He’s already tackled the United States’s fraught relationship with Saudi Arabia and censorship in China, and now, Hasan Minhaj has finally turned his attention to our very own junta.
“One of the best examples of rap [music] directly going against an autocratic regime is happening in Thailand, where a military junta has been in power since 2014,” the American comedian said on last night’s episode of his Netflix series Patriot Act.
The episode, which centers on the rise of music-streaming platforms like Spotify and Youtube and their impact on contemporary hip-hop, has some fun at the expense of (extremely) easy targets like Lil Pump’s “Gucci Gang,” which, for the uninitiated, repeats the words “Gucci Gang” for about 25 percent of its playing time.
But a big chunk of the episode is dedicated to Rap Against Dictatorship’s explosive song “Prathet Ku Mee,” aka “My F**king Country’s Got.”
While dissecting how the hip-hop industry has benefited from the rise of streaming services, Minhaj notes how those services are offering a previously unheard of platform for political messages.
“The sound of hip-hop may be different, but the most significant thing streaming has changed is [hip-hop’s] reach,” he says. “The spread of hip-hop on YouTube is impacting geopolitics in unexpected ways. Dictators are getting in on the rap game.”
Watch some of the “Patriot Act” episode here
Among the world leaders he cites as having wielded censorship as a weapon are Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow and the president of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping. But then his focus fell squarely on our very own military junta.
“Since taking power, the military has enforced some strict censorship laws and made speaking out against the government very dangerous,” he said of Thailand.
“Even when people protest in some pretty tame ways, the government cracks down.”
Given that environment, Minhaj points out, Rap Against Dictatorship risked everything by not holding back with their now-viral music video, which lobs fiery rhymes at the ruling junta.
“This video got so big so fast that the government just gave up trying to censor it,” Minhaj said.
Instead, they responded by releasing their own “rap” video, Thailand 4.0, which features melodic themes from the national anthem and unleashes such cringe-inducing lyrics as “Make today and tomorrow better by agreeing with another” and “Thai people are so smart. We just need to set collective goals to be stronger.”
“The fact that the [powers that be] had to address this movement shows the power of hip hop and streaming,” Minhaj said.
In November, Coconuts Bangkok interviewed one of the founders of Rap Against Dictatorship, Dechathorn “Hockhcaker” Bumrungmuang.
We talked about the group’s beginnings, inspirations, freedom of speech and getting the PM’s attention. Read our interview with the founder here.