The world of hip/hop needs more female artists to break through to the top, and who would be better than a multicultural oddball like Ramengvrl? Though she’s just beginning to dip her toes in the water, she already hits the requirements to be a rising star: she pushes the envelope, has some pretty sticky beats, and has a unique voice; plus she’s quirky. This Indonesian rapper and her first album Can’t Speak English are deserving of a warm welcome.
Her hard work these last few years has greatly paid off as she’s surpassed 30 million streams and won Hip-Hop Song of the Year at the 2019 Anugerah Musik Indonesia Awards. Now, Ramengvrl is signed to EMPIRE, a breeding ground for opportunities (which has signed Iggy Azalea, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar and more).
Can’t Speak English is a multi-personality journey that repels off Indonesia’s conservative nature. It starts out with “Let Em Be”, a track about moving up and ignoring false assumptions. It’s got plenty of swank, snare drums and witty lines about her come-up, like this lyric:
“Back in Indo they think I’m a Muslim/ I say Alhamdulillah all the time, I always win”.
Her tone switches in “Shine” but the message is still the same. The pingy, techno beat is similar to J-pop style, and Ramengvrl’s autotuned lines filter in perfectly. The “cute” beat with her strong, forward-thinking lines make for good contrast, whereas in other tracks, she clearly uses her fighting words; take “Go Get That B” for example. It features Inayah, and while the beat and chorus are fairly simple, it’s a catchy, claws-out song. She keeps this eccentricity in most of her songs- especially in “Can’t Speak English” the albums taunting outro (she embodies the sneering energy of a Rico-Nasty’s-little-sister, and it’s pretty perfect).
With nonconformity comes doubt and heartbreak, which Ramen dives into with “Blue Skies” and “The Emo Song”. In “The Emo Song”, her attitude and how far she came is actually her two biggest let-downs. The song features Sihk, and utilizes talk-rapping over singing, this lets out more defeated energy with her monotonic tone. This sensation furthers in “Blue Skies”, which embodies the nagging feeling of not being able to get someone out of your head. With the opening beat and keyboard/organ sound, you sense Ramen falling apart between the thumping bass and techno-autotune.
Ramen balances these highs and lows with two party-ready songs: “Look at Me Now” and “Vaselina”, both of which are in-your-face and unapologetic. “Look At Me Now” surges you into the party feel with the catchy chorus. Her devilish side plays out with the flute and features Ted Park to make an attitude that kills.
Same with “Vaselina”- it holds the same spirit that Ramen strategically uses to push from the conservative nature she was raised in. “Vaselina” uses a base of Latin-flavor, with trumpets that make you want to keep listening. Featuring euro, it’s one you want to keep on repeat, with euro’s verse comically ending with “Me and Ramen going noodles”.
Between the highs, lows, and party are songs like “Tsundere” and “Foreign”. Both are relaxed, each telling a different side of liking someone. “Foreign”, featuring Pyra, is the most story-told lyrically. Reminiscing on a memory and being left to read signals, “Foreign” has the sound of a pop song with a great switch-up at the end. The same indecisive feelings are in “Tsundere”, which is a Japanese term for emotional growth from who originally base yourself as. For Ramen, it’s trying to figure out whether to go back to someone or not.
“I should’ve run away, but it don’t really matter/ Let’s just do bad things that are bad for me together”
Can’t Speak English is a balance of hype and depth, with proof of how multicultural her sound is, let alone what it will become down the road with EMPIRE. Produced by names like Roark Bailey, Omega, Swede of 808 Mafia and Cassius Jay, Can’t Speak English makes for a hot first album.
Stream Can’t Speak English here.