“We do not only have Nasi Goreng and Rich Brian.”
Indonesian hip hop artist RAMENGVRL was making a point about exploring beyond the expected. HipHopDX Asia’s Artist of the Month this June says that she hopes people— Indonesians and non-Indonesians alike—to know there are “lots of gems” in the country’s growing hip hop scene. “If people would just take more time looking into it, they will surely find their favorite and be invested.”
Since RAMENGVRL (real name Putri Soeharto) released her breakout single “I’m Da Man” in 2016, she has been defying norms—whether it’s gender roles in conservative Indonesian culture or colonial beauty standards; first, with her music and subsequently with GOING NOODLES, a brand she conceptualized and run with a group of friends.
For her, the two go hand in hand. Looking back on her journey as a music artist, RAMENGVRL tells us what she considers to be the biggest change in her career and what remained the same. “I think that it’s not just about me and my music anymore, it’s about building a community and other things surrounding it that can uplift musicians/artists around me who I believe are dope and should be given a platform,” she explains.
“That’s what I’m trying to do with GOING NOODLES, that’s why you probably have seen me in this weird interview style-contents with these artists/figures, or doing these shows with my artist friends because nobody’s ever done it that way. Meanwhile, my view on music is still the same: it is to express myself, to tell a story, and if I can, to inspire people—nothing else.”
We asked RAMENGVRL about her music, what’s in store for her listeners and fans, and her thoughts on the state of Indonesian hip hop these days.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
What are your dream projects? What else would you still want to accomplish?
I wanna make RAMENGVRL and GOING NOODLES a household name, a brand, and a business that spreads across departments, not just music and art. I love to do weird crazy shit that actually engages people in a way that nobody’s ever done before, and on the way, also gives more artists a platform to be known.
Can you share what are you currently working on musically? And how is it different from your past projects?
Well, I got an EP on the way and I’m very excited for this one since it’s lowkey going to be a ‘continuation’ of my album Can’t Speak English.
I always say that Asian hip hop is rising big time—pretty obvious—and I want to be at the forefront of that, and I believe this project is it. It’s heavily inspired by my recent Asia tour late last year where I got the chance to meet all these amazing talents in the region.
I can clearly see that despite our different cultures and languages, we still understand each other through music. Despite our differences, we all have the same vision, same destination, and it’s up.
What non-music things inspire and/or influence your music?
Relationship, period. And I’m not just talking about romantic relationships, I’m talking… everything. There’s a lot of depth in humans and you can never know someone 100%, and to me that’s wonderful.
Mystery really gets my brain working. I’m attracted a lot to the unknown. Getting to know people, spending time with them, even relationships that seem to fade, it just keeps on giving.
Aside from music, what are the things you love working on? And what are the things that keep you grounded?
I find it fun to do these GOING NOODLES interviews. It’s kinda messed up in a way (if you don’t know, just watch one episode), but also funny.
I like making weird unimportant stuff that’ll leave people laughing but also kinda getting something out of it? These famous people are always getting asked the same question from the media. Well, not from me.
I wanna make my own little hidden cocktail bar one day too—I’m a big cocktail gal—fingers crossed.
The things that keep me grounded are my family, my friends, and my dogs. Every time I spend time with them I’m always reminded where I came from, and that the simplest things sometimes are the things that make you most content.
What would you hope your music tells about you as RAMENGVRL, as Putri, as a woman, and as an Indonesian? Are you conscientious about these when it comes to your music? Why or why not?
I know I always tell people that I want nothing other than to express myself through music, but I also know that I have the opportunity to make a difference, to inspire people, to spread a message.
As someone coming from a rather conservative country, I know my work is not your “run-of-the-mill female artist music,” and I’m stoked knowing that. I love doing things differently, and when that inspires different kinds of people, I’m even more grateful.
How would you describe Indonesian hip hop?
The artists are growing and they are talented as fuck, but the audience is still in its premature stage I’d say.
But there’s been a growing appreciation for local talents ever since the pandemic, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for Indonesian hip hop.