Vietnam receives around 1.5 million visitors a year, with most of them coming for the vibrant street food culture, tropical beaches, mountain roads, low costs and fascinating history. Few would say they are heading to this corner of South East Asia for the music scene. However, there is a well kept secret in Vietnam of a truly exciting underground counterculture within the music industry.
It didn’t begin until 1997, but the release of Vietnamese Gang by Thai Viet G revolutionized the Vietnamese music scene by introducing hip hop to a country still living with the memory of an authoritarian communist government. Heading to Vietnam for their rap concerts is like stepping into a real and raw musical resistance to establishment, reminiscent of rock and roll in the 50s or the gangsta rap that emerged out of Compton in 1988.
Tips For A Hip Hop Trip To Vietnam
When visiting Vietnam for its rap scene, it is important to plan your trip carefully. You will need a visa and the right documents, even if crossing a land border. Once in the country, consider transport such as renting a scooter to get to out of town music venues. Respect local customs, as well as the Vietnamese food culture. When eating in a Vietnamese restaurant, order the authentic cuisine like broken rice. Food can be a way of understanding cultures, so starting with a good Vietnamese dish will help you to feel like a local before heading to an underground rap gig.
The Cultural Significance Of Thai Viet G
Following the unification of Vietnam by Communists in 1975, only traditional music was allowed, with American pop music being seen by the government as Western influence. In this context, it would be an act of inspirational rebellion to make anything as controversial as New York-inspired rap music. Yet in 1997, this is exactly what Thai Viet G set out to do.
Originally from Portland, Oregon, but of Thai and Vietnamese descent, Thai Viet G is a member of the East Side Long Beach Crips gang. This gives him unique credibility to rap about being a gangsta, while incorporating Vietnamese culture into his lyrics. With the release of Vietnamese Gang, the concerns of Vietnam’s underclass were represented in music, leading to a cult underground obsession with gangsta rap. This has led to an explosion of underground gigs in Vietnam since the late 1990s.
Vietnam may not be the first country that springs to mind when you think about music. However, its underground uprising comes from a fascinating, if dark, history. With real governmental and societal forces still to fight against, new genres of music are emerging with a level of excitement and intensity that is hard to match. Thai Viet G, with his brave celebration of Vietnamese gang culture, has reinvigorated the working class and ignored urban youth of Vietnam, making for an exciting and only recently embraced underground music scene. If you love history and culture, then there are few gigs more eye opening than a hip hop show in Hanoi.