Relentlessly real rhymes with Cambodia’s RuthKo

“I like to compare my life to a lotus, born out of the mud into a beautiful flower.”

You would be forgiven if you missed one of 2022’s best Asian Hip Hop projects – DJ Chee’s Me EP featuring the hard-as-nails vocals of RuthKo – as there was a lot of smoke coming out of Cambodia from another rapper who was also putting the country’s Hip Hop scene on the map. That six-track EP was nothing short of a masterpiece, and even though it was Chee’s autobiographical story, it was RuthKo’s relentless rhymes that made it so real and emotional.

Both artists come from the KlapYaHandz label in Phnom Penh – the country’s first Hip Hop label and the home of its earliest Rap talent. RuthKo joined the label in 2018 at the age of 17 and has racked up some big hits in the years since. His single ‘Change Pt 2’ has nine million YouTube views and counting. Now at 22, he has established himself as a real one, and a voice of the streets.

RuthKo’s latest single ‘Stay the Same’ is an ode to the streets and the kids who live in them. The video was shot by French director Kim Chapiron in partnership with the NGO ‘PSE’ [For a Child’s Smile] which is dedicated to training Cambodian youth with creative life skills like producing, directing, shooting, and editing music videos. RuthKo wrote the song especially for this purpose and it’s a moving track and video.

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