Twenty-six-year-old rapper Suboi has been dubbed “Queen of Hip Hop” in Vietnam. It’s a brave career choice in a repressive state where outspoken artists fear upsetting the authorities with their lyrics.
On Wednesday, though, more bravery was required as she was put on the spot by U.S. President Barack Obama.
During a town hall style meeting between the American President and young Vietnamese people in Ho Chi Minh City, the rap artist – real name Hàng Lâm Trang Anh – put her hand up to ask the President his views on the importance of arts and culture to nations. Despite the restrictive environment, Vietnam’s artists “have a lot to say,” she said.
Suboi rapped in front of President Barack Obama during his visit to Vietnam. (Photo: Thuy Phan/Nguoi Viet)
“Before I answer your question, why don’t you give me a little rap?” Obama replied.
Suboi immediately launched into a few lines of impressive verse, in Vietnamese. “I was just talking about some people having a lot of money, having big houses, but actually, are they really happy?” she explained. The rap was about stereotypes, she said, saying people often see her as “an Asian rapper… the cute girl.”
“For Vietnamese people it’s different, they think like rapping is not for women,” she added.
At the start of an visit to Asia this week, Obama announced he would scrap the U.S.’s long-standing arms embargo against former American foe Vietnam, a country that is engaged in tense maritime territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea. Rights campaigner shave raised concerns that the President is putting strategic interests ahead of support for human rights by giving concessions to Vietnam’s unelected rulers.
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