RayRay gives everyone everything all at once
“I am not too bothered about fitting into one certain music genre. I just love the freedom of doing whatever I want to do.”
When people think of musical exports from Asia, most will immediately think of K-pop. With its slick in-sync dancers, perfectly overproduced vocals, and surgically-plastic perfection, it often feels like it won’t be long before robots [but beautiful robots!] take over these artist roles. While the rest of the Asian music business is busy trying to replicate their own homegrown versions of BTS and BLACKPINK, there is an antidote to all this production-line mentality.
Let’s say you’re looking for something else; perhaps something a bit grimy, gritty, and weird but still wonderful. Something less marketable, but nonetheless ready, willing, and able to tear the roof off any club or festival slot with a mixed bag of Bass, Dubstep, Trap, Hip Hop, and Speed House. That would be Taiwan’s most famous DJ, RayRay. She’s been DJing since she was 17 and producing heavy Bass bombs for at least the past five years – often with Yellow Claw’s Barong Family label.
She started off as a Hip Hop DJ, and now that she’s scaled some of EDM’s highest peaks with regular spots at international festivals like Tomorrowland, Ultra, and ADE showcases, she’s ready to get back to basics - and back to her first love - Rap music. RayRay is not only creating funky Trap beats but she’s also singing and spitting rhymes over them. The whole nine.
We recently dropped the third single in our LiFTED Lounge series, ‘6 Speed,’ RayRay’s fresh AF collab with Korean-American MC Ted Park, who graced our cover a year ago. RayRay rhymes and sings while Ted does his thing, and it’s straight Hip Hop - or Phonk as some of her fans are calling it. When we got ready to drop the song, we asked RayRay if she’d be up for telling her story to any Asian Hip Hop fans who might know her roots yet. RayRay is a force to be reckoned with, and she’s determined to release more Hip Hop tracks going forward. So let’s get it!
RayRay, so good to get you on our February cover. We absolutely love ‘6 Speed’ and we are so happy about the fact that you’re pivoting back to Hip Hop. How did that come about?
As you know, I started my DJ career because of my love for Hip Hop music and culture. Being part of the Hip Hop music scene has always been something I’m passionate about. Therefore, I was eager to do something for the scene, especially since I have the production skills and the ability to make it happen now. I produced ‘6 Speed’ at the beginning of last year, and I was searching for some dope rapper who can represent Asia, then I found Ted. He immediately came up with the ‘6 Speed’ idea, and he sent back the lyrics and the vocal melody within a few days. I feel like this song actually represents our status right now - we are speeding on the highway, and we are unstoppable.
You won the Red Bull 3Style DJ championship in Taiwan back in 2013, and that put you on the map. Were you just all about Hip Hop back then, or did you play other styles?
I have been interested in music since childhood. I learned piano and played cello in my junior high school orchestra. I first discovered Hip Hop music when I was 14 or 15 years old, and fell in love with it completely. I like to pay tribute to my Hip Hop roots and combine all different types of music into my sets. I love to switch everything up and give the audience everything they want all at once. Sometimes during my full live set, you catch me scratching or playing drum machines, too.
What kinds of records were you spinning in the early days? Did you play commercial Hip Hop or were you always eclectic?
Mostly Hip-Hop music, but I’ve always played in an open-format style, just going with the feeling. I love mixing some local elements into my set when performing, to connect with the crowds in different countries. For example, I loved using local rap songs and turning them into bootlegs. Using native languages helps get closer to the crowds and makes the sets more interesting.
What led you away from Hip Hop and into Dubstep and Bass music that you’re more known for?
I think it’s just the music I make and also my growing identity as a producer. I started making music because of DJ Shadow and J Dilla. They inspired me to combine Hip Hop and modern electronic music together. I am always trying to do my own thing and navigate my own way through the music scene. I am not too bothered about fitting into one certain music genre. I just love the freedom of doing whatever I want to do.
Tell us about your relationship with Yellow Claw and Barong Family. How did that come about, and how have you evolved since that big change in your career?
I met Yellow Claw in Taipei in 2016, when they performed a show at OMNI nightclub. Yellow Claw asked me if I had enough music to release an EP on Barong Family, and they introduced me to the artists from the label. Now they are part of my music management. They always give me a lot of useful feedback when it comes to my music, and I’m really grateful they have given me so many opportunities to work with various artists around the world.
My music style already suits the sound that Barong Family looks for. But what’s great is they also put a lot of effort into helping Asian artists break out into the Bass music scene. To me, Barong is just like one big family. Everyone on the label is really welcoming and hugely talented. I especially love that they are so hands-on and always willing to help share their musical ideas and experiences as artists with me.
Tell us about ‘6 Speed’ and how you originally linked with Ted Park. He’s really making a name for himself in the US Hip Hop scene. You guys sound natural together.
James Roh from Far-East Movement introduced Ted to me. I found his music on Spotify, and I was fascinated by the way he sings and raps. So, Immediately I sent the instrumental to James, and I told him I needed to collab with Ted.
After the success of your Unearthly World alum last year, what made you want to get back to your Hip Hop roots? Do you have other collabs lined up?
Like I said, I just want to do whatever I want to do, straight up. Being part of the Hip Hop music scene is a part of that. Hip Hop music is one of the reasons I’m out here. It’s my motivation and passion, and it’s really nice to help out and propel the Asian scene forward with my sound and experience.
What beats are more fun to produce, Hip Hop/Trap or for lack of a better term, EDM?
Making music is just very fun to me in general, no matter what kind of genre.
You’ve really come out front in the past few years and are singing or rhyming on most of your productions now. Is that where you want to be now?
When I did my first EP Purple Alien on Barong Family it was kind of a way to introduce ‘RayRay’ to the EDM world with the Barong Family's signature sound. After that, I started focusing on my vocals in the production. There were just some short phrases in the beginning, and they grew into proper verses and Hip Hop-influenced raps by the second EP Alien Invasion on Barong Family. By my third EP, Alien Mutation, which I dropped during the pandemic, my sound had changed significantly. Instead of having a single genre, I was able to play around with my vocals and mix between multiple genres. I even took vocal lessons to improve my singing skill.
I just released an album, Unearthly World, last November. I wanted to show listeners and my fans my emotional side. Everything you hear on this album has some personal meaning - the way I processed my vocals, the way I sang the songs, the reasons I came up with the song ideas, the way I structured the songs, the orders of the track list, and so on. Yes, my vocals are definitely a significant part of my sound now because I’m enjoying making music with my voice.
Please tell us three Hip Hop artists who influenced you the most coming up, then tell us three who are happening right now who you’d love to work with.
Coming up: ØZI, J Sheon, OSN.
Love to work with: Ramengvrl, E.So, Joji
Finally, what does 2023 look like for RayRay?
I just did a live concert in front of 1,000 people in Taiwan, and it was the first full-production show I’ve ever done by myself with my team. We are now planning the worldwide album tour which combines the live show and club shows together, and we are trying to do the full live show in multiple major cities. Also, we are planning to do a deluxe album with two more new songs and remixes early next year. Some more big news is that I just signed with a new agent in the US and I’m starting to work with my new US-based management company. Asia will always be home, but I’m looking forward to spending more time in the US and to start building my music community there.