queen

Editor’s note: This Q&A has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Vietnam’s “queen of hip hop,” Suboi, released her second album RUN last September. Suboi, the 25-year-old, bilingual rapper will kick off her first U.S. tour this month. Her South by Southwest performance takes place Thursday at The Trophy Club. Suboi spoke with The Daily Texan for a Q&A.  

The Daily Texan: How did you first become interested in rap? 

Suboi: When I was 14. I listened to Linkin Park and Eminem, but I didn’t think about rapping until I saw Will Smith on TV one day. After that, I started writing my first song. There wasn’t any rap in Vietnam though, so I had to find inspiration in other places. I listened to Eminem to teach myself English. He always uses so many bad words and slang, so back then, my English was really rude. 

DT: Without much rap in Vietnam, how did your career get started?

Suboi: It was hard when I first started out. There wasn’t much stuff on the Internet for me to watch, so it was hard to find inspiration or even an album I liked back then. Vietnam was just about pop music, so when my friends asked me to rap in their metal band, I jumped right in. 

DT: How do you feel about performing in the U.S.?

Suboi: I am very, very excited. I never thought I’d be performing at such a big festival. I’m looking forward to seeing the other artists. In Vietnam, there’s not a lot of diversity. I’m also excited to see the audiences. I’ve seen the crowds on music videos and TV, and I hope they’re the same. I just want them to be excited and hear my music.

DT: What do you think you bring to rap? 

Suboi: I started rapping because I couldn’t express myself in school. In my music, I would say half of it is for me, and half of it is about the message. At SXSW, I really want the audience to see that I have something to say, too. I want them to know that somebody from Vietnam has something to bring to the table. 

DT: Do you ever have to worry about censorship in Vietnam?

Suboi: Well, I have to use a lot of metaphors and wordplay as an artist in Vietnam. You have to balance what you want to say, but you also have to worry about staying out of trouble. I like the challenge of trying to get around those barriers, though. 

DT: What artists have inspired you?

Suboi: First of all, definitely Eminem. He has so much rage, and that really resonated with me. Lauryn Hill is definitely my biggest female inspiration. I get different vibes from different rappers, but I like the way they express themselves in their own crazy ways. I was a shy kid growing up, so I liked how American artists had their own opinions and styles. 

DT: Where do you want to see yourself in ten years?

Suboi: When you look at Lauryn Hill, she has a family, and she still has her career. I want to be doing that. I want to travel the world and have people know my music and take it seriously. I want people to see that I’m just like everybody else. I just want to rap. I don’t want to be just mainstream or just underground. I want people to know what I can do. It’ll be different for them and for me — just to see what I can bring to them. 

GHANA — Who would have thought that we would step into a royal palace in the middle of West Africa? This past Friday, our Maymester cohort was welcomed to the village of Agogo, located in the Ashanti Region of Ghana, by Nana Ama Serwaa Afrakoma Kusi Oboadum, the Queen Mother of Agogo. Palms began to sweat as we made our way into the palace courtyard. The rhythm of drums and traditional dancing welcomed us as we followed the Queen Mother to her royal stool. Shades of red, gold and green adorned her robe. As is the custom, we greeted a host of regional chiefs and other queen mothers that were in attendance at this durber (meaning celebration in Twi, the local language). "Akwaaba" (meaning welcome) followed every handshake and "medase" (meaning thank you) followed every step we took. The young children of the village welcomed us with the traditional African dances called kete and adowa, and within minutes our entire group was moving to the beat of the drums.

The words of the Queen Mother, “Welcome home, my brothers and sisters,” still resonate with us as the durber continues. Some of the key components of the celebration began, such as the pouring of libations, a ritual that acknowledges ancestors of the living dead through prayer. Later, we stated our mission to the village. The 2014 Ghana Maymester’s mission for the village of Agogo is to continue the annual reforestation efforts and build relationships with community members such as the local junior high school in the region.

Our purpose for going on this trip was to gain an experience that we could not find in our own backyards. We had the chance to come together with the people and experience Ghanaian roots in a village. We had the chance to be one.

Cruz is a corporate communication senior from Mission. Sanders is a recent government graduate from Houston. Cruz and Sanders are currently studying abroad through the Maymester Social and Community Development led by social work professor Dorie Gilbert.

Correction: The print version of this article, which ran Monday, misspelled certain Twi words and misidentified the Queen Mother.

Michael Hicks, volunteer for the Ministry of Challenge, assists in delivering food to an apartment on 12th Street on Tuesday afternoon. The non-denominational ministry serves as a drug rehabilitation center as well as a gathering place for the nearby community.

