Tabitha Nauser & Yung Raja Are The Ultimate Cool Musicians In Coach's Autumn/Winter 18 Collection
With Coach's latest autumn/winter 18 collection featuring gothic sheer floral printed gowns with leather tasseled bags for women and heavy shearling coats for men, this was a collection that required more than just the ability to pick out a pretty dress or a cool coat. It required spades of attitude, and just the right amount of swag.
Enter local musicians Tabitha Nauser and Yung Raja. One's an entertainment industry veteran, starting out at the age of 17 and having dabbled in everything from hosting, radio DJ-ing and theater before branching out into music full-time, earning her a rightful spot as one of our Generation.T honourees. The other, a bilingual hip-hop star on the rise whose first single dropped in June and is fresh off a stint on Yo! MTV Raps.
While their career path's might differ, one thing's for sure, both artistes have their own distinct signature style and attitude, making them the perfect ambassadors to showcase Coach's larger than life collection. But fashion isn't the only thing that binds these two. We speak to them about the perils of the industry, and what it takes to be a musician in Singapore.
What are some of the things that inspire you when creating new music?
Tabitha Nauser (TN) It’s hard to give one answer because there’s so many different things. For me, it can be a mood that I’m in, or an experience, or something that happened to someone else and they’re talking to me about it. It could be anything, even someone I know personally. It has to be something that definitely resonates with me. I have to be 100% into it and vibe with it and that is the thing that inspires me.
Yung Raja (YR) Sometimes it could be a melody too. For me when I work with my producer Zeke, we always think of ideas and words that paint a picture. That’s the most common way of us working together. Like [his 1st single] Mustafa for example, we think about that word and what it represents. Zeke makes the beats on the session itself, he doesn’t send me stuff and then I go home and write. The sessions are always spontaneous. It’s a combination of what both he and I have been feeling the past couple of days, and when it aligns the song comes up. That’s my favourite way to create music.
What are some of the struggles you’ve faced in the music industry? Like gender or racial discrimination or even a lack of support for the creative arts.
YR I’m new to this, about eight months to a year in, but so far, it’s been cool because I’ve been receiving support from Singapore and Malaysia. The love has been from everywhere and the support has been constant and growing so I’ve just been happy with that. There hasn’t been any cases or experiences where it’s been negative or bad, thankfully. You do hear stories about people overseas who go through discrimination but I’m very grateful and thankful that hasn’t happened to me yet.
TN On the flipside, I’ve been doing this a lot longer than YR has. For me there hasn’t been an issue or a memory where it has rubbed me the wrong way or I was offended by something. I haven’t had that experience. So far, everybody has been supportive and open to wanting to help me grow as a person. But I’m not going to lie, there has been instances that happened to people I know that have gone through discrimination in whatever form. It’s inevitable, but we can always stand up for what’s right. Always have a voice and say what you need to say. I don’t believe in no, if someone says no, there’s always a way around it.
YR Now that you’ve mentioned it, even if discrimination were to happen to us, we would not be quiet about it. I’m not just going to let it happen. We would fight it.
Discrimination is inevitable, but we can always stand up for what’s right. Always have a voice and say what you need to say. I don’t believe in no, if someone says no, there’s always a way around it.
Favourite record every released?
TN That’s hard, there are so many great tracks out there. How about favourite song of the moment instead?
YR I can’t choose just one song either! But if I had to choose one song that’s my favourite for this month it would be Biggest Alley Oop by Quavo. I’ve been listening to it for a week straight.
TN Mine would be No Stylist by French Montana. That song has been on repeat!
Who are some musicians you look up to?
YR I look up to Drake, Travis Scott and people from the ‘90s like Notorious B.I.G. These are people that have had an impact so large that their credibility is never doubted. The people that I look up to always have that similar quality. People like Diddy, Dr Dre, Jimmy Iovine and Quincy Jones...I always look up to what they have done more so than just what they have created.
TN Did you watch the documentary of Quincy Jones? It really puts into perspective what he’s done for the industry. To leave a legacy like that? I want that.
YR I want that too. I don’t want to just make hot songs.
TN Of course you want to make hot songs, but you don’t just want to do that. You want to be able to impact people.
YR The goal is to go deeper than that. How many lives can you change, how many perspectives can you change, how many of people’s days can you make.
TN For me I go from Beyoncé, to Drake, Aretha Franklin, Nat King Cole, Prince and Michael Jackson. They all have this quality that they don’t just want to create music, they want to impact with their music. They want to change lives, and that is so powerful and that’s what I respect a lot. Their work ethic, how they carry themselves…there’s so much thought put into every single thing they do. They consider every little detail, and I have so much respect for that, not just their musical integrity but their artistic vision as well.
The feeling and emotion that music gave me was something I could never replicate when I was acting, and that was when I knew for fact that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.
— Yung Raja
What got you into music?
TN For me it was my mum. She used to be a Tamil singer, so growing up the first person that I saw singing was my mum. She used to be on TV on [local Tamil channel] Vasantham and be on a lot of Tamil shows so I had memories of going to Mediacorp as a small kid, watching my mum get her hair and makeup done and doing her recordings. And then when I started watching MTV and realised that singing could be an actual profession, I became obsessed from there and would sing all the time.
