The most profound art derives from personal experiences that played a formative role in shaping who you are and what you stand for. Hip-hop has allowed for a kinetic flow between storytelling and expression in a truly unique way. For STAR2, it’s his therapy, passion, and inspiration to overcome hardships. Since he was young, he has seen real struggle and the beauty that can come of it. From fleeing a Thai refugee camp as a child to navigating his youth in San Diego, music has been there with him through it all, providing a safe space for him through the chaos. His environment has helped him develop emotionally resonant narratives, melodic hooks, and calculated bars. STAR2 channels that energy into creating one-of-a-kind hit tracks that hit deep and open your perspective on love, identity, and real-world issues that anyone can connect with.
STAR2 lets his poetry flow freely in “Run Away,” a track dedicated to the reality of social issues the world is facing today and the core lessons we have to learn from them. The artist understands the true meaning of having a platform and raising awareness when we need it most. He doesn’t shy away from topics like war, unemployment, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the Ukraine-Russia conflict. It is a poignant track that brings STAR2’s lyrical honesty and good-hearted intention into the spotlight, providing listeners a look into his own personal struggles that many can relate to. The song tackles some of the most difficult feelings and emotions we have been dealing with in recent times in a genuine manner. Allow yourself to broaden your perspective with “Run Away.”
How do your life experiences and battles with adversity influence your songwriting and shining talent as a hip-hop artist?
Deep feelings, painful things happening…even trauma…can be expressed in hip-hop songs. At the end of “Real Life” I said, “if it wasn’t for the music I wouldn’t be here.” Music saved me and gave me a way to deal with difficult stuff, and the way it made me feel, by writing songs.
In “Real Life” and my song “Big Bands” (with $tupid Young), I talk about my life when I was hustling on the block in my neighborhood as a kid to survive. In “Run Away”, I went deep and wrote about feeling out-of-control with everything that’s happening in the world. The wars, and the genocide…all this crazy stuff that threatens your life, and your family, your community – your whole world! It’s kinda funny…with the romantic break-up songs like “I Wanna Get F’d Up” and “WTF is Love”, I talk about how your whole world can get shattered, but in a different way. It’s still raw emotions though.
Who were some of your musical role models growing up? How does your music compare and stand out next to them and other rising artists entering the industry?
When I was growing up, I loved Justin Bieber and listened to him non-stop. I also loved Akon, Tyga, Chris Brown, The Young Money Crew, Tupac, and then later on Juice Wrld, and Polo G. I listened to romantic ballads too though. Both kinds of music influence the songs I write. Even though I listen to those artists and respect them, my music is unique to me and my life. It’s about how I see the world. Even with some of the ways these artists influenced me…my melodies and style are all my own.
Some of the collabs have influenced me and my music too. I love the songs I did with Lil Poppa, Luh Kel, and $tupid Young, and what they brought to these songs. Sometimes I write songs and imagine they are perfect for particular artists. I have a song that would be perfect for Kid Laroi! I’ve got another one for Justin Bieber!
What ignited your fire to write such a relevant, impactful single like “Run Away”? How have you felt and faced the effects from the continuous uncertainty and ongoing strife in the world?
I wanted to write a song about what’s going on in the world right now. I was in the studio recording during most of COVID, and in LA during the Black Lives’ Matter protests. My family fled genocide, and has experienced poverty and starvation. In my old neighborhood in San Diego, there are a lot of refugees and all the problems of poverty, homelessness, mental illness, and addiction. The hook just came…I didn’t have to think a lot about it.. At the lowest points in
my life, I literally want to run away to a safe place. I’ ve also felt like “fuck the world,” like I say in the hook.
I was born in a refugee camp, Mae La, in Thailand on the border with Myanmar. My people, the Ka-ren people of Burma, have faced genocide. My family walked 500 miles to reach this camp, one of nine, with 55,000 people – after soldiers attacked their village, killed people, and burned it to the ground.
The camp is surrounded by barbed wire, guards, and guard dogs. There are land mines outside the camp in the jungle. There is very little food. We would get rice and fish paste once a month and go into the jungle to kill small animals and birds with slingshots, pick fruit, and dig up roots.
