Though he now lives in San Diego, California, rising rapper Star 2 was born in a Thai refugee camp, which he fled as a child. Music is his therapy, and he aims to spread important messages in his songs and music videos. VENTS recently interviewed Star 2 about his new “Run Away” music video and more; the interview can we read below.
Reflecting on your childhood and the hardships you have overcome to this point, how did music help you get through life’s challenging moments? How have you grown since finding your passion for music, and how does it continue to help you today?
My music is definitely evolving. First, music was therapy for pain – a broken heart or trauma. Later I tapped into my creativity.
When I was young, in my early teens, I listened to Justin Bieber and all of the popular singers of the day, non-stop. (I also tried to dance like Michael Jackson, lol). A close friend in our apartment complex had set up a small home studio in his room. We spent hours freestyling and copying the rappers we liked. I made some music videos rapping half in English and half in my native Ka-ren language. I also started writing my own songs.
At first it was for fun, but it became a way for me to express my emotions and my pain. I realized that music could vent some very heavy feelings I had buried. I began writing and singing to release the pain and to process what I felt and had experienced.
Making music sometimes comes fast but other times it comes in pieces…even in dreams. I am more patient and allow the music to find its way out…when it needs to…when it wants to. I’ve also found a rush making songs that lift your mood and bangers that make you move!
What made you gravitate toward hip-hop and R&B over other possible genres and styles? How does your music smoothly blend the two, and in what ways is it unique and special to you?
Hip-Hop/R&B was the music I listened to growing up. I loved Akon, Chris Brown, Tyga, Tupac, Biggie, and later Juice Wrld and Polo G. I like all music – pop music, country, reggae, and my native Ka-ren music. But with Hip-Hop, you can literally spit your feelings. You can express your sadness, depression, anger…even rage. So many kids relate to Hip-Hop because it provides a way to get those feelings out. It also connects you to those deep feelings in people living and experiencing your reality. I loved R&B ballads– songs about love and heartbreak. Music is the universal language for all of these experiences. My music blends what I heard, of course. But, at the end of the day, my music is mine. It’s my unique way of expressing my feelings, emotions, and experience.
Your latest song, “Run Away,” describes the current status of many worldly social issues. What inspired you to write these lyrics, and what are you hoping to achieve through this hard-hitting musical poetry?
I wanted to write a song about the fucked-up state of the world. I was in the studio recording during most of COVID and in LA during the Black Lives’ Matter protests. My family fled genocide and experienced starvation and atrocities in Myanmar and in the Thai refugee camp where I was born. We’ve experienced starvation, also poverty in City Heights, San Diego, a hub for refugees, with homelessness, mental illness, and addiction. The hook literally poured out of me. At the lowest points in my life, I have wanted to run away – to a place where I could be safe. Millions are in situations that are life and death – problems that are completely out of their control, that are fucked-up, and put their lives at risk for nothing! John Lennon wrote a song called “Imagine” talking about a world without countries and religion – where we shared the world’s resources fairly. What if that could happen?
How does your performance of “Run Away” in the music video as well as the accompanying visuals add to this already impactful single? Why did you feel it was important to use your platform, talent, and skill to shed light on these particular subjects?
The visuals connect everyone to the craziness we have experienced together over the past few years. I think it is “shared trauma.” I wanted to explore what we all had witnessed, experienced, and felt emotionally…to ask everyone to consider how it could be different and then how we could fix it. At the end of the video I ask everyone to pray for peace in our world. I wear a peace sweatshirt in the video. I am the narrator who watches society’s horrors unfold on an old-fashioned TV set. There are scenes of my Ka-ren people fighting back against the Burmese Army who massacred them. I included these images to stand in solidarity with them…to stand with them in our continued struggle. (I wear my native Ka-ren shirt in part of the video). We added footage of Putin and the unimaginable bombing and shelling of civilian neighborhoods in Ukraine before our eyes. I made the video as a tribute to all those who are experiencing injustice in the world and to reach out and make an impact.
After releasing the video, I posted information about the ongoing genocide of my people in Burma/Myanmar on Instagram. Someone in Ukraine, experiencing the horrors there, saw the post and my video, and messaged that they were praying for our people in Burma!! I broke down.
What was your initial reaction to seeing the deep, heartfelt lyrics and creative video concepts come together for the first time?
We filmed the music video in an LED warehouse in Compton, California. They manufacture LED panels that show images on the outside of stores and businesses. In New York City they show images of surfing and the beach– larger than life, in motion, that literally stop people on the street. They have a showroom to show the panels in action – we took a tour and had the idea of throwing up the disturbing and memorable images of everything that had gone down – the border patrol agents whipping Haitian immigrants; the Black Lives’ Matter protestors getting beaten with batons; the tornadoes in Kentucky that wiped out entire neighborhoods because of climate change; the sea of homeless tents in LA in other parts of the US – and using it for the video. We created a reel of the images in a loop and set them to the song. When we filmed the video and saw them projected onto the LED panels–huge, floor-to-ceiling moving images in front of us, we froze. Several in our crew started to cry. It was incredibly powerful and incredibly sad too.
What is the main message you want listeners and viewers to take away from “Run Away,” and what aspects of the song and music video do you feel they will relate and connect with the most?
Peace is my message and my take-away. I am a refugee. There are millions who have to flee bombings and genocide. It’s so unnecessary and brings so much suffering!! I wanted to share my history and the suffering of those who must flee violence…also homelessness and the potential complete destruction of the world because we are ruining the planet. At some point, we have to rise up and demand that our society changes! We saw this with the Black Lives’ Matter marches. We see it with the incredibly brave people in Ukraine.
I think people relate to injustice, the disgusting effects of greed and waste, of inhumanity: war, climate-change-fueled environmental destruction, poverty, homelessness, people fleeing the fall of Afghanistan, the bombings and shelling in Ukraine, police brutality. On a human level, everyone connects with these issues and the images I put in the video.
I was born in a refugee camp of 55,000 surrounded by barbed wire, guards, and guard dogs. There were land mines outside the camp in the jungle and people were killed or had their legs blown off. My family walked 500 miles to reach this camp after soldiers attacked their village and then burned it to the ground. There was very little food in the camp. We received rice and fish paste once a month. We went into the jungle for food that grew there and killed small animals and birds with slingshots to eat. Young boys are taken from the camp to become resistance fighters in a noble but against-all-odds fight to take back our homeland. Families are desperate to get their sons out before they are sacrificed.
I wanted people to think! I added the words, “…there’s also people in different countries…they’ve got to run and fight, just to see another day of life. They’re over there praying for help while we’re worrying about our wealth.” I am one of the lucky ones who made it to the US. I have to do something for the rest who are still in harm’s way.
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