Ramengvrl announces debut studio album, ‘Can’t Speak English’

The Indonesian rapper talks to NME about the making of her new album, signing to US label EMPIRE and the Black Lives Matter movement

Ramengvrl has officially announced her debut studio album, which is titled ‘Can’t Speak English’.

The Indonesian rapper born Putri Soeharto has been teasing the record for a few months now, dropping the single ‘Vaselina’ featuring Dominican-American rapper Euro in September and following up last week with ‘Look At Me Now’ featuring Korean-American emcee Ted Park.

The album will be released next month via US label Empire, and is the follow-up to her 2019 mixtape ‘No, Bethany’. In a statement, Ramengvrl explained that the record will tell “the full story of my journey: where I come from, what I’ve been through, the Ls and the wins, my feelings and a lot more”.

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Though Ramengvrl hasn’t revealed a tracklist, press materials promise the record will have more features, not to mention production by the likes of Roark Bailey, Omega, Swede of 808 Mafia, Cassius Jay, fellow Indonesian artist SIHK and more.

Ramengvrl talked to NME about ‘Look At Me Now’, why it took her so long to drop her debut album, the Black Lives Matter movement and more. Check it out below.

How have you been getting through the pandemic?

I think I’ve been getting by just fine, in all honesty. And believe me I didn’t half-ass it: I only go out if it’s work, which means I haven’t seen some of my friends in like five months now, which to a lot of people is crazy. But to someone introvert like me, I’ve been charged up and never been more focused – which is ironic haha.

Last week you dropped ‘Look At Me Now’ featuring Ted Park. Tell us how this collaboration came together.

I’ve been a Ted Park fan first ever since I found out his music on YouTube (I think it was ‘Jjajang Mami’), and from then on I was like “I had to have a song with him”. And not too long after I was in the mixing stage for some of my songs for the album, and when I listened to one of the songs (which was ‘Look At Me Now’) it immediately dawned on me like, “Ted Park would be perfect for this”.

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So my manager reached out to him and turns out he said yes. We then went to the DMs to like lock this one up and just to kinda get the vibe out of each other, then not long after he laid out his verse (which was crazy, plus the fact that he did it freestyle, like what).

You’re finally getting ready to release your debut album, four years after releasing your first single ‘I’m Da Man’. Some would say your first album is long overdue – or is it coming right on time?

That might be true, but I’m a firm believer that everything has its own timeline. If I were to release an album say, a few months after ‘I’m Da Man’, would I be the artist that I am now? Probably not, we can never know. What’s important to note though, is that I’ve only just begun. The ‘I’m Da Man’ phase, three years ago, that’s Ramen fetus (lol) like I wasn’t even born. But now I’m here, like hello world, I’m ready, just stepped on the gas.

You showed everyone how ASMR can be a useful medium (for comedy, for talking directly to your fans) on ‘No Bethany’. Is there a similar structure on the new album?

It’s funny you brought up ‘No Bethany’ ’coz looking back, I was like “wtf am I talking about here” (partly coz my English is not THAT great). But yeah I do see the appeal which is why I did it in the first place. For the album though, there’s not gonna be any ASMR coz it’s fuckin’ tiring (ironically), but there’s gonna be some of that “comedy/talking” thing too, wait on it. 😀

Congrats on signing with EMPIRE. How did your relationship with the label start?

Thanks! I remember I met Ghazi [Shami, CEO/founder] and the team when I went to the States two years ago in their San Francisco office and only after that did I know a few things about their label – like the fact that they never wanna own the masters, which to me is damn important for artists in this day and age.

And what people should know is a few of these label’s executives have been knocking on my door, and I’ve been taking notes. But seeing EMPIRE’s track record and their no master ownership principle, seeing some of my fave artists signed to them and having met Ghazi himself made me sure that EMPIRE is the way to go for this album.

Last year, you flew to the US to work on music. Is that how most of the album came together?

Yeah, I mean the big concept I feel like was always there already even before I flew there, but I laid out EVERYTHING there in just two weeks, which even to me is crazy. Coz I’ve never made that many songs in that time frame before. And yeah sure, you can make 100 songs in two weeks, but since this is for the album, I gotta make sure everything is good, especially since I was far away from home with these dope engineers working with me in the studio. So I gotta make the best of it, that’s what was going on in my mind last year.

Earlier this year when Black Lives Matter protests reignited in the US, artists and workers in the music industry (in the US, but worldwide as well) also took advantage of the moment to reflect on its own commitment to racial justice. As an Asian artist making hip-hop music, how was that period like for you?

It was necessary. Coz even though I live far away from the US and people might think that it doesn’t have anything to do with us, I feel like Black Lives Matter is a basic humanity issue that should apply to everybody. It should shake you to the core, the fact that you can lose your life that easily just because your skin is a certain colour.

I hate politics and I always try to avoid speaking of policies and conflicts and whatever because I feel like I’m not in the position to comment on those things and I don’t want to stir people’s opinions with my limited knowledge, but I do know there shouldn’t be a debate on treating every human being equally. And as an artist who’s definitely benefiting off of hip-hop, it’s just common sense to show respect and put a reminder on the people who made the culture what it is today.

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