Photo Credit: Becca Gamache | Daily Texan Staff

The immediate area surrounding the corner of 12th and Chicon streets is often described as a hub for rampant drug distribution, gang activity, homelessness and prostitution. A short bus ride from campus to the area will show the corner’s problems remain, yet nestled inside one of Austin’s most underprivileged neighborhoods is a bustling network of tightly-knit community support and altruistic social outreach.

According to sociology professor William Kelly, new development in the area has brought a changing demographic and a relatively stronger sense of safety than the corner had before the shift, when the area had an oft-publicized history of widespread crime.

The influx of new residents to the area has caused property-tax rates to increase — a social phenomena known as gentrification— thereby displacing and exploiting many of the neighborhood’s original residents who struggled to afford housing prior to gentrification. Despite gentrification and a renewed demand for public safety from residents in the area, Kelly said such developments have not come without their pitfalls. 

Queen Lola, a neighborhood preacher who owns a struggling restaurant called Nubian Queen Lola’s a block away from the corner of 12th and Chicon streets, spends her off-time providing free meals to more than 1,500 people from the back of a bus she was given. Lola said the area is much safer than it once was, but she was quick to deny that her life-long neighborhood is safe or stable by any means. 

Queen Lola, owner of Cajun restaurant Nubian Queen Lola’s, provides free meals to families of the community on a daily basis, feeding approximately 1500 people a week. Lola hopes to remodel her restaurant into a soup kitchen in order to service more people. (Photo Credit: Becca Gamache | Daily Texan Staff)

Inside a colorful, albeit lonely restaurant, Lola entertained a single customer. People on the street — Lola’s “brothers and sisters” —frequently stopped to exchange hellos and warm embraces with “the Queen.”

“My whole life I been here,” Lola said. “I raised my children right up there on Hungry Hill. I was here when it was really bad … I woke up one morning and seen what shouldn’t have been 30 years ago, and I’ve been fighting like a dog ever since. I been right here in this community for 30 years blessing, touching and healing.”

Lola’s daily visits to several projects in the area is a personal commitment to social outreach among several, larger organizations’ efforts to provide for the impoverished neighborhood. 

FreeStore Austin, an outreach initiative of the United Methodist Church, provides clothing and other necessities entirely free-of-charge to residents in the area. The modest building is situated across from 12th and Salina streets — now the most notorious drug-exchange spot in the neighborhood.

Matt Cardona, a FreeStore specialist who manages the store, said the community respects and cares for those who genuinely try to help. 

“I even left the doors unlocked one day, and nothing was taken,” Cardona said. “When the people see that you’re here for them and that you care for them, they respect. I got homeless guys that sleep on the back porch. Nothing happens to the building. They care about the people that care about them.”

Also located in the heart of the neighborhood is a non-denominational ministry called the Ministry of Challenge, a drug rehabilitation and housing center that opened in 1993. 

Grady Howie, Ministry of Challenge program director, said the area is not as plagued by crime as it once was, but maintains that the community needs more outside support. 

“We’re the only church in this neighborhood that provides for these people,” Howie said.

John Bailey, participant and resident at the Ministry of Challenge, agreed with Howie, but said the Ministry’s program is very strict. Bailey even called the program “exploitative,” citing the lack of pay for the work thrust upon the Ministry’s residents. 

Lola had similar concerns and has long been suspicious of other outreach organizations in the area. 

“I promise to God none of these outreach organizations are providing for these people,” Lola said of major initiatives like “Mission: Possible!,” a non-denominational Christian organization that focuses outreach at the inner city. “They came to the neighborhood lying, talking about how they been helping for 20 years. And I know that’s a lie because if they really were, I wouldn’t be doing all that I’m doing.” 

Lola, who will often park her bus outside FreeStore Austin in solidarity, said she hopes to turn her struggling restaurant into a soup kitchen. 

“I’m just not the kind of person to just sit and watch somebody in a situation and do nothing,” Lola said. “You give someone something they need they gonna praise God … then they gonna thank God for you, and you just got blessed — and that’s what it’s all about.”

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Netherlands’ Queen Beatrix announced Monday that she is ending her reign after 33 years and passing the crown to her eldest son, who has long been groomed to be king but who will have to work hard to match his mother’s popularity.

The widely expected abdication comes at a time of debate over the future of the largely ceremonial Dutch monarchy, but also as calm has descended upon the Netherlands after a decade of turmoil that saw Beatrix act as the glue that held together an increasingly divided society.

The queen, who turns 75 in a few days, said she will step down from the throne on April 30.

