Ariel Nayaka is a busy guy. The 26-year-old Indonesian rapper known as A. Nayaka stayed busy in quarantine, releasing his third album ‘Carakarantina’, collaborating with the likes of Laze and Sippy Straw Greg, and taking part in an all-star pandemic single ‘Damaikan Dunia’. And at the start of 2021, A. Nayaka turned his focus to his other project Blue Room Boys.
Blue Room Boys is more than just a side venture. It’s a hip hop band formed in 2018 by Nayaka and his college friends: Najmi Ismail (bass), Dion Mashiro (guitar), Dewa Agastya (beats/drums), and Muhammad Indirwan (guitar). They have made their presence known, mostly as live performers, with their biggest gig being We The Fest 2018. Three years on, they’ve put out their first recorded project, the album ‘UR Amazing’.
There appears to be a straightforward division of work in Blue Room Boys: While Nayaka serves as the vocalist and is credited as the main songwriter for the album’s nine songs, while his bandmates serve as instrumentalists and producers. On opening track, ‘Livin’, Nayaka mulls over a chaotic romance with sadness and a Drake reference: “You ring me up on Saturday night / Without a call, without a text, without a mention / You bring me up, then bring me down / A rollercoaster of emotion get you flowing”.
This up-and-down romance serves as an overarching theme for the majority of the album: ‘Indy’s Interlude’ revisits the emotional rollercoaster with darker, Kanye West-influenced dramatic flair, while the sarcastic ‘Playing Games’ mixes romantic frustration with sophomoric humor. There is more agony to come on the album’s closer ‘Intervention’, and by this point, it is clear that Blue Room Boys believe misery makes the best album. Their commitment to lyrical cohesion deserves a thumbs-up.
Production-wise, ‘UR Amazing’ is best described as a hip hop record with nods to R&B and funk and noodly guitar reminiscent of Tom Misch – which is quite a departure from its frontman’s typical club bangers (for example, his hard-edged February release ‘4OAK’). Nayaka mellows out when accompanied by a band of brothers.
The breezy and poppy ‘Superpop’ seems to cater to Top 40 music lovers as opposed to hip hop devouts, while on ‘Amazin’, Nayaka attempts to turn up the heat opposite Monica Karina, whose sultry alto comes as a breath of fresh air. Blue Room Boys impress on the jammy, percussion-heavy ‘Speakin Thru’, which promises a “different kind of vibe” and delivers. On ‘Lemigo’, glossed-up with finger snaps and a guitar solo, the group lean entirely into the groove.
As Nayaka himself knows, Indonesian rap fans love a gritty banger (think Ramengvrl’s ‘Look At Me Now’ and Tuantigabelas’ ‘Move’). But Blue Room Boys’ debut album also shows Indonesian hip hop also has room for a band à la Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals, Phony Ppl or Mac Miller backed by The Internet. The low-key release of ‘UR Amazing’ belies a confident and self-assured group that’s ripe for experimentation.
- Release date: March 5
- Record label: Blue Room Boys Sounds