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Scene Report

B-Side is the noisy newborn of Cambodian Hip Hop

“Art and humanity shall go together”

LiFTED | Marcus Aurelius | 4 Oct 2023

While a lot of attention is focused on Korean and Japanese Hip Hop, other smaller countries in the Asian region are building up tremendous Hip Hop scenes. Cambodian Hip Hip has been going strong since KlapYaHandz built the foundation and VannDa and his Baramey crew blew it up two years ago. The B-Side crew is a product of that explosion, and they call themselves the “noisy newborns of Cambodian Hip Hop.” With 20 events done over the past two years, as well as moving into music and video production for their artists 2MDIE, S.A.N.E, Really Jing, and OG Golden, LiFTED got with the B-Side triumvirate of Alex Barth, Quentin Conesa, and Scotty Darkne$$ to get a scene report from their end of the Cambodia Hip Hop scene.

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How did you come up with the concept of B-Side in general?

The concept of B-side came up with the will to create a platform to showcase a performance type and music that is brutal and honest, a Hip Hop without make-up, and a voice of the streets that reaches real Cambodians while keeping on a musical quest for something new and fresh.

What is the main focus of B-Side?

We focus on creating an experience and relationship between the music, the artists, and the public. We don't mind wandering from one musical genre to another and exploring different ways to create that experience. At the center, we want this relationship. We've seen too many performances nowadays where we feel a disconnect between the stage and the crowd. Either the performance is seen as a product or there is some kind of idolizing approach. At B-Side, art and humanity shall go together.

How has the Hip Hop scene in Cambodia changed over the years from KlapYaHandz to the emergence of VannDa? In India, they’ve told me that a rising tide lifts all boats. Is that the same in Cambodia?

That is a really beautiful saying. Absolutely.

B-Side is the noisy, newborn of the Cambodian Hip Hop scene. KYH and Baramey did and do tremendous work that benefits all of the Hip Hop scene. Both of those labels bring in their philosophy and their own business approach, and they have helped the whole movement. Today we are able to focus on our core values partly because they kicked doors before us. Today, we have space for different artists and styles within the same genre. We need even more, and we are excited to see other labels building around an art form that we love. So I would say the landscape has become richer since then.

You’ve done more than 20 live events. Which ones have been your favorite? Why? Are there any events coming up that you are trying to do?

Murals for Cambodia [MFC] and Rosewood Anniversary both have a special flavor for us. MFC is a festival focusing on street art and, as part of the organization, we were able to create a communion between all Hip Hop labels with all of them on stage with us with all of those great artists. It was the beginning of B-Side. We started off with one of the most beautiful stages and events for the genre and the crowd came in numbers!

Rosewood was also a check on our core values. Their managing team was amazing and they offered us curation for their anniversary. We mixed street art and Hip Hop again and went wild in a context that didn't see many shirtless, tattooed youngsters uncensored on the mic, to say the least. The artists were nervous at the beginning because trying to touch a crowd was different. But by the end, we saw that we can be ourselves in many different types of situations and that if we stick to our artistic integrity, we reach the hearts of everyone.

You’ve got a few rappers on the B-Side label. What exactly do you do to help them with their careers? How has it been going? What can a new rapper do if they want to contact you? What advice do you have for any up-and-coming rappers?

We have 2MDIE, S.A.N.E, Really Jing, and OG Golden at the moment. I think that one of the things we instigated is a really rigorous approach to their careers. They are so committed that we encourage each other to climb together. In a bit less than two years, we saw the MCs’ attitudes becoming more and more focused, so this motivates us even more. What we do for them mostly is that we connect the pieces together - the talents, the resources, the key people, the money - we link those together in order to have the means to go somewhere higher. So far we have been experiencing a real evolution, but there is still so much to do. We always want more.

For the up-and-coming artists, they need to devote themselves to Hip Hop without second thoughts. They need to believe in their voice so hard that we can only see their truth. They need to dig and explore and try out what makes them special and unique. They need to believe in their differences. They need to knock on the doors and tell people around them what they do, not on what they want to do. Then they have no choice but to listen.

What do you see B-Side becoming in one year? How about five years?

Honestly, this is not our first concern. We advance step by step and look around us. We are too new to set the sail in a fixed direction yet. We feel the wind and adjust the bar to move in the right direction. We went from event producers to a more classic type of label where we invest more in videos and online platforms.

In one year, I want our artists to have the recognition they deserve. I want that all over Cambodia, people know that there is another style of music - ours. It doesn't have to be that everyone likes it, but they need to know about it. In five years, we should have a platform that allows us to take in more artists to give them opportunities to bring themselves to the world. We want to continue to connect artists together from different labels, different genres, and different countries. We’ve received requests and made featured songs with artists from Thailand, Taiwan, Myanmar, France, the Philippines, and more. We love this connection. We all cluster around a love for the art of Hip Hop and want to continue to develop that.

Tell us a bit about the recent B-Side Rules EP 1. How did it come about? You’ve recently released the video for ‘BUST IT’ by 2MDIE x S.A.N.E x Scotty Darkne$$. Explain the concept of this track and video.

B-Side Rules EP01 was a common idea between us and our third partner, Scotty Darkne$$, who’s also the main producer on our label. Scotty’s been producing for most of the best artists in the country, without being credited for his work most of the time, cause he’s been pursuing a very radical way of doing music. All the songs on our first EP are produced, mixed, and mastered by Scotty. “I just make shit. I don’t explain shit,” Scotty likes to say.

The Name of the EP comes from the title of our first song created late last year after Scotty got very inspired in the early 1990’s Wu-Tang period and sampled an old Khmer song. We then hit the studio and recorded all members' verses in one session. That song serves as an introduction to who B-Side is, what our ultimate goals in the game are, and more importantly, who the artists on B-Side are because all of the artists’ verses introduce themselves to the local Hip Hop scene. We later decided to re-record the whole track, in a professional studio [Kongchak Studio] with the help of our friends Vincent Villa and Elie Ommering. Using real instruments and high-end recording equipment, we asked Jeremiah Overman from Turren Films to shoot the Music Video for us. That music video hit 200,000 views in a month on YouTube.

The story of ‘Bust It’ is a bit different. Scotty had that beat for quite a while and it was one of the first songs we recorded as B-Side, but we never planned to make a video out of it in the beginning. It was our ‘Jump Around’ or ‘Ante Up’ song that we will keep performing at the very end of all our live performances as both the beat and the lyrics are definitely radical. Each time we play that song, the crowd always goes crazy, artists will drop their shirts [no matter the place] and jump in the crowd like in a punk concert. So when we had the opportunity to shoot it, well we asked our very talented director’s friend; Brandon Perez, to shoot it for us, with a very small budget, in one night.