Teen rapper changing minds about Bangkok's notorious slum
Updated 19:24, 09-Feb-2019
By Dusita Saokaew
02:29

Klong Toey, a densely populated patchwork of illegal and semi-legal settlements, is the home to almost 100,000 Thais in just about one square mile. Nestled alongside the city's glitzy shopping malls, it's a complete contradiction to the otherwise urban landscape of Thai capital city Bangkok.

For many Klong Toey is seen as a slum. Many say it's drug-infested and full of crime. This perception has bombarded the minds of the community's youth since the day they were born. With limited opportunities, in addition to believing that outsiders see them as futureless misfits, Klong Toey's youth tend to feel hopeless; assuming that they'll never escape the cycle of poverty.

One teenager is ready to challenge that stereotype.  Thanayut Na Ayutthaya, 17, is making waves in the underground hip hop scene using his rap to spread awareness about serious issues like poverty and education. Thanayut hopes to show the world the other side of his neighborhood by exposing the tight sense of community that comes with living on top of each other.

Bangkok's biggest slum, Klong Toey has long been associated with crime, poverty and drug abuse. /CGTN Photo

Bangkok's biggest slum, Klong Toey has long been associated with crime, poverty and drug abuse. /CGTN Photo

Thanayut says, “Outsiders see us as bad people from the slum, with no talent or skill. I want people to know that Klong Toey kids do have talent.” And what Thanayut may lack in opportunity; he has made up for it in talent. 

Known for his verses on the social stigma of living in the Thai slums where he was born, Thanayuth initiated a rap class at his school a year ago as a way to "break the walls" of Thai education. Of course, not everyone on the school's board was jumping at the idea of this unconventional classroom. But one teacher, Yuthapoom Pohsri, saw students' musical potential and spearheaded the class onto the school timetables as an elective.

Yuthapoom says that this rap class “helps the students vent to reduce the pressure and stress in their lives. Most of these kids have faced a lot of hardship. This helps them communicate their thoughts through their hearts.”  

Rap class at a middle school in Bangkok gives students space to freely express themselves through music. /CGTN Photo

Rap class at a middle school in Bangkok gives students space to freely express themselves through music. /CGTN Photo

Thailand's hip-hop scene was once seen as just imitating the culture and fashion of the West. Now, that has started to change. As the younger generation is brought up under more than a decade of political instability, they are beginning to use rap as an outlet for a conversation covering everything from the mundanities of school life and unrequited love to harder-edged issues like growing up in slums, inequality, and politics.

This rap class has not only brought social critiques mainstream, but it is also giving Klong Toey's youths a chance to elude the traps that poverty places before the underprivileged.