Queens Gazette

Local Express: Warren Hue


 

Warren Hue, the 21-year old rapper, singer, and producer hailing from Jakarta, Indonesia, is leading the way for the next generation of Asian hip-hop. Just two months after signing with 88rising, he went from a rising self-taught YouTuber to Marvel soundtrack contributor. Warren stands out from the pack with his ever-evolving sound, fusing R&B, house, electronic and industrial genres into a heady cocktail of alternative hip-hop. Nearly a year after his last solo release, Warren returns with his new single, “SPLIT”. Produced by frequent-collaborator, Chasu, the track finds the rising star introspectively examining the highs and lows of being in a long-distance relationship. A vibey and melodic track, “SPLIT” is Warren’s first solo release this year as he gears up to release his mixtape, TUNA, coming in September 2024. The project will dive further into Warren Hue’s evolved sound and feature both up-and-coming and superstar artists. Warren performed at Head in the Clouds Music Festival at Forest Hills Stadium last year and will be returning to the festival this year on Sunday, May 12.

AL+NB: What are you most excited to perform at Head in the Clouds in Forest Hills this year?

WH: Definitely my newer songs, which are already on 1999 Write The Future, and maybe a song will be coming out soon, so those songs are definitely for sure.

AL+NB: What about your other plans in New York? What are you like? What are you looking forward to seeing and doing?

WH: I’m gonna be chilling, definitely seeing friends, hanging out with my mom, visiting my girlfriend. I’m going to eat some good food soon.

AL+NB: What are your favorite restaurants?

WH: There’s this Italian spot in Seoul, Emilio Cibo e Vino, that’s really good.

AL+NB: What other artists are you hoping to catch at Head in the Clouds?

WH: I’m really excited to see Balming Tiger, Atarashii Gakko!, Eyedress and Joji.

AL+NB: You’ve performed at Head in the Clouds twice in California and at the festival’s debut in Queens at Forest Hills Stadium last year. Would you like to share with our readers anything new you’ll bring to Head in the Clouds this year?

WH: Yeah I think my performance style will be a little bit different. Because I have new songs to play, I always try to elevate my vocals every year, try to sing better rap, and always switch up the energy. Maybe we’ll also have new visuals this time, so it’s just a whole brand-new experience.

AL+NB: Do you admire any artists connected to Queens?

WH: I like Nas as a rapper. His first album, Illmatic, is really a staple in rap in general, and it has to be respected, so definitely Nas.

AL+NB: How did your upbringing in Jakarta influence your music and creative process?

WH: Growing up in Jakarta is definitely different. Not many rappers even come from Jakarta, and I always include personal stuff in my music. I like to bring stories to my music, even from high school or how I grew up, where I’m from, which side of Jakarta I’m from… Definitely the environment I’m in influences my music, also seeing things on the internet. Not many musicians I look up to are from Jakarta. But experiencing the internet and growing up in my room making bedroom music, that’s what really influences me.

AL+NB: Could you tell us about your transition from creating music in your bedroom to signing with 88rising and releasing your debut album?

WH: It was very unexpected because 88 actually hit me up during my gap year! I was supposed to go to college, but in that gap year I was posting a lot of music on Soundcloud and YouTube by myself. I was first a YouTuber before transitioning into making music. Then two or three years down the line, 88rising hit me up, and it was crazy because they just hit me up through Instagram. They wanted to take things more seriously with my music set over a bunch of instrumentals, so for me to rap on it was definitely a newer process for me; I’m not used to having a professional connection with a label or with my music in general, so having them support me was really, really cool and helping me go out to LA and settle me in was really nice.

AL+NB: So they just saw one of your Youtube videos and asked you to sign it? Which one?

WH: It’s called “I NEED U, IN THE SUMMERTIME.”

AL+NB: What advice do you have for readers hoping to develop their musical abilities? Do you believe rapping is an innate talent, or can it be taught?

WH: It definitely can be taught. I was trash at rapping when I was younger. I had to develop how to pronounce my words right and how to flow, or even pick the correct words. Growing up I was a big fan of Eminem, Earl Sweatshirt, and all these very lyrical rappers, so most of the time, I would just create fake stories in my notes and rap and try to rhyme different words together and all that without even putting a flow together. Just seeing what rhymes I could do, what different patterns I could create. But I don’t think it’s a gift; you can definitely be taught. It just takes practice, and you have to try out different instrumentals and listen to a bunch of rap music try to rap along with them. I feel like that’s the best way you can learn how to rap.

AL+NB: What inspired the creation of your debut album, Alien, and how does it represent you as an artist?

WH: Well, Alien was created when I was 16 or 15. I was just inspired by a lot of rappers like Amine, anything by Drake, even Tyler, and I was just trying to create my own. Alien was my first experience trying to world-build and create songs using beats on the internet, finding specific artists that I like, and trying to rap like them. Alien came from wanting to showcase my versatility and creativity as much as possible; using YouTube as an outlet, and DistroKid, a website to distribute your music independently.

AL+NB: Your song “Warriors” featuring Seori was included in the soundtrack of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. How did the collaboration come about, and what was your experience like contributing to a major film project?

WH: Pretty crazy, so literally in the first two months of signing with 88rising, Sean, my manager hit me up asking how I would like to do a soundtrack for Shang-Chi and I was like just mind-blown because I watched a lot of Marvel movies growing up myself so to be a part of like a big movie like this, it’s kind of shocking, especially personally being just signed. Sean always provided me with different opportunities, features or people I should meet in person or virtually, from different sides of the world. Seori already had a demo, so Sean was like “Hey maybe you could just try rapping on this” and it just happened online.

AL+NB: You received recognition from various publications and awards, including being listed in Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia in 2022. How do you handle the pressure of rising fame and expectations in your career?

WH: Just stick to your plan. Always remember the reason why you started your career. I think about how I started making music and where I want to take it, and having real people surround me keeps me grounded – having family and close friends always support you no matter what. They don’t geek out about you being a certain status or anything. I still want to feel like the kid I was growing up, just a kid who likes music. That’s how I think of myself all the time.

AL+NB: In “Omomo Punk,” a yellow jacket that looked like a backpack blew up in the YouTube comments. Where do your fashion influences stem from, and how do they contribute to your artistry?

WH: My parents were always into fashion, and I grew up around it. My father works in the garment industry, so I’ve always been around fashion growing up. It definitely ties in well with music. Fashion plays a big role in hip hop, and music in general. All my favorite rappers would always dress up in the craziest brands, archive pieces, and you know I would spend hours on websites like Grailed when I was younger and see some Raf Simons or old Rick Owens and stuff like that. I just, like, enjoy the culture of fashion. It ties very well with who I am and with my music for sure.

AL+NB: Can we expect an upcoming fashion line?

WH: Yes! That’s the goal for sure.

AL+NB: Anything else you would like to share with our readers?

WH: Definitely, a new project coming out sometime this year, this should be a mixtape, new songs, a new sound. I’m creating a whole world for it, so I think people should look out for that and some fashion stuff on the way.

—Alison Leaf and Nicollette Barsamian

The Local-Express interview series was originated in July 2013 by Nicollette Barsamian.

 

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