Singapore’s bilingual rapper
Both “Poori Gang” and “Mustafa” have penetrated
mainstream music in a massive way because they
show how Yung Raja is able to chime in on
contemporary trends with his charisma and sense of
“Poori Gang” is Raja’s re-interpretation of
“Gucci Gang”. By rapping over the same beat, he
demonstrates his awareness of the global hip-hop
He made a universally-recognisable song more
relevant to Singaporeans by rapping bilingually
(“everybody wonder what I samache”) and about
food (which Singaporeans love) and incorporating a
distinct sense of humour (“go to Tamil Nadu got my
“Mustafa” is one of the best songs in the canon
of Singaporean music. The beat is marvellously
catchy and kinetic.
There are two main advantages Raja has over
most rappers in the region: Star power and
In terms of skill and technique, he is a formidable
In terms of ability, he is in the upper echelon of
known rappers in South-east Asia.
But he stands out because he is more than just a
gifted rapper: He’s the total package – handsome,
charismatic and highly versatile.
Indran Paramasivam is a
journalist who has been
writing about local and
international music for almost
a decade. He is currently the
editor of Bandwagon Asia.
Rapper Rajid Ahamed,
also known as
P. BALA SUBARAMANIAM
To the average Singaporean and visiting
tourist, Mustafa Centre is the 24-hour
shopping mall that basically has every-
thing from household items to electron-
To Rajid Ahamed, also known as
Yung Raja, this establishment means
The Little India neighbourhood
where it is located and he grew up in,
influenced his journey as an actor and
Early last year, Raja’s debut single,
“Poori Gang”, a remix of American rap-
per Lil Pump’s “Gucci Gang”, an-
nounced to the music world his unique
style of Tamil-English fusion rap while
making references to popular Little In-
dia eateries like Muthu’s Curry and
south Indian delicacies like thosai.
After creating a sensation in the
South-east Asian music industry, the
24-year-old rapper hit the grooves with
his YouTube single “Mustafa”.
The hip hop music video, released in
the middle of last year through
M03 Records (Singapore) and
Sony Kartel (Malaysia),
attracted more than
1.2 million views.
about Mustafa. I
wanted to become
an alter ego. Flashy,
rich and famous,
where I have made
it, and I am Mustafa
himself,” he said.
The song has
these lines: “Yung
Mustafa, I got
what you want, I
“Why Mustafa? Be-
cause in my personal
life, it is a big deal. I
grew up in this area.
Every week, we bought
things from there. My first
school bag, expensive pen,
phone... it is a big part of my
From young Raja wanted to ex-
press himself through the creative
At 13, he decided to give acting a
shot and auditioned for the local televi-
sion English drama programme “Fight-
ing Spiders” and secured a role.
Over the next 10 years, he appeared
in minor roles in productions such as
Mediacorp TV’s Hush, local comedy
film Ah Boys to Men 3: Frogmen, Japa-
nese film “Joker Game” and local com-
“I didn’t find fulfilment in acting. I
know I was chasing something, but
couldn’t really tell what I was chasing,”
“It was time to give up the minor
roles for something big.”
When his fellow actor and friend
Fariz Jabba suggested the music route,
Raja took the plunge.
He opted to become a hip-hop
artiste and there was no turning back.
While performing in local hip hop
clubs, he met music producer
FlightSch, and they began working on a
Rapping in both Tamil and English
was something that he had fancied
from the very start.
Raja hails from a traditional Tamil-
But the Ngee Ann polytechnic mass
communications graduate said he is a
completely different person when he
steps out of his house.
He saw music as an opportunity to
bridge these two distinct worlds.
With the intent to make Tamil lan-
guage “cool”, he decided on a song
composition formula where Tamil
words would be stringed into main-
stream English hip hop music in a way
that even non-Tamils would under-
Raja also drew inspiration from
his father Yousuf Rajid, who is a
noted poet in the Tamil diaspora
community in Singapore and was
a college professor for 17 years
“He would avidly listen to my short
stories and poems and pick up key
Tamil words that he could potentially
use in his rap songs. As parents, we feel
we should give him full freedom to ex-
plore his horizons,” said Mr Rajid, 71.
Singapore’s latest rap sensation is go-
ing places and living his dream.
Recently, Singapore Tourism Board
(STB) invited him to perform in Mum-
bai and along with Indian rapper Prab-
hdeep Singh in New Delhi.
Noted publications such as The
Hindu, Rolling Stone India and Daily
Thanthi ran articles praising his abili-
STB’s promotional video about
Raja’s bilingual capabilities, especially
how he is bringing Tamil into the rap
scene, was featured on CNN.
He is now the host of the Asian edi-
tion of the television series YO! MTV
Raps, which debuted on MTV Asia on
April 15 and features top talents in the
These days, Raja writes his own
songs and travels around Asia for gigs,
collaborating with overseas rap artistes
on new projects and figuring as an am-
bassador for leading fashion brands.
With more singles in the pipeline,
the Singaporean promises that his next
song will have more Tamil flavour in it.
As someone who grew up watching
Tamil film superstar Rajinikanth in ac-
tion, he aims to produce a distinct style
of his own and aspires to be a superstar
in his own right.
“When they play my song in the
clubs, I want it to blast and bring the
party fever in. I want my music to be for
the masses, for everyone to enjoy, that
is the mark of a superstar,” he said.
For now, Raja is content on doing
what he loves and providing for his fam-
ily, who have backed him in his music
Later in his music career, he
hopes to reconnect with his cul-
tural roots and dreams of teaming
up with south Indian music big-
wigs like A.R. Rahman and
Link to the “Mustafa” song: