Getting "RAW" with Anthai da Protagonist
With a growing fan base, having worked with a few, big talents in the music industry, and just doing what he loves, 28-year-old Hieu Thai (a.k.a. Anthai da Protagonist) of the Orange County based rap/hip-hop group, 71RAW, has helped contributed to the emerging rap/hip-hop genre within the Asian-American community. However, what is a greater achievement is that he is currently aiding in the solidification of the rap/hip-hop genre within the Vietnamese- American community as well. 71RAW also includes Marshall Fernald (Martial Art), 25, and Marlon Labistida (Broken Tongue), 27.
I'm letting yâ€™all know right now, the Asians are going to come up!
I'm letting y’all know right now, the Asians are going to come up!
Asiance Magazine had the chance to do an e-mail interview with Anthai, 71RAW’s MC/producer, to talk about the group, his career and his outlook on his musical career future.
ASIANCE: When did you get interested in music, particularly with Rap/Hip-Hop?
Anthai: I remember hearing Rakim and Big Daddy Kane on the radio when I was 10 years old...skateboarding with the neighborhood kids; but in my early high school years I witnessed MC freestyle battles and that elevated my perception of Hip-Hop to a higher level.
ASIANCE: What is it about the hip-hop culture that makes you love it so much? What significance does it hold for you in your life?
Anthai: Hip-Hop is my life, it's like my medicine, my global news and most importantly, the voice of the ghetto. Hip-Hop allows us MC's to express our thoughts and experiences through music. Also, [it’s] for DJs, Graffiti artists, BBoys, and BGirls to express their talent.
ASIANCE: Which do you like to do more? Emceeing or producing? Why?
Anthai: That's difficult to answer, I love to write rhymes and I love to make beats as well. Emceeing is important to me because I can jot down whatever is on my mind, kinda like a daily journal. So, for a kid across the world to relate to what you're saying in your rhymes, that's like a mission accomplished [because they are people] with the same experiences in life and [they know the] struggle. On the other hand, producing is fun...I make the beats that controls the mood of MCs to write. Without the beats then there's no music, so producing is really an important key in Hip-Hop. I would say I love to Emcee more than producing, but I would last longer in the culture by producing.
ASIANCE: How did you and the other members of 71RAW meet?
Anthai: We met through friends and what got us connected was Hip-Hop music. Back then, we used to DJ house parties for fun, spinning Hip-Hop music and spitting open mic sessions. So around 2001, we decided to put together our own Hip-Hop material for the world. I know for a fact that our music will influence many listeners across the world...that's my word!
ASIANCE: What do you and the group hope to accomplish with your music?
Anthai: Right now our main goal is to put our music out and gain more fan base. [We’re looking] for loyal supporters and hungry Hip-Hop junkies. We want to let everybody know that Hip-Hop is still alive. Our music will take the fans back, for all the Rakim listeners, KRS supporters, and Aceyalone fans. Raw Hip-Hop from the heart.
ASIANCE: What's the best thing about being a part of 71RAW? Being a musician?
Anthai: The best part of being involved in 71Raw is that I'm still connected to my people. I've known many of them for 10 years now, it's a growing process. Being a musician is great! Music is universal, certain songs touches our heart. We try to put out songs that will capture the heart and soul, whether it's about politics, religions, or even girls, we'll share our experiences. Music is the greatest art form to share your feelings.
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ASIANCE: Do you see yourself emceeing/producing for a long time to come?
Anthai: Yeah, I can do this as long as I live...I love it. I can see myself producing longer than emceeing, [and] that's because in the long run I want to put out other groups and them shine.
ASIANCE: Like everyone knows, the music industry is a big world of its own and trying to get where you want in it can be tough. Do you feel discouraged at times? Are there times when you just want to give up and not pursue big dreams with your musical career? How do you overcome those feelings?
Anthai: On the real real, I don't have any feelings of discouragement. I have confidence, but at the same time I'm not being over my head with it. Some people are just too confident and that can be their weak point. You got to have a positive/negative point of view in life to decide the next step. Other artists can have the wackest material and have too much confident and it'll make them looking like fools. So, I try to think for the best and be my own worst critic.
ASIANCE: So, I've read that you have a solo album coming out in Jan 2007? Is that correct? If so, talk a little bit about the album and what sort of material you've written for it. What can people expect?
Anthai: Well first off, I want to release the group's album first and that would be summer of 2007. This 71Raw album will take you back to the 94 era of Hip-Hop! After that, I'm planning to release my solo album. I already started on it, and I'm loving it. The beats are raw, lyrics are real, and the vibe is intimate. I'm going to share my experiences coming from a 3rd world Vietnam country. I have ideas that I can not share because I don't want it leaked out yet...
ASIANCE: What are some goals you have for yourself and for 71RAW?
Anthai: First, for 71Raw, I want us to be able to tour around the United States, and if we get to do shows overseas, that would be even greater. Also, [we’d like to] put out our music videos and be on the front cover of a Hip-Hop Magazine. For myself, I'm planning on putting out 71Raw albums. In addition, I'm planning to put out a 71Raw clothing line, I have to organize it first. I want to be featured in a movie, that would be fun. Lastly, I want to produce for my favorite MCs like KRS 1, Rza, Canibus, and even for Mary J Blige. Goals are good, it keeps me motivated and moving ahead.
ASIANCE: What do you think about the lack of Asians and Asian Americans in the entertainment industry, particularly in the music industry? What are your thoughts about that?
Anthai: I'm letting y’all know right now, the Asians are going to come up! You see Yao Ming, the tallest in the NBA...we're going to be the most dominated in the biz! There are many Asians dealing with music but aren't getting the recognition that they deserve. For those Asian entertainers doing Asian music, I feel that most of them need to put out original material. I don't think we'll ever succeed if we're going to always imitate other people's hit songs. Let's start a new music revolution [because] I know they can do it.
ASIANCE: What advice would you give to aspiring musicians like yourself?
Anthai: I would say, keep striving. Be hungry and stay focus. Be organized and make sure you have a day job to have enough money to invest because you do need some sort of money to do anything. Believe in yourself, there will always be haters. The ones closest to you can be your enemy...so make sure your crew is real. Surround yourself with positive people and it's all about networking. These is the realest advice..I should be charging a fee...nah I'm just messing but yo for real, keep it real. Peace and Respect to my crew 71Raw and everybody who supports our music. Respect to my ninjas around the world. Thanks to Asiance Magazine for this interview. PEACE.