Like many other countries in Asia, Cambodia may be an unlikely hub for a thriving hip hop culture and scene. However, in the late ‘90s and early years of Y2K, Cambodia was influenced by international pop music and another genre made its way from the far west namely hip-hop and rap music via notable Rappers like Prach Ly, Dj Cake. It's only recently that rap music has begun to gain popularity.
In this blog series, we're going to talk about some of the Cambodian rappers who are breaking out of their small scene and making a name for themselves internationally—and how they're using their platform to help their country grow into a more open, creative, and inclusive society.
1. PraCH Ly
Considered a pioneer of rap, PraCh Ly is a popular rapper in Cambodia. The story of this Cambodian rapper begins at a Cambodian camp where he was born. His mother was held in that camp by the Khmer Rouge. PraCh Ly's music is mostly inspired by his own life.
The extent of immersive storytelling in his lyrics is outstanding and he sounds quite natural like a contemporary American hip-hop artist. In 2000, he debuted with his album ‘Dalama....The End'n is Just the Beginnin'. There is no official YouTube channel of PraCH Ly. But you can listen to his songs on YouTube. The Great Escape, Fragile Hope, and Revolutions are some of the famous songs of PraCH Ly.
No wonder, VannDa is one of the best Khmer rappers in Cambodia. He is the face of hip-hop in the country right now. At the tender age of 25 years, VannDa made history through his hit single ‘Time to Rise'. He started his music career with independent releases between 2016 and 2018.
VannDa's music is heavily inspired by his experiences from the past with some of the tracks too painful to compile in a song. Check out VannDa's official YouTube channel for famous hit singles. Khmer Blood, Bok Kalo, and Time to Rise are some of the many hit songs of VannDa.
3. Van Chesda
A successful rapper, songwriter, and singer, Van Chesda rose to fame in 2015 for being the finalist in Cambodia's Got Talent. Since then, Van Chesda has been on a rolling stone in music. His songs represent an emotive approach to music. So, if he's happy, you will find an upbeat track.
And, if he's upset, a song with sentiments is likely to come out. Like other Khmer rappers, Van Chesda injects new life into traditional Cambodian music. He is passionate and encourages young talent. Listen to Van Chesda's songs on his YouTube channel. Some of his popular songs include Wish, Madizon Mondiza, and Rainy Sky.
4. Kea Sokun
Arrested for his controversial nationalist songs, Kea Sokun is a popular Cambodia rapper. His songs included sentiments against the oppressors and he did that without fear. After serving almost one year in jail, he was released. Kea Sokun apologized publicly and saved himself from the sentence.
Despite that, the rapper came out in a new avatar and ignited new meaning in his hip-hop style. His perseverance is appreciated by many and his music displays a different level of artistry. You can find great music on his YouTube channel. Face Killer, Siem Reap, Angkor Territory, and Khmer Land are some of his popular songs.
5. DJ Khla
The next Cambodian rapper on this list is DJ Khla. Not only he is a famous rapper in the country but also his music is popular for other reasons. He is one of the rare Cambodian artists to fearlessly speak against the policies of Hun Sen's Government. He is a political activist who's living in exile in Europe.
In 2012, he released the hit single Rambo. He combined the common inflictions of Khmer vocals with the realities of Cambodian life to create songs that gave him popularity. He speaks out against the prosecution of the people of Cambodia. There is no official YouTube channel for DJ Khla. Mean Ch'ey and Rambo are some of his popular songs.
6. MC Lisha
Also known as Jesica Srin, MC Lisha is the first female hip-hop artist in Cambodia. She started in early 2000 and has been doing great. Although she studied Cambodian dance at the university, she became a pop singer at the age of 20. This is when she realized that hip-hop is the only way to spread her message to people.
MC Lisha's music is inspired by traditional Khmer classics. She took inspiration from the genre's characteristic beats to create something original. The hip-hop scene in Cambodia is thriving no because of efforts from several artists like MC Lisha. Although there is no YouTube channel, you can listen to her songs in your nearest music shops.
Vuthea is another great songwriter and singer who is inspired by famous personalities like Michael Jackson and Sin Sisamuth. He mixes genres from rock to hip-hop while capturing the joyous nature of youth. The songs mirror his own experiences which improved his musical skill during his college days.
Moreover, the artist is quite impressed by the Golden Era of Cambodia's music industry that began in 1953 in France. This is the official YouTube channel of Vuthea where you can experience great music. Some of his hit songs include Kach Mles Neang, Oun Sas Ey, Kromom 3 Styles, and Kboun Nhae.
RuthKo is another young rapper who has been a sensation in Cambodia in recent years. His music offers deep personal lyricism that is complemented by pop sound. He started his career by following a label called KlapYaHandz.
While he was a fan of the label in France, he moved to Cambodia eventually in 2021. He joined the label's extensive roster shortly. His official YouTube channel has lots of impressive songs and some of them are Brotherhood, Change Part 2, and And Again Part 2.
Popular dance crew and hip hop group Polarix create music that compels everybody to come on the dancefloor. They collaborate with sensations such as SONGHA, A-GVME, VannDa, and many more to create remarkable music.
The group's music characterizes the kind of atmosphere that comes naturally to the youths. Check out their official YouTube channel to have great music. Shut Up/Keep It Too, Make Np Sense, and Our Day are some of the popular songs of the group.
10. La Cima Cartel
The La Cima Cartel is founded by RXTHY and Songha. It is a group that comprises underground rappers that come with the versatility and talents necessary to attract the younger generation. If you like to experience the real Cambodian hip-hop scenario, listen to music created by this group.
The group experimented with traditional Khmer music, inventive rapping styles, and trap influences. This is the official YouTube channel of La Cima Cartel. Single Lady in My Village, She Thicc, and Prank (Kou Prank) are some of the popular songs from the group.
HENG is another young rapper who has been a sensation in Cambodia in recent years. He began his career with Wass Good Music. He is a son of Cambodian veteran rapper, DJ Sdey. Check out his YouTube Channel to have great music.
G-Devith or Dit-Way is another Cambodian Rapper, Composer, and producer who has been popular in Cambodia in recent years. Devith began his career in 2014 by debuting as a singer under Rasmey Hang Meas Production. However, in 2019, he left the company and established his own label under the name of Dit-Way Nation. Check out his music via YouTube Channel
14. Pu Klaing
Pu Khlaing is a veteran singer, rapper, composer, and producer who has been a sensation in Cambodia since the mid-2000s with some of his notable songs such as Dam Neoung Laor (I have good news), Silapak Daun Ta, Kromom Khmer, Mr. KalungBung, etc . After 15 years of hiatus, he makes a comeback and resumes his activity with releasing solo and featuring music: Rong Ker, 3some, NekNea remix, etc. Check out his new release via YouTube Channel
15. Khmeng Khmer
Khmeng Khmer is a Cambodian duo who debuted in 2015. The band consists of Kao Ponleu as the main vocalist and Chea Socheat as rapper. The release of their debut album with Laura Mam on "Navanny is me", which is also a popular song in Cambodia, under Baramey Production. Check out their YouTube Channel to have great C-pop (Cambodian-pop) music.