Cailun Booker, a senior advertising major and member of Zeta Sigma Chi sorority, leads a presentation on campus regarding the famed Matel doll and her position in a multicultural world. Booker’s talk focused on Barbie’s many cultural and ethnic identities and the consequences stemming from the toy’s evolution.

Photo Credit: Kelsey Shaw | Daily Texan Staff

Barbara Millicent Roberts, the original queen of the plastics, has only been around for 52 years. She has succeeded in more than 108 professions ranging from a surgeon, gold medal gymnast, astronaut, UNICEF diplomat and even a McDonalds employee. Roberts, more commonly known as Barbie, has definitely come a long way from her original catchphrase of “math is hard.”

Barbie to some is the ideal woman: She always has a great job, she has the perfect relationship with Ken, she has transformed into almost every ethnicity imaginable with a simple coat of skin tone-colored paint, and she is able to do all of those things while maintaining an estimated body mass index of 14.9 — pretty good for a 52 year old. Barbie has come far, but can she be considered a role model to young girls of all races?

Cailun Booker, vice president of Zeta Sigma Chi sorority hosted “Barbie and Multiculturalism” last night to a small group hoping to discuss diversity and the evolution of the Barbie franchise.

In 1980, Mattel released an around-the-world collection, showing that Barbie can not only have multiple jobs but can be multiple races. Mattel used the same facial structures, only changing skin tones and outfits to represent girls from all over the world. This practice proved to be very controversial. Mattel released minority dolls in hopes of giving minority girls a positive self-image.

“I’ve noticed the cultures they highlight have dwindled over the years and the ones they do continue to make are falling short,” Booker said. “In the future, if they are going to continue with these dolls they need to make more ethnically-distinct faces or people will start to catch on and business will fall by the wayside.”

Another thing that Booker said Mattel needs to keep in mind is Barbie’s physical features.

“Physically, Barbie is very unrealistic, if that is all girls have to look up to they will end up having body issues. Her body can affect psyche of young girls, who want to live up to her very unrealistic body type,” she said.

Over time, Barbie’s jobs have become more challenging: Rather than a nurse, she became a doctor, and rather than a flight attendant, Barbie became a pilot. The evolution of her occupations shows that women could be anything. In 2000, Mattel released President Barbie, making her the first female president.

So can Barbie be a role model? Her resume says yes, but does her failed attempts at being multicultural disqualify her?

“Physical aspect aside and just focusing on the life she has lived you can see the positive side of Barbie. She is making strides, she is doing jobs that other girls dream about having. She has done so much besides living in the dream house and being the cheerleader,” Booker said.

Music Monday

The Daily Texan had the opportunity to speak to Diamandis on the phone about her current tour, burgers and fashion sensibilities.

The Daily Texan: Why is your tour called the Burger Queen Tour?

Marina Diamandis: I’m obsessed with trash culture! The Family Jewels was about the excess of it — gossip magazines and things that look really good but don’t have any values. I love pop art and Americana. It’s the essential album for that kind of taste.

DT: Do you actually like burgers, though?

MD: I like good burgers. I don’t go to McDonald’s unless I’m really hungover and want some fries. Usually, I stick to gourmet burgers.

DT: Our main music writer, Frankie, likes to ask people what their perfect sandwich is, but since you’re the burger queen, what’s the perfect burger?

MD: The best burger I’ve ever had was at the bar in Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. It had your regular toppings, like caramelized onions, bacon, cheese, jalapenos and gherkin. I can’t remember what you call gherkin over there. They’re like cucumbers.

DT: Pickles?

MD: Yes, I think so. Gherkin, which is a disgusting word, looks so vile but tastes amazing.

DT: Has anything bizarre happened to you while on tour?

MD: To be honest, my threshold of bizarre is off the rocket. Life just seems like a fluffy blur, and nothing can really weird me out. I’m not freaked out by hard-core fans; I love that stuff. I’ve lived an unusual life. I moved around quite a lot. My dad is very eccentric, and my mom is a free spirit. They were very nonjudgmental, and I’ve seen a lot of different things.

DT: The Family Jewels is like this tongue-in-cheek commentary on American pop culture. What made you want to write about that?

MD: It’s not just about American culture, but a lot comes from that. If you don’t get the tongue-in-cheek stuff, you won’t get the whole album or me as a person. It’s just how human beings cope with tragedy; we turn it into humor. I like picking up all the dark things and making something jovial. You either commit suicide or become a pop star.

DT: Pop music can get a bad rap sometimes. How do you respond to critics who have called your music bubble gum?

