The rap collective takes their criticism of Thailand’s political institutions further than ever.
Countercultural music icons Rap Against Dictatorship upped their ante today with a new single demanding reform of the monarchy.
“The song name is ‘Reform’ and it’s for reforming the system, the government, monarchy system—everything,” rapper Protozua said last night in the studio of Thailand’s famed anti-establishment hip-hop troupe. “We say what people want, because we are the people, too.”
The music video, which dropped just before noon Friday, spares no subtlety in taking on an institution that was, until very recently, unassailable in public.
“You feast on our taxes so we ceased to be mute
No we ain’t gonna grovel, here’s our three finger salute
This voice rings a bell from This Fucking Country
That bastard shot our brothers, ain’t that a felony.”
The collaborative effort features lyrics by Liberate P, Zo9, Jacoboi, Numba9, SBSB, Zhln, 3฿one, Protozua, and Hockhacker, who was arrested in October and charged with sedition. Portions of the video were filmed live at the most recent mass rally this past Sunday.
Just last night in preparation of the release, music video director Skanbombomb was editing footage in a studio at Filmingo Productions that had just been shot a few days earlier on the protest front lines.
The singers drop verse as they move through the crowd during Sunday’s march on the Grand Palace, where protesters were set on delivering thousands of petitions to the king. The night saw police fire water cannons above protesters and demonstrators move a bus blocking the way and dismantle a razor wire barricade.
“They think it’s a game, a political game,” Skanbombomb said of the government. “But people don’t think it’s a game.”
The group accrued tremendous cultural heft two years ago with their debut song, “Prathet Ku Mee (My Country Has …).” Its ever-growing roster includes former hype men for their shows, all of whom risk harassment from the authorities for their roles in Rap Against Dictatorship.
“We find new rappers by inviting them on stage and helping us to hype. Numba9 hyped for us one day and received documents to go to the police station,” Protozua said, adding that Numba9 appears in the video out today.
In its first hours on Youtube, the video has already been watched more than 200,000 times by the group’s 605,000 subscribers.
“Since July, since our first song, more people are engaged. We just have to keep doing it, so more people will see, more people will recognize, more people will join,” said Liberate P, one of the group’s baby-faced frontmen. “I think somewhere the government will see the line, the government will see this is getting bigger and bigger and bigger.”
With a diverse range of talent drawn from the slums to the middle class, Rap Against Dictatorship has taken on a diverse array of topics, including hazing and the Buddhist-dominated culture. Similarly, the protests on the ground in Bangkok have added new progressive causes along the way, from the blocking of PornHub to rights for sex workers.
The protests have also moved the goalposts for the protesters, opening up previously taboo topics. “Before the protests, Thai people could not sing about the monarchy,” Skanbombomb said.
Hockhacker, real name Dechatorn Bamrungmuang, had his arrest live streamed by his wife. While most of the group seem convinced that the current charges are unlikely to go any further, more may be incipient due to subsequent protests, namely a Sep 18 rally where the group performed.
“We do jokes about his name all the time. People are always calling him the wrong name, Mr. Hock, Mr. Hack. Some people call him Hook,” Protozua said, referring to Hockhacker. While editing the last of the video late into the night on Thursday, a filmmaker walked around with the group attempting to make a documentary. “I feel sorry for this guy. He’s here to film us doing things, but all we do is make jokes on each other. He’s like, oh well, there goes another terabyte,” Protozua said.
Asked what it would take for him to stop what he’s doing, Protozua said there’s too much material to consider that:
“I will stop when there is nothing to talk about.”
By Tyler Roney and Phoebe Storm