Star2 is an Asian-American artist blending influences of both hard-hitting hip-hop and infectious pop melodies into his sound. He recently collaborated with $tupid Young on his EP Different Breed touching on themes of his childhood experience growing up amidst violence, crime, and his budding passion for music. His latest single “Just Like Them Waterfalls” is an imaginative, pop-laced track reminiscing on a perfect connection over the backdrop of a lush tropical landscape.
Tell me about the inspiration behind your new single “Just Like Them Waterfalls”.
“Just Like Them Waterfalls” is sort of a fantasy about meeting a girl while on a tropical vacation. The way the girl moves, the way she dances, and even the way she walks. It’s so easy, and sexy and beautiful – Just like the waterfalls.
Your two latest releases “Bottle Service” and “Just Like Them Waterfalls” ruminate on romance. What is calling you to write about love recently?
I’ve been in a romantic mood lately! Winter is cuffing season – but San Diego doesn’t get cold so the island vibe was on my mind. I would love to spend Christmas in Jamaica or the islands one year.
How did you put together the island-infused sonics behind “Just Like Them
The song is an island melody with a taste of reggae. I had a reggae vibe in my last Christmas song too called “December”. With “Waterfalls”, I wanted the music to remind you of hula dancing, swaying palm trees, and the soft, sweet air of the tropics.
The main guitars make you feel that way. I’ve been to Hawaii and fell in love with it. That was on my mind when I wrote the song. We used sounds of moving water and exotic birds to make it feel authentic and like a tropical fantasyland. There’s of course the beat with that island kind of vibe. Then the guitars and the plucked strings really make it move. We also used a vocoder to sing the chorus in the break section and bring an electronic vibe to the song.
What was it like filming the music video for “Just Like Them Waterfalls”?
It was dope as hell! The model, Victoria, was hella sweet and sexy as hell. We had so much fun kicking it and jumpin’ in and out of the water. She got me to dance and we had a flirty scene with her calling me from my balcony to see her on the patio below wearing an insane, sexy long white dress. She was swaying them hips “just like them waterfalls.”
How does your identity as an Asian-American artist inspire the music you create?
I grew up listening to hip-hop. It was the main kind of music in my neighborhood and with all of my friends. $tupid Young was the first Asian artist to break-through and open the doors for all Asian artists to rap and drop hip-hop songs. He’s an icon and became a mentor to me. Before I had really dropped songs, he came to my neighborhood and recorded with me in a neighborhood studio. I was in awe and will never forget it. Later, we filmed music videos and released an EP together. He’s a true big bro and has done so much to help me! I’ve tried to help other Asian-American artists too. We have started touring together, and even talked about an Asian-American label. While people talk about rap and hip-hop dying in the U.S. it’s just starting to pop in Asia! I want to perform for fans in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia, and the Philippines. I have hella
fans in Indonesia too.
Does it feel different performing “Just Like Them Waterfalls” than performing some of your harder hip-hop songs? Which do you prefer?
I just performed “Just Like Them Waterfalls” along with my hip-hop singles at a show in Minnesota. The fans loved it!! I think it’s everybody’s favorite right now.
When did you realize you wanted to be a musician?
I wanted to be Justin Bieber when I was in second grade; I grew my hair long and used to sing into my hairbrush in the mirror. “Baby” was my favorite song and I also made up songs about girls I liked in school. In middle school, I started rapping with friends, and a neighbor in my apartment complex who had a little home studio. We made music videos, half in English and half in Ka-ren, the language we speak from Burma. We posted a few on YouTube and got a lot of hits and attention. Karen1 TV in New York offered to fly me out and interview me. I also got a scholarship to sing rap at the LA College of Music in LA in high school one summer. I met great people who were hella talented. Later I met Chico Bennett, my producer, in LA. We cut an album when I was seventeen. That’s when I wanted music to be my career and my future.
How has your story of being born into a Thai refugee camp influenced your art?
It’s the backstory to all of my music, honestly. I’m in Thailand now visiting Mae La refugee
camp where I was born and lived until I was six and left for California with my grandmother. My life in the U.S. was with other refugees. Chinatown Runner, my bro from Denver, was also in Mae La refugee camp. He wanted to come with me on this trip but didn’t have his citizenship yet. We have an EP coming out in a few months. One of our songs is “Mae La Camp”. I have a Ka-ren album coming too with rappers from Thailand and my refugee camp. There are hella talented singers in the camp and in Thailand. I can’t wait to showcase all of this talent! I am also making music and singing in Ka-ren, my native language. Fans have requested it and it brings a whole different side to me and my music.
What do you hope your listeners will take away from your latest single “Just Like Them Waterfalls”.
I hope they will get in a romantic mood and have fun – escape reality and dream about the
islands with a beautiful girl in a bikini. I hope they fall in love.
What piece of advice do you have for upcoming artists and kids with aspirations of making music?
Go after your dreams. Don’t let anyone stop you. Most will tell you to give it up, and haters will tell you online that your music is trash. I’ve learned so much and I’m still just beginning. You have to be able to laugh at yourself and try anything. It takes a while to get comfortable performing. My other advice is to try different genres of music and don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself with new music and new looks. You only live once!