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Thaiboy Digital by Fredrik Andersson Andersson
Thaiboy DigitalPhotography Fredrik Andersson Andersson

The Thai rapper finding strength in sacrifice

Thaiboy Digital was deported from Sweden two years ago, but today the Drain Gang associate and Yung Lean collaborator is finding a way to keep his head above the surface

Two years ago, Thaiboy Digital was deported from Sweden. Having lived in the Nordic country since the age of nine, the rapper suddenly found his entire life uprooted, including his close relationship with Drain Gang – a crew of young Swedish rappers and producers who have a close bond with Yung Lean’s Sad Boys, featuring musicians such as Yung Sherman and Bladee. Back in his birth country, he moved in with his parents in Phuket and continued to work on music with the crew remotely, but after a chance introduced to the rapper Younggu, he moved to Bangkok, where they’ve been working together on music since.

For his latest EP, however, Thaiboy Digital travelled back to Sweden for a summer. S.o.S., which stands for ‘Suicide or Sacrifice’, is an emotional snapshot of this period in his life. On “Nothing 2 Fear”, he sings devotedly about a girl he left behind in Thailand: “There is no one like her,” he asserts over a heavy coating of AutoTune. Connecting with producers Yung Gud, Groundislava, and close affiliate Woesum, the EP sees him pulling in chugging 80s synths and blending them with trance presets and happy hardcore, combining heartfelt verses with joyous, euphoric production for some of his best output yet.

In the video for “Magic”, directed by Yung Lean collaborator Rigel Kilston, Thaiboy Digital moves fluidly through a pavilion surrounded by peach and deep purple-leafed trees. We talked to the rapper about the EP, rebuilding his life in Thailand, and how his relationship with Drain Gang has been since being deported.

Is there any sort of narrative or concept that runs through S.o.S?

Thaiboy Digital: All the songs are sort of about this one girl and the current situation of my life at the time. It was a Suicide or Sacrifice situation.

Your S.o.S. EP is out next week. Could you talk about the process of making it and how these four tracks came together?

Thaiboy Digital: I recorded most of the songs in Sweden in 2016. The first two songs on the EP are produced by one of my good friends, Woesum. He did the ‘2seats’ track as well. Last year, while I was in Stockholm working on Suicide or Sacrifice, we linked up and made ‘Top Town’ and ‘Nothing 2 Fear’, which has a pretty different vibe from my old tracks. I was constantly on the phone with a girl from Thailand, which kind of tore me apart – I spent my summer in Sweden, but my heart was back in Thailand.

The third track, with me and Gud, happened while we was working in the same studio. I just asked him like, ‘Bro, let’s make some fire.’ The first track that came out of that session was ‘Magic’. The last track on the EP was recorded in LA after Yung Lean’s Warlord tour, which I was opening on. I stayed behind in LA for another week after the tour and my friend Karman linked me up with Groundislava. I told him that I was into happy hardcore and Basshunter-type songs, so we made ’Ruby’.

The artwork for it is really striking – a boat sinking in the middle of ice caps. What does that image mean to you?

Thaiboy Digital: Gotta keep your head over the surface at all time. Sacrifice one thing to get the other. 

You’ve worked with producers such as GUD, Groundislava and Palmistry on some of your newer music. What do you look for when you are searching for beats to rap or sing over? 

Thaiboy Digital: I prefer to work with producers that bring something new to the game. People that I respect and they respect my way of making my thing, you know? Someone who can bring the vibe into the tracks and then evolve with it. I don’t want to get stuck on the same vibe. The music changes with my mood/life.

In 2015, the Swedish Immigration Board deported you to your birth home of Thailand. Can you tell us about that?

Thaiboy Digital: I mean, it really sucked that I had to leave all my homies you know? I lived there for ten years. But it wasn’t the end of the world. Shortly after the bros came to visit me, and that’s when we recorded AvP (his 2016 EP with Bladee). I can still go back to Sweden now, so it’s all good.

“It really sucked that I had to leave all my homies you know? I lived there for ten years. But it wasn’t the end of the world” – Thaiboy Digital

How did you rebuild your life once you’d relocated?

Thaiboy Digital: When I came back, I moved and lived with my parents in Phuket. One day, a rapper in Thailand called Younggu reached out to me through Instagram and said he’d heard I’m back in Thailand. He wanted me to come to Bangkok – said he wanted to show me around and book me a show and stuff. I booked the ticket the same day and I flew there like a month later, and I’ve been living there since.

Did it change the course of your music career or did you continue working as you would have normally done in Sweden when you were back in Thailand?

Thaiboy Digital: Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe, I guess? I'm not in the studio with my gang anymore, so I can't make music as fast as I used too. But I still go to the studio here in Thailand every time I’ve got another one on lock. 

Are you part of any group of artists out in Bangkok or are you connecting with people musically in other ways?

Thaiboy Digital: I’m not in any group here, no. I’m forever GTB Drain Gang, man. Whitearmor will always be my main producer – but Younggu and Thug Mansion, they’re my brothers too out here in Bangkok. 

What did the move mean for Drain Gang? 

Thaiboy Digital: We can’t hang out like we used too and make tracks and videos as fast, but we’re global now – we can link up anywhere. We’ve got a Drain Gang compilation coming up later this year followed by a UK/EU tour, so you know we'll drain your city soon.