Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Roaring with raw talent

Nov 28. 2018
Brandon Mai, aka Tin, and RoxXxan perform at the launch of Tiger Roar Collective in South Korea.
Brandon Mai, aka Tin, and RoxXxan perform at the launch of Tiger Roar Collective in South Korea.
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By Kitchana Lersakvanitchakul

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Two of the rappers taking part in Tiger Beer’s Uncaged Collective talk about their music and how their collaboration came about

The world probably doesn’t know anything about them but Brooklyn-based Vietnamese-American musician Brandon Mai, aka Tin, and UK rapper RoxXxan, both members of Tiger Beer’s Uncaged Collective, showed they have what it takes in their solo and collaborative performances earlier this month in Seoul.

Before that though, the pair took time to sit down with The Nation and talk a little about themselves.



Can you introduce yourselves and describe your identity, and your music style?

Tin: I started a year ago and the music style is contemporary R&B. I’m influenced by the likes of Frank Ocean and Daniel Caesar but I also just try to pull from all sorts of places and people like Radiohead. 

RoxXxan:  I’m a rapper from London. My style is very hard, very raw, honest, a kind of storytelling, I would say. My backgrounds are Irish and Jamaican, so I mix those in my music as well.



Where do you find inspiration for your music and song writing?

RoxXxan: For me personally, because my music is very honest and very personal to me, I tell my story, so, that is my inspiration. I keep it very honest. It’s like my therapy. 

Tin: On a really basic level, I take it from conversations and I usually steal a lot of words that people say when I’m just speaking with friends and we’re sharing our love lives or just talking about life in general. People say some pretty amazing stuff and I think there’s beauty in little phrases here and there so I work off from that and then try to connect it back to my Asian identity or something like that. On a writing level, conversations account for a lot of amazing lyrics.



Can you define the “uncaged” aspect of your music?

RoxXxan: I’m “uncaged” because I’m very honest. I know who I am; I own my identity, and I am ready to express it to the world as a woman who isn’t very feminine. I’m a bit of a tomboy and I’m a gay rapper as well. So, I’m very uncaged. They need to cage me up!

Tin: Asian people are seen as pretty reserved and really quiet and not so expressive so with music and my performance style, I’m just really trying to go all in and express everything from sadness and anger to show the breadth of my personality and breathe some humanity into how the world sees and perceives Asian people. 



How did you mesh your performance with the Thai light installation group Yimsamer?

Tin: Basically, Tiger beer put us together and we collaborated through the internet for over a month, just back and forth, and everything kind of clicked. RoxXxan had the beat and the verse and the next day I was already writing a melody. We liked everything from there on and it hasn’t really changed. 

RoxXxan: Yeah, I agree. To finish off what Tin was saying, when we got here Tiger Roar gave us time to rehearse and introduced us to designers from China who would handle our costumes. The whole process has been really good; it has been a true collaboration from start to finish. 



How do you expect your show to go tomorrow night?

Tin: I think it will be great. We have a lot of surprises in there, there’s a bunch of really cool visuals and I think the venue is amazing – I love the floating islands.

RoxXxan: There’s a lot of stuff we’re not allowed to tell anybody.



The Thai group will decorate and install the lighting and the sound. Do you have any special requirements?

RoxXxan: No, to be fair. I’ve never been a diva. All I need is a microphone and a crowd.

Tin: Quite the opposite. The organisers have provided more than we thought. We have clothes designed for us for tomorrow night, and I’m excited to wear them.



Are you excited?

RoxXxan: Yeah, it seems real now. It’s been so surreal, you know? We’ve been planning for months and then we get here and it’s just amazing to be in Korea – on the other side of the world – to be somewhere we’ve never been and then we forget that we’re actually here to work. So today is the first time I’ve felt like ‘Oh my God, we’ve got a huge show tomorrow’. I’m getting nervous, but it’s a good kind of nervous. 



What’s the song you will perform about?

RoxXxan: It’s about a lot of things.

Tin:  It started from an idea of passion and we try to explain the meaning of that passion. And it’s about art too. A lot of the lyrics are about RoxXxan’s passion for another person too and so it’s a love story, but a love story for art and also a lovestory for somebody else too – a blurry line between those two meanings. 

RoxXxan: Yeah, in love with music, in love with love –it’s like a story.

Listen in and love

Watch their shows at https://tinyurl.com/y9aj8npt, https://tinyurl.com/yc3lgcwr, https://tinyurl.com/ycmblpxw 


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