In 2017, Rajid Ahamed started his music career under the stage name MC Raja, releasing two singles, “Bounce” and “Tamilian,” while being part of a music talent programme under the youth development non-profit *Scape. Fresh on the local music scene, he sought to create music that gripped him. “Being a fan of hip-hop pretty much my whole life, I’ve always found rappers impactful and inspirational — to have a voice and spreading the messages you stand for was something I’ve always been drawn to,” he says.
In 2018, he took on a new moniker, Yung Raja, a stage name that he has used since, given by his manager and mentor, the Singapore-based music producer Flightsch. He deems meeting Flightsch the most important moment of his career. “It was this man who steered the ship in a direction I’d have never [thought to travel] in,” he says. “You don’t meet many mentors in your life.”
The Singaporean rapper and songwriter of South Indian descent is now known for his feel-good hip-hop tracks in which he raps, with youthful abandon, in both Tamil and English. He has had two single releases and three remix tracks in the past three years, all of which quickly gained him local and regional recognition, especially in Malaysia. Youths who have had to confront their Indian heritage, often in conflict with the metropolitan, Western-leaning culture of the region, are particularly taken with Yung Raja’s linguistically hybrid style that celebrates both his roots and his experience growing up as a first-generation Singaporean. While he may not be the first to do so, he might be the first to lend an insouciant cool to the distinct style, bringing it mainstream. “Now, it’s about adding more layers to my craft,” says Yung Raja. “It was a lot of exploring in the beginning but now I’m driven by my sound and my intention to touch people with my art.”
If I don’t talk about my roots then who will?
Being a rapper in Singapore — a space that, to Yung Raja, is “constantly evolving and expanding” — is not always a field day. “Staying inspired and creative is one of the biggest challenges, I’d say. For me, momentum is one of the most important things when it comes to creating,” he points out. “There’s a flow in work and not losing that is key.”
Photographs by Stefan Khoo
Creative direction by Jack Wang
Styling by Jenine Oh
Subjects (clockwise from top left): Benjamin Kheng, Yung Raja, Tabitha Nauser, Aisyah Aziz and Jasmine Sokko.
(Benjamin Kheng and Yung Raja) Grooming: Sha Shamsi using Dior Makeup and Hanz de Fuko.
(Tabitha Nauser) Hair: Den Ng using L’Oréal Professionnel, Makeup: Fiona Bennett using Fenty Beauty.
(Aisyah Aziz) Hair and Makeup: Manisa Tan using Dior Makeup and Keune.
(Jasmine Sokko) Hair: Samuel Sim at Hairloom, Makeup: Larry Yeo using Charlotte Tilbury.
Manicure: Rebecca Chuang at Fluttery Tips.