MD: I love hearing that! At the moment, I’m so ambitious that I’m half delusional. I want to be massive, and I think I will be. My songs aren’t just “Hey babe, I fancy you,” but I don’t think it’s out of left field to call it bubble gum. I wish my songs got more play on the radio, though, in the U.K., as well. I think pop is incredibly powerful. Really, if it’s catchy, you can get away with anything.

DT: You have a very colorful, graphic sense of fashion. Who or what inspires your style?

MD: I suppose it’s the balancing of masculine and feminine. Humor inspires me. I think with British people in general, the humor is so tapped in our culture. I can wear leather and studs, the heavy aggressive stuff, with a pair of fluffy marabou slippers.

DT: Wait, what kind of slippers?

MD: Those porn star slippers! I just bought like five pairs in Hollywood. It’s bad news.

DT: It’s been more than a year since your debut album was released. What’s in store for the future?

MD: I’m a quick writer, so I already had half of it done by the time The Family Jewelswas released. I’ll probably start talking about the new album later. It’s still a bit too soon. I know my instincts say it’ll be bigger than my first, but I don’t know anything else. I just want it to be really big. Everything else will fall into place.

Music Monday

Welsh-born pop songstress Marina Diamandis, in her vintage letter jackets and vibrant skirts, would probably look right at home among the pages of a pop art comic book.

While Marina and the Diamonds’ debut album, The Family Jewels, pokes fun at the material world and culture of the Millennial generation, a culture Diamandis admits an infatuation with, the content on her follow-up album still remains hush hush. No release date will be set until she decides it’s fabulous, Diamandis said. Until then, she’s touring stateside on the flippantly named Burger Queen Tour.The Daily Texan had the opportunity to speak to Diamandis on the phone about her current tour, burgers and fashion sensibilities.

The Daily Texan: Why is your tour called the Burger Queen Tour?

Marina Diamandis: I’m obsessed with trash culture! The Family Jewels was about the excess of it — gossip magazines and things that look really good but don’t have any values. I love pop art and Americana. It’s the essential album for that kind of taste.

DT: Do you actually like burgers, though?

MD: I like good burgers. I don’t go to McDonald’s unless I’m really hungover and want some fries. Usually, I stick to gourmet burgers.

DT: Our main music writer, Frankie, likes to ask people what their perfect sandwich is, but since you’re the burger queen, what’s the perfect burger?

MD: The best burger I’ve ever had was at the bar in Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. It had your regular toppings, like caramelized onions, bacon, cheese, jalapenos and gherkin. I can’t remember what you call gherkin over there. They’re like cucumbers.

DT: Pickles?

MD: Yes, I think so. Gherkin, which is a disgusting word, looks so vile but tastes amazing.

DT: Has anything bizarre happened to you while on tour?

MD: To be honest, my threshold of bizarre is off the rocket. Life just seems like a fluffy blur, and nothing can really weird me out. I’m not freaked out by hard-core fans; I love that stuff. I’ve lived an unusual life. I moved around quite a lot. My dad is very eccentric, and my mom is a free spirit. They were very nonjudgmental, and I’ve seen a lot of different things.

DT: The Family Jewels is like this tongue-in-cheek commentary on American pop culture. What made you want to write about that?

MD: It’s not just about American culture, but a lot comes from that. If you don’t get the tongue-in-cheek stuff, you won’t get the whole album or me as a person. It’s just how human beings cope with tragedy; we turn it into humor. I like picking up all the dark things and making something jovial. You either commit suicide or become a pop star.

DT: Pop music can get a bad rap sometimes. How do you respond to critics who have called your music bubble gum?

MD: I love hearing that! At the moment, I’m so ambitious that I’m half delusional. I want to be massive, and I think I will be. My songs aren’t just “Hey babe, I fancy you,” but I don’t think it’s out of left field to call it bubble gum. I wish my songs got more play on the radio, though, in the U.K., as well. I think pop is incredibly powerful. Really, if it’s catchy, you can get away with anything.

DT: You have a very colorful, graphic sense of fashion. Who or what inspires your style?

MD: I suppose it’s the balancing of masculine and feminine. Humor inspires me. I think with British people in general, the humor is so tapped in our culture. I can wear leather and studs, the heavy aggressive stuff, with a pair of fluffy marabou slippers.

DT: Wait, what kind of slippers?

MD: Those porn star slippers! I just bought like five pairs in Hollywood. It’s bad news.

DT: It’s been more than a year since your debut album was released. What’s in store for the future?

MD: I’m a quick writer, so I already had half of it done by the time The Family Jewelswas released. I’ll probably start talking about the new album later. It’s still a bit too soon. I know my instincts say it’ll be bigger than my first, but I don’t know anything else. I just want it to be really big. Everything else will fall into place.