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Canadian man pursues rap career in Vietnam

March 09, 2021 | 10:50

A Canadian man trying to succeed as a professional rapper in Vietnam has quickly found his footing on the music scene.

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A scene from the music video It’s Alright featuring Canadian rapper Nuce.

By day Luc Loewen, originally from Steinbach, is an English teacher to young Vietnamese student intent on learning the valuable language, by night he is a rapper, mixing beats under the moniker ‘Nuce.’ Marrying his longstanding interest in music with his recent passion for travel was not something Loewen ever thought would be possible.

“I first started travelling in Vietnam three years ago and fell in love with it,” he says. “Then I went back to Canada, saved up money, sold everything I owned I had and moved right back. It is kind of surreal now that I am in Vietnam and I am a rapper… two things I never thought would happen are happening at the same time.”, he told chvnradio.

In a music video for his new single ‘It’s Alright,’ Loewen is a motorbike taxi driver, an occupation not typically held by foreigners. The bizarreness of that turned heads at Vietnam News.

It’s already pushing 40,000 views on Facebook and Luc insists there are plenty more tunes on the way.

“Many of my lyrics are influenced by Vietnam,” the 25-year-old was quoted by VNS as saying “It’s Alright is quite a lot about me being in Vietnam, and now things are good and many of the lyrics in my other songs are related to Vietnam.”

“The first time I wrote lyrics in a notepad I was probably about 15 years old. It started as a coping mechanism for me, with mental health issues. I struggle with Tourette’s and a couple of other neurological things so rap has always been my outlet.

“So that was my hobby and coping mechanism for many years, up until 2018 which was when I started actually making songs and I decided this is what I want to do. I want to fully go into it, and put my soul into it.

“Now I’ve got about eight songs and I’ve started doing music videos.”

Being a former Manitoban entrenched in a Vietnamese hub has a notable effect on Loewen’s rap style. Indeed, the very first stanza of ‘It’s Alright’ offers a window into that swirling world of cultures:

“I was skinny looking like I hit the ice more than a Zamboni

Now I’m healthy with a belly full of macaroni

But up inside me the walls will close me in

Thoughts scrambled like the traffic in Ho Chi Minh”

While rap is not a popular genre in Vietnam, Loewen says a few local TV shows and musicians like himself are looking to change that. As he develops as an artist, Loewen is hoping to gain a better understanding of his immediate surroundings and incorporate more and more Southeast Asian influence into his work. That being said, even speaking in Vietnamese is tricky. Loewen says every tone has a different meaning which can be difficult for outsiders, like himself, to grasp. Nevertheless, he is hoping to pick up on the local dialect so he can have access to two full languages as he continues to create his rhymes.

“It’s a whole new world of wordplay that can be used when you have another language at your fingertips… but I think it will still be a while until I am fully rapping in Vietnamese,” he told chvnradio, laughing.

There are a lot of English-speaking people in Hanoi and especially Ho Chi Minh, but in Loewen’s district, he is one of very few. Right now, to best understand what is happening around him, he relies heavily on his bilingual girlfriend who is from the region.

As for the name ‘Nuce,’ Loewen sheepishly admits that it does not hold any significance whatsoever.

“Ever since I was young and first started writing lyrics, I spent countless hours trying to come up with a rap name that was just perfect and had so much deep meaning and then, when it was time for me to choose a name and release my music, I was like, 'Nuce sounds cool, let’s just do that.' So it means nothing.”

Right now, Nuce’s career may just be at the fledgling stage, but he is setting his sights extremely high.

“Before there was always this self-doubt of ‘that’s just a ridiculous pipedream’ but now if I just do as much as I possibly can to make that happen, and enjoy doing it, then there will be no loss because I enjoy doing it so much, so that’s my goal.”

And if he doesn’t quite make it as an international rap star, Nuce certainly has the experience now to become a Grab driver, and a rapping one to boot!

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Jennifer Tