DaBoyWay is living life like every day is his birthday
“More life, more music, more good vibes & smiles”
When you talk about Asian Hip Hop OGs, you can’t even start that conversation without mentioning certain names like MC Yan, MC Weber, MC HotDog, DJs Wordy and Honda…and of course Thaitanium. You can’t talk about ThaiTay without talking about co-founder DaBoyWay.
Way, along with his soul brothers Khan and Sunny Day started the group back in the late 1990s and dropped their first EP, AA in 2000. Since then, they have been consistently at the apex of the Rap game in Thailand, with Way always out and about doing his own things, like nurturing the next generation of rappers through his mentoring and producing for Def Jam SE Asia. Or starting the definitive Asian Hip Hop barber shop chain, Never say Cutz. Way has always been a multi-talented force in Thai culture, whether rapping, singing, producing, or being an entrepreneur. This kid has always been fire.
Born in New Jersey and raised in Brooklyn, DaBoyWay got Hip Hop running through his veins early on, and he brought it back to the land of his parents, Thailand – where he linked up with Khan, Sunny Day, and DJ Buddha and never looked back. We got a chance to chop it up with him for the October cover as he just dropped a new single ‘Cake Diet’ on Def Jam SE Asia, so let’s get it.
What’s good, Way! How are you? How are things in Bangkok right now?
What’s up, everybody! Things in Bangkok are opening back up. There is a lot of tourism due to the recent legalization of cannabis so we’re seeing a lot of foreigners come in. The clubs are open again and things are starting to get back to normal. There are a lot more events and a lot more festivals going on so hopefully this continues. Right now, it’s monsoon season so we’re facing a lot of rain, and in some parts of the country there is flooding. Other than that, Thailand is looking bright and hopefully we will be back in full swing soon.
You were born in New Jersey to Thai parents, and then moved to Brooklyn. Was it rough growing up as a Thai kid back then? How did you fit in?
Yes, I was just born there at the hospital in Patterson but my family was living in Brooklyn at the time. I grew up in New York and New Jersey, and I lived in Pennsylvania a little bit. It was pretty normal and I was really into sports, music, movies, being outside, and doing outdoor activities.
Being Asian-American was tough at times. I definitely faced some racism growing up. People weren’t aware of where I was from so they would make fun of me doing the hand gestures to the eyes or just using different stereotypes. This was when I was younger but then as I got older things got better. I kinda blended in because being from New York and New Jersey it’s like a melting pot and they are pretty used to different cultures and people from different backgrounds.
Thaitanium has been running things in Thailand for so long now, you guys are really the true OGs of that game. How did you all meet? When you first got started who did you look up to locally?
Yes, Thaitanium has been very blessed to make it in the Hip Hop game for over 20 years. We all met at different times. Khan and Day, long story short, grew up together in San Francisco. I met Khan when I went back to Thailand when I was 16. I grew up with Calo. I’ve known him for over 30 years. Buddah…we met in New York.
Honestly, there was nobody that had that American Hip Hop sound, and I can say that Thaitanium are the true pioneers of bringing the real Hip Hop sound to Thailand. Being able to still be in the game and see where it’s gone and how far it’s gone in Thailand and throughout Southeast Asia, we’re so proud. It’s so dope and we’re still here to continue to push the culture forward.
Growing up on the East Coast, who were your favorite rappers?
Growing up on the East Coast there were so many influences. I call that time my golden era of Hip Hop with Wu-Tang, Mobb Deep, Nas, Jay-Z, Biggie, The Lost Boys, and Capone-N-Noreaga. We were even listening to Dr. Dre and Snoop back then, too. I was really into Nirvana and Green Day as well. I would buy every release or cassette single back then. Those were fun times.
Your 2002 album Thai Raiders was like a watershed moment for Thai Hip Hop, and really for Asian Hip Hop. That was when you guys really took over the game. What was that like, and what other Asian rappers were you aware of then?
When we first dropped the Thai Raiders album it was nuts. I lived in Bangkok for two years, from 16 to 18, and at that time there was no Hip Hop at all. You can count on your two hands how many people actually listened to Hip Hop back then.
When Thaitanium had their first EP AA, when we dropped it we came back from New York and we had like 20 copies. We gave it to our friends, and then after that people would come up to us and they were like “Hey, where can we buy it?” so we thought there might be a market here because all of us were living in New York at the time. Whenever we had a project we would come back to Thailand to promote it.
We knew that there was a market for Hip Hop and so we pressed up CDs. First 500, then 1,000, and then 10,000. Thaitanium released our first album Thai Raiders in America first actually. I remember driving to Philly to get the 1,000 CDs from CD Baby and we were passing it out along to all the Mom & Pop Shops that we knew in LA and New York. We did our first show in Chicago, and after that we brought it to Thailand.
We saw that Hip Hop was exploding from New York to all over America and then worldwide. It was a great feeling to drop our first album and when we came back to Thailand to finally perform it, we saw that everybody could sing the lyrics already and was really getting to know the culture and the sound.
We definitely knew of Zeebra from Japan, Too Phat from Malaysia, and 24HERBS from Hong Kong, so we knew that Asian Hip Hop was on the rise and that somehow one way or another we wanted to connect Asia.
We read that Hip Hop is now the second biggest music genre in Thailand! What?! That’s crazy. You have a lot to do with that. That must be very satisfying.
