Words by Truf. Photos by All Is Amazing.
As most families gathered together over the holidays for Christmas, a different kind of family gathered to celebrate a different kind of birthday. Raising The Bar, Malaysia’s most recognised hip hop platform was turning 6 and KL-ites came out to The Bee to celebrate alongside. Despite the lack of activity from RTB over the months prior it was undoubtedly a warm reception. Familiar faces, many of whom have been around since RTB’s genesis, reunited after the long absence to show their support and enjoy the performances.
Long time RTB fans know they’ll always have two familiar faces hosting — Jin Hackman & Dan Shiv, but that night Dan also started the evening with a 45 minute DJ set while the first wave of attendees strolled into The Bee. As soon as the venue started to become dense and the crowd had warmed up, Senna & Ninjaboi of the KrayzieSoundz collective hit the stage to open the live showcase with a number of original tracks, one of them being Orang Malaya’s “Kamu Chantek” (You’re Beautiful). The highlight of their set was when they were joined by Sona One on stage to perform the unreleased track “Ballin’ On A Budget”.
Representing the queens and the only female on the line-up, Kayda dropped rhymes over beats from production heavyweights Sango & Kaytranada. She then fittingly invited two more ladies up on stage, Shikara & Zameara. No strangers to working the mic, they both performed verses that not only held their own but whipped the crowd into a frenzy. To finish up her set Kayda called Radio 3000 up to perform their collaborative single “Your Call”.
Following Kayda’s performance, Jin got the crowd hyped up again before he summoned the enigmatic Luqman Podolski, also dubbed “Rich Ninggal”. Having started out a tongue in cheek viral video rapper his addition to the bill was surprising to say the least. His sub-minute long viral hit “Myvi” has garnered about as many mixed feelings as the car itself but in the live setting it had the crowd reaching for the ceiling full of cheer and laughter.
It was interesting to see also the countless new faces that filled the floor from front to back. Presumptively a result of artists like Aman Ra who has garnered a huge following, most notably with the Malay youth of present. Ra’s music is creating the soundtrack to their environment, unapologetically carrying that flag for thousands of kids that share similar experiences, even catching waves with kids down in the flat littered city of Singapore. His arrival onto the stage couldn’t convince you otherwise, they knew the songs line for line and didn’t let up. The crowds cheers managed to induce a repeat encore performance of the anthem “Budak Flat” and they didn’t hold anything back the second time around.
The closer for the night was none other than veteran Altimet, performing material off his new album for the first time. Its title track “Amboi”, follow up single “Seru”, “Jaguh”, featuring Dan Shiv who joining in on the hook, and finally “Salute” which saw the return of Aman Ra to the stage once more. When watching Altimet, you’ll always recognise his command of the mic, he owns every second the lights are on him and he knows it. He wants you to recognise it and he projects that energy through his performance, you could almost visualise the lyrics bar for bar like in a Scott Pilgrim movie. Of course he didn’t leave the stage without rockin’ his classics “Syukur” and “Bangkit”, their uplifting horn sections closing the show on a bright note.
It might not sound like much to some, but for a platform like RTB to be 6 years and running is a rarity in this city today. Many fall off within six months, some last a year, maybe even three if they’ve found success. With increased success comes greater obstacles and fighting to stay among the top in spite of the trouble, pressure and criticism is just as hard if not harder than the journey there. Does it still have its issues and kinks after six years? Sure, but has there been growth and improvement? Undoubtedly. Especially coming from the days when you couldn’t go to a live event without the term “technical difficulties” being heard. RTB is not only seeking to remain a recognised stage in KL but staying true to it’s name, and continuously raising the bar. This hunger is what has taken them from nights averaging a handful of people in tiny venues that couldn’t care less about their PA system to reuniting local legends and festivals with thousands in attendance.
We also conducted an interview with Jin Hackman which you can read here.
“If Huey and Riley Freeman were a panda that grew up in Lucky Garden.” — Master Bushido Brown