We are happy that we find ourselves vibing with Cali-based Asian rapper Star2 and his newest single “Big Bands” featuring none other than Iconic Long Beach rapper $tupid Young. The song relates Star2’s inner-city San Diego upbringing that the once ka-ren refugee had to face when fleeing a genocide of his people at the hands of the Burmese military and the Myanmar government. The U.S. sure was a land of opportunities, but a host of challenges including racism, gang violence, and social inequality awaited across the ocean for him.
Today Star2 can look around himself and say that he’s achieving his American dream, but he had to work his ass off against all odds to get to where he is today, and “Big Bands” is both a celebration and a recognition of that, as well as the all-important factor that music played in taking him from the streets of San Diego to the heights of the music industry.
Star2’s sound percolates from Hip-hop down through R&B and Pop elements, making for something that sounds a lot like the future of the genre: Catchy, lush, and highly dynamic with lyrics that don’t shy away from harsh and complex topics. For this single Star2 brought Alex Pham -better known as $tupid Young- on board for a solid collab. The Cambodian-American artist gets to show why he’s so well regarded within the community, with Star2 himself taking his hat off to him by saying “$tupid Young reps the Asian community and paved the way for all Asian rappers in the industry,”
Not satisfied with just dropping a fire new single and a killer music video, Star2 also had to release his EP “Real Life” alongside it as well. This EP is six songs is an expansion on the detailing and celebrating the struggle and the journey of this true survivor who is also growing as a massive representative of Asians in the rap game, demonstrating not only huge skills and musical instincts but also an acute affinity for bringing huge historical and social consciousness to the masses yearning to hear something deeply real about the human experience.
The EP is, as you might have guessed, a slice of Start2’s life, the struggles and the victories both big and small. The EP opens up soaked in heartbreak and disillusionment with “I Wanna Get F’d up” (ft. rapper Luh Kel) and right away it presents us with a trend that’s repeated in the rest of the EP, as it allows us to appreciate how deeply intertwined R&B and Rap have become; obviously the relationship has been there almost since the beginning, but nowadays the line’s becoming so blurry it’s getting difficult to separate the two genres, and Star2 certainly belongs to that generation of vanguardists who know how to tap straight away into the common thread between those two genres to make something far greater than either on their own.
The following song is the titular track “Real Life” in which S2 and Jacksonville rapper Lil Poppa lay down some seriously heavy stuff. Though the track has the pop/R&B smoothness that’s become Star2’s signature, its atmosphere feels far less laid back than before. With lyrics involving a lot of Star’s tragic past, I felt like there was a noticeable East-Coast grit that you don’t necessarily expect from a West Coast rapper.
With both “December” and “Thinkin Bout You” we get to hear Star2’s more romantic side, and his Pop influences come much more forward here as well, especially in the latter guitar-driven track where we can also appreciate his vocal skills just a little bit better as a bonus.
Before the final track -which we already covered- there’s what’s probably my favorite song of the lot: “Run Away” opens up on entrancing guitar chords that stride a line between warmth and sorrow, this either-or vibe sets the stage for what’s got to be the most impressive rapping (skill and lyrics-wise) in the entire EP, as well as some of the heaviest bars the young rapper has put out there. This puts us face to face with some of the harshest realities in Star2’s life, and more importantly the wisdom and insight he’s gained from them, reminding us to be thankful for all the good things we’ve experienced and appreciate *today* what we have.
With inspiration from titans such as Tyga and Justin Bieber, Star2 has a catchy and easy-going flow that simply cannot miss. He’s catchy, yes, he’s fun too, but he has such an easy time sharing his story with you and just laying it all out in a way that feels very approachable that I feel that must be his greatest strength, and with legendary producer Chico Bennett (Prince, Madonna, Lady Gaga, the Killers, Hillary Duff, Britney Spears) in his corner, there doesn’t seem to be anything that can slow down his rise to the top.
Story: Samuel Aponte Photos: Courtesy of the artist