It’s crazy that Hip Hop is so big and so mainstream now in Thailand. I like to say that it comes in waves and I’ve been around for the 4th or 5th wave. For me, when we first started back in 2000, we saw the interest and the people who were attracted to the fashion, the sound, and the music, but they still didn’t understand Hip Hop. So the 1st wave was after the interest that was shown. Then it kinda fizzled out. Hip Hop was then filtered to those who were the ones going on to the next level and pushing the culture forward whether musically or through streetwear, DJing, or dancing.
In Thailand for me, the 2018/2019 wave came really really hard with the help of rappers with shows on TV like Show Me The Money. Hip Hop became very mainstream so people all around the country knew and were accustomed to hearing Hip Hop.
It’s very satisfying because I saw Hip Hop grow from when I first came to Thailand and no one was listening to where it is now. It’s been an amazing ride and it only seems that it can get bigger. I feel blessed to still be a part of it to help push the culture forward.
Talk a bit about your single ‘GangSh!t’ with Radio 3000, and the launch of Def Jam in Thailand. It seems like you are involved with writing, producing, directing, and releasing all the flyest music coming out of that iconic label. What’s your official role?
My single ‘GangSh!t’ with Radio 3000 was kinda the spark for Def Jam Thailand. So, I met Radio 3000 in 2018 and not even an hour later we were in the studio and we were just vibin and the first product that we pushed out was ‘Same Thing Every Night.’ It was magic.
Radio 3000 and I went on to be really really close and I invited him to come over and work in Bangkok because I believe he was staying in Malaysia at the time. We just hit it off and we did a bunch of records, and ‘GangSh!t’ was another one that happened to be one of the lead singles off of my debut album—my solo album on Def Jam Thailand.
To be able to bring Def Jam to Thailand and a big part of bringing it to Southeast Asia is really dope because come on man…it's Def Jam. For any Hip Hop head, Def Jam is THE Hip Hop label all across the world from Jay-Z to DMX to Method Man to Redman to Foxy Brown, and the list goes on and on. To be able to bring that label here to Asia and Thailand is so dope to me.
Being able to help mentor and give younger artists opportunities and help them with their journey and their careers has been great. It’s full circle because when I first started there wasn’t anybody to help me. I had to push with my boys and basically do everything ourselves. But to be able to take my experience and my knowledge in the music business and to be able to help the new and up-and-coming artists—I think that’s so dope.
Can you talk a bit about how you decided to start your Never Say Cutz barber shop in Bangkok and how it’s grown since then?
I’ve been coming to Thailand since ’96, right? So getting a proper fade or shape-up was just non-existent for so long. I would cut my own hair whenever I was in Thailand. But in 2007, near where I was living at the time there was this barber shop that was like a hole in the wall that was charging 40 Baht per cut. I just got back from New York so I had a fresh fade and went to the barber and I was like “Look, you see this? See my hair and you see how it fades and if you put the guard on like I need a two on top and a skin fade on the sides? Can you do that? Can you just emulate the hair and this is the final outcome that I need? You take the razor blade and just go over and just shape it up. So he did it. His name is Jack and I said just remember how you did that and I’m gonna come back next week. So I came back the following week and got my hair cut.
It started that way, and then my roommates and fans wanted fades so I would send them to the spot. It got to the point where there were a lot of customers and he couldn’t possibly cut them all so he taught his friend Nop, the guy that was in the station next to him, and so the two of them were just busting our fades, shape-ups, scissor cuts, and then they started to do designs people’s hairs.
At that time I had a shop, a clothing store in Siam Square which was where all the boutiques and streetwear shops were at the time. The barbershop that was by my place was about to close so Jack asked me if I wanted to open a barbershop. I thought about it and we ended up opening up our first Never Say Cutz location around Sukhumvit 51 with Jack, Nop, and another gentleman by the name of P-Nine in 2008. It started with that first shop, and in 2022 we’ve got 24 locations now. So it’s been a blessing and I’m very grateful for all the customers and all the barbers that have visited and used our services at Never Say Cutz.
You’re an entrepreneurial dude for sure, but so is your wife Nana Ribena – you guys have a lot of stuff going on, and it’s all successful. How do you two make it all work?
My wife Nana and I are the team. That’s my rock. That’s my partner in business. My partner in life. She manages me. She helps me with my career. Every day she makes me want to become a better person. That’s the love of my life. That’s my heart.
We do everything together, sometimes a little too much, but we make it work. We communicate. We have a good system - from the parenting to the businesses - we try to balance this. Everything just can’t be about work. But she’s a workaholic and I’m a workaholic and I’m very grateful for her.
Let’s talk about your new single ‘Cake Diet’, which is a dope title – it feels like a serious party anthem. We haven’t seen the video yet, but the single is FIRE. Is there any deeper meaning going on in the song, or is it a straight-up ‘sanook’ party jam?
Cake Diet is the new diet that we on. It’s the 24-hour Cake Diet where we are living life every day like it’s our birthday. We’re celebrating life, grateful for life every day that we wake up. We’re just enjoying it and having fun.
After the pandemic, there were times when I was not confident and even a little weary about my direction in music or where I was going to go next. I had a show but I wasn’t satisfied with myself and the way that the music was set up so I needed some more upbeat, uptempo party vibe songs for my show. So I’m trying to find a new sound and a new direction for myself—kinda stepping out of my comfort zone a little bit. It’s still me rapping but it’s just over a hard hitting, in-your-face, Spanish-infused dance vibe. Shoutout to Ricky Luna and Max Gallo on the production. I’m very excited with the new direction that I’m headed in. I feel like I still have room for growth, so that’s good. I’m up for the challenge.
Finally, what does 2023 look like for DaBoyWay? And thanks!
More life, more music, more good vibes and smiles. More hard work and just continuing to push the envelope. Thank you.