At six years old, I left the camp when my grandma was chosen by lottery to come to the US. We ended up in City Heights…an area in San Diego where Vietnamese refugees settled in the 1970s. Southeast, San Diego has its own problems: poverty, crime, drugs, and gangs. My grandma’s oldest son, who’s my uncle…got addicted to drugs and ended up going to jail. My grandma would have to leave before dawn to pick mushrooms to support us. When I was just a little older, I was left in charge of three younger children. At this point though, I started to get in trouble in the neighborhood. My life has been chaotic and dangerous since birth.
I totally relate to the suffering of those running for their lives – trying not to get shot down or blown up. I can relate to those I see on the street who are homeless and hungry. I reacted emotionally when I saw the refugees on TV fleeing Afghanistan – running to try to grab onto the outside of planes to escape what was happening in their world. I understand that kind of desperation! I saw the Haitian refugees running away from border patrol agents in Texas who were whipping them on horseback. I thought about these images when I wrote: “there’s also people in different countries…they’ve got to run and fight, just to see another day of life. They’re over there praying for help while we’re worrying about our wealth.” I am grateful to be in the United States, but at some point we have to rise up and demand change and stop tolerating all this injustice. It happened with the Black Lives’ Matters marches. It’s happening with the incredibly brave people in Ukraine.
What about the song’s message and theme will resonate with listeners most? What is your goal in releasing this track built around the social issues and core lessons to be taken away from the global challenges and disasters?
I made the video as a tribute to everyone who is experiencing injustice in the world. I think people relate to injustice and the fucked-up state of the world. We’ve all experienced trauma over the past few years. Mental illness…especially with people my age and even younger, has never been this high, and people just can’t take any more. I wanted to talk about what we’ve witnessed, and experienced, and what we all feel. I also wanted to talk about what it would be like if it was different…and how we could fix it. At the end of the video I ask everyone to pray for peace in
our world. I wear a sweatshirt in the video with a peace sign and I added images of my Ka-ren people fighting back against the Burmese Army– the ones who have massacred them. I wanted to include these things to say I stand with them, and to acknowledge their bravery. (I filmed part of the video in my traditional Ka-ren shirt and used it as the thumbnail of the video on YouTube). Just as we were finishing up the video the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. We added footage of Putin in the video and the horrible bombing of civilian neighborhoods.
What was your creative vision for the “Runaway” music video, and how does it tie into the significant, meaningful lyrics?
The images in the video are to reinforce the lyrics: “I just wanna go away, just wanna run away, hella shit’s been going on…killing, shooting, people dying everyday, I just wanna go away, just wanna run away, got me thinking fuck the world, this place ain’t safe.” I’m talking about the problems society is facing and when you watch the video, you see the images and hear the chorus in what you see.
We filmed the music video in an LED warehouse in Compton, California. They manufacture LED panels that project moving images on the outside of high-end stores, in bars, and hotels. In New York City they show images of surfing and the beach in larger than life dimensions that literally stop people on the street. In the warehouse, they have a showroom to show customers how these panels work. We took a tour and had the idea of using these huge screens as a backdrop for the video. Throwing up the disturbing images of everything we all had been experiencing – the border patrol agents whipping Haitian immigrants; the Black Lives’ Matter protestors getting beaten with batons; the tornadoes in Kentucky that wiped out entire neighborhoods…a lot of this because of climate change; the huge tent cities of homeless people in LA in other parts of the US!
We created a reel of the images in a loop and tuned them to the song’s lyrics. When we filmed the video in the warehouse and saw them projected onto the LED panels, larger than life, we all froze. A few people in our team even started to cry. It was really powerful and sad at the same time..
What releases can fans and followers expect from you next?
My EP Real Life drops on May 13th at the same time as the last track “Big Bands” with $tupid Young with a sick animated video by Serbian animator Lubomir Atan. Right after, I have a feature with Soulja Boy that’s sick! The video’s gonna be kinda old school. We’re shooting at the end of the month and it’s called “New Me.” I did another song with $tupid Young that’s FIRE called “Six Feet Away”, and another one with Lil Poppa called “Pain”. It’s one of my favorites! I have two club dance songs coming too. I’ve been busy!