Culture

Introducing Pháo, the Female Rapper Causing a Stir in Vietnam's Music Scene

At just 18, the ascendant rapper has found a viral popularity that most artists dream of. Pháo talks to us about working with Tyga on her newest remix and the difficulties of being a female rapper in Vietnam.
Reading time 7 minutes

Last year, Vietnamese rapper Pháo released 2 Phút Hơn, an emotive Vinahouse track that immediately found a home — and a wild, viral popularity that most artists dream of — on TikTok. It made the top 10 of Spotify's Global Viral charts and was, for a time, the world's most asked-after track on Shazam. On Spotify alone, 2 Phút Hơn has since racked up over 26 million plays — a number that continues to grow.

You wouldn't think it looking at her, but Pháo — real name Nguyễn Diệu Huyền — was a shy, reserved teen not too long ago. "I started this journey because I am an introvert," says Pháo, who began rapping at 15. "I have many things that I can't share openly with others, so I choose to convey it through music."

Now, Pháo continues her meteoric ascent with Make It Hot — a remixed version of 2 Phút Hơn that features American rapper Tyga (who, coincidentally, is half-Vietnamese; his real name is Micheal Ray Nguyen-Stevenson.) Make It Hot is barely a week old, but has already garnered some half a million plays on Spotify.

But Pháo hasn't let her newfound fame get to her, and she's certainly not about to rest on her laurels. "My biggest challenge is how I can continuously reinvent myself in the eyes of the audience, and how to bring more value and inspiration to my fans," she says. "And eventually, I want to put Vietnam on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart."

What was it like working with Tyga for the remix of 2 Phút Hơn?

The opportunity to work with Tyga and his team is a dream. You may not know it, but the Vietnamese music market is tiny, and to be associated with a Rapper like Tyga is unthinkable.

Regarding the creative process, my manager talked a lot with Tyga about what we wanted and how we would do the new mix. Tyga's team was excellent and professional, and they immediately followed up and gave good professional opinions to perfect the unique mix.

Despite geographical distance and time zone difficulties, as soon as he received our original music data, he and his producer worked to make the new version. It was perfect from the first time I tried it to be heard. 

What's different in the remix with Tyga, compared to your original song?

Our new mix is pretty unique — you know Tyga is a well-known rapper with a knack for trap and club bangers, but he decided to try our beat — the original type beat of 2 Phút Hơn — which is a house beat with relatively fast speed and strong rhythm, but still contains the flexibility of Vietnamese timbres. In Vietnam, we call this type of beat "Vinahouse" — Vietnamese House.

I was pretty surprised when Tyga integrated so quickly, and as you can see, he had a lovely verse, which made the song exciting and impressive. I think my audience, and especially Tyga, will be delighted with the new take. 

When did you realise you wanted to be a rapper?

You know, I set foot on the path of being a rapper not too long ago — just over two years ago, to be exact, when I was 15.

I started this journey because I am an introvert. I have many things that I can't share openly with others, so I choose to convey it through music. After trying freestyling, I realised that I wanted to be one professional rapper, which very few female artists in Vietnam have ever done.

My professional path started last year when I participated in a reality TV show about rap and won the runner-up award. Right after that, I am incredibly fortunate to have met my manager, Brian. He is a very good person who has helped many famous hip-hop artists in Vietnam. All of my current achievements are primarily due to Ekip and Brian's help. 

How would you describe your music and your style of rapping?

I consider myself a person without pretences. How should I put it? All hip-hop artists will try to create a unique personality, but my music and style are aimed at the masses. I want it to be pure. Pure music is entertaining music aimed at a large market and not too picky. That sort of music! It has to be fun, just like my personality.

As for skills, I'm still practicing every day to hone my abilities. I think I have a unique vocal brand with an Asian colour — that's also a strong point that I will focus.

Who are some musicians that you look up to?

If I could honour someone, I would pay tribute to Suboi. She is Vietnam's number 1 female rapper. Her music or style doesn't influence me much, but she is an endless source of inspiration when she breaks down all barriers and gender stereotypes in the world of hip-hop music in Vietnam. I also love Suboi's music and way of life, and always consider that as my goal in the future. 

What are some of the challenges you've faced in your music career so far?

There were many challenges when I started my career, but I am fortunate to have a good team and an excellent manager to support me. My biggest challenge is how I can continuously reinvent myself in the eyes of the audience, and how to bring more value and inspiration to my fans. I think getting Vietnamese music to the world is the biggest challenge that I have to face. 

Is it tough being a female rapper in Vietnam?

I never thought I would become a female rapper in Vietnam because it has too many barriers. Usually, male rappers will have more advantages, and they can confidently express all aspects of life and music.

However, in recent years, the Vietnamese music market has opened up and brought many opportunities and hopes for female talent. I need to be dedicated and responsible for changing people’s thinking about women in hip-hop in Vietnam.

What's next for you — and where do you hope to see your career go?

My team and I are in the process of producing my first EP called “18+,” which will be an EP with five tracks made by local and international artists.

Besides that, we are also preparing to release a new song with one of my homies, rapper HIEUTHUHAI, which is expected to be released in August.

As for the future, I rarely set a goal too far ahead. I want to try my best in short-term goals. But we do have specific goals in the future: The first is to get nominations at international awards, and to put Vietnam on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.

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music
phao
female-rappers

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