But you did make some detours along the way before pursing music full-time right?
TN I was initially signed to a label after Singapore Idol but they didn’t do anything for me. And when things didn’t work out the way I thought it was going to, I felt a bit lost for a while. So I took some time off, went back to school and got a full time office job for about four months and hated every day of it. I would go into work in the morning and then go into the toilet and cry. I spent that entire time emailing everyone I knew looking for a job and eventually I got a job hosting a show on TV.
After that I told myself I’m not going to do anything that I don’t feel comfortable doing anymore. It’s my life and I don’t want to be wasting my time. From there I managed to find my way back into music. But I’m lucky, because in Singapore, the industry is so tight and so supportive that you can dabble in many different things. I was a radio DJ, I did theatre and I’ve done hosting for TV and its nice because I get to try my hand at all these different things, but it also cemented the fact that I really want to do music. I enjoyed all those things but it made me realise that I really want to be on stage and sing and perform.
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How about you Raja?
YR I started out as a child actor for 10 years. But when I turned 18 and started going to clubs, the energy that I felt from music was just different. I realised that music made me feel fulfilled when I was working at [the now defunct club] Cherry as their hype man. The feeling and emotion that music gave me was something I could never replicate when I was acting, and that was when I knew for fact that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.
I went through this metamorphosis stage in my life where my hopes and dreams of becoming a great actor slowly transferred into seeing if I could become a great hip hop artiste. I didn’t plan it, but hip hop was always a part of my life—even as a kid—and if I didn’t give it a shot now, I might never do it. I made small moves that would lead up to that, from MC-ing in clubs to having studio sessions with other artistes and producers. We didn’t always produce music, sometimes it would be just to see how well we vibe together. Not too long after I got signed to M03 Records [a division of Sony Kartel Records] and it’s crazy how fast everything happened. I didn’t consciously chase after it, but I did have an objective in mind, and it was to become a hip-hop artiste someday.
Big goals are awesome, but I like to work with the small stuff first and then slowly make my way there. But with that being said, it would be kind of cool to be able to do a world tour and have Drake on speed dial!
— Tabitha Nauser
What’s the biggest goal both of you would like to achieve as musicians?
TN I feel like my goals always change. I know I have a big picture, but I like to give myself small steps and then make sure that I reach that and then, that way you’re actually mapping out what you’re supposed to do and it’s a better way to get to where you want to go as opposed to saying you want to do a world tour and then have no clue what you’re doing. Big goals are awesome, but I like to work with the small stuff first and then slowly make my way there. But with that being said, it would be kind of cool to be able to do a world tour. While I’m performing I can casually be like, “Yo, I’m in Toronto right now, and Drake’s going to be on stage.”
So, your biggest goal is to have Drake on speed dial?
TN Basically! [Laughs]
YR Mine is similar to that. I mean to have Drake on my speed dial would be cool but to me I never forget the big picture. I have a book where I write down all the things that are happening in my life. Like everything that has happened in my life in the past year has been things that were beyond my wildest dreams. I never ever imagined getting a record deal, so to me that was already a big picture goal last year. So I’m at a stage in my life where I understand that the big picture is always changing and never too far away.
TN It’s all about perspective isn’t it?
YR Yes exactly. The perspective that she sees, is not right or wrong, but what works for her. Last year when I was struggling to become an actor, getting a record deal was one of the craziest things that I could think of, but I have it now. Being on MTV was one of the craziest things that could happen to me, but I’m on it now. That’s where perspective comes in and I realise that always remembering the big picture goals and having that in your mind is important. And every small step that comes along the way, somehow maps out into that big goal. That is my experience of being in this industry for a year.
Now I want to change how people perceive hip hop from this part of the world. I want to tell people to believe in themselves and that it’s possible to achieve your dreams. I want to prove to people that these messages are real. That’s my big goal that I’m trying to achieve.
I've been a fan of Tabitha's since I was 17. I’ve always admired the amount of effort she puts into cultivating herself as an artiste. That is one thing I’ve always loved her for.
— Yung Raja
What is one thing you admire about the other?
TN I will say this, he is extremely talented. He has only one song out, but he still has so much more to offer. I’m super excited for people to see what he’s been cooking up in the studio. He’s got so much drive which is admirable. I feel like people talk a lot, but no one really sits down and think how to get there. But you can tell he does. He’s the kind of person who does and that really works so much in his favor.
YR I’ve admitted this before in a prior interview, but I’ve been a fan of hers since I was 17. As a teenager, I’ve always admired her from a distance. She’s always had this image and her spot in the industry. She never compromises on quality, or on things that have made her a great artiste. Anything that she puts out or does is always amazing. From her music, to her look, to her shows. She could shoot for a magazine and she would look so international. Looking up to her as a teenager who had no clue how he was going to get there, I’ve always admired the amount of effort she puts into cultivating herself as an artiste. That is one thing I’ve always loved her for.
- Styling Cheryl Chan
- Photography Shawn Paul Tan
- Hair Ash Loi
- Make-Up Zoel Tee
- Photographer's Assistant Yann Cloitre & Kat Midori
- Stylist's Assistant Nicholas Chan
- Location Pasir Panjang Power Station