon during talk show roast

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