Globe Meets MILLI, the Thai Rap Star Out To Conquer the World

MILLI, born Danupha Khanatheerakul, is an eminent rapper and songwriter who has made waves in recent times, with her distinct brand of Thai hip-hop putting Thailand’s rap scene on the global music map. Following a show-stopping performance at Coachella 2022, the 21-year-old star has become well-known for her outspoken lyrics and dynamic live shows.

Loved by millions for her catchy raps and thrilling beats, MILLI often showcases incredible linguistic skills in her music, blending various Thai dialects with English. Beyond the great success of her solo career, she has collaborated with many local and international artists.

In a recent interview with Globe, the young rapper discussed how she managed to juggle her demanding work schedule and her studies, her interest in working with BLACKPINK’s Lisa, and how she hopes to leverage music as a platform to raise important social issues.

Hi MILLI. Congratulations! You recently graduated, having studied a Bachelor of Music. It is really impressive how you have juggled stardom with your academic studies. How were you able to balance being a popular artist and progressing with your education?

Honestly, I am not good at managing things at all. But I’ve been learning and adapting as I go! One thing I would do was to try to multitask, and fit in as much as I could into one day. So, I would wake up early to play jazz which was part of my classes, then hit the gym, and finally make my way over to my studio for a music session. My uni is quite a long distance from the city, so I had to be careful to schedule my music work around classes, and avoid overlaps. Luckily I’m surrounded by people who support me in many ways, especially my team, who have helped me with so many things, including management and consulting.

Sales of Mango Sticky Rice skyrocketed after you savoured the iconic dessert on stage at Coachella and the video clips went viral. Has the variety in Thai cuisine inspired you to blend different types of music genres, similar to how Thai foods combine flavours?

Absolutely! I’ve been inspired not only by Thai food but also by Thai culture because I am Thai, born and raised here. I grew up in a Thai community so I will often incorporate parts from my daily life and my surroundings into the songs. I’m interested in various genres of music. Currently, I am really into indie, house music, oh and techno. Jazz is my favourite!

“The MILLI Show” was marvelous at the end of last year – it was part rap concert, part comedy talk show. Which comedians do you admire, and what makes you love them?

For me, Uncle Roger is so funny! I do appreciate his humour, as I cannot cook at all. I love the way he brings Asian culture to life in his comedy, making it into something we can all relate to. I once went to his show in Bangkok, and it was fabulous. I like his energy when he tells stories, and how the jokes just go with the flow. Another comedy talent is Jimmy O. Yang, one of my all-time favourite funnymen. Although he doesn’t really roast people, his stories are so relatable, particularly when he goes into topics such as the challenges faced growing up in strict Asian families, along with the high level of expectations Asian parents often place on their children. Do check him out if you haven’t come across him.

As a big K-Pop fan, particularly of BTS and Stray Kids, it must have been a dream come true when you collaborated with Changbin from Stray Kids on “Mirror Mirror”. How did K-Pop culture influence you to reshape your approach to songwriting and performing?

I’ve been a fan of BTS since I was young. They used to create a lot of hip-hop albums and singles, which is one of the reasons I love them, because I love hip-hop! At that time, they were the one boyband that made hip-hop songs, and were very good at it. What inspired me about them is the idea of catching up on my dreams and keep improving. Until today, they are still practicing and continually finding ways to get better, which I greatly respect.

MILLI, considering your unique style and Thai roots, how does a collaboration with the one and only Lisa from BLACKPINK sound, especially as you both hail from Thailand?

I love BLACKPINK! I am a huge fan of them. I have never had a conversation with Lisa but it would be lovely. They are so great. I would really love to work with Lisa! We have some mutual friends, but we didn’t meet in real life. I have a lot of respect for her and what she has accomplished. What I can say about BLACKPINK is: I can dance to all of their songs!

Numerous artists use music as a platform to address social issues and to advocate for change. How do you see your role as an artist in tackling problems within society and what are some of the specific issues you would like to touch on through your music?

I’ve conveyed many messages through my songs. As an artist I consider any message or expression I wish to share in a song as ‘art’ whether involving politics, passion, or my life. What I’m doing right now is trying to empower each woman to love their true beauty and themselves. I also try to be free in my art, saying what I need to say without compromise, regardless of the potential reaction. I have a song called “Not Yet!” highlighting the issue of engaging in sexual activity without consent. I wrote it when I was 18, which I believe is the right time to discuss such topics. The song illustrates how a girl visiting her partner’s home doesn’t imply that she wants him to have sex with her. If she says no, it means no.

You can see MILLI performing at Rip Curl’s Hola Shaka music festival at Riverdale Marina on Saturday April 27, 2024. Visit Ticketmelon’s website for up to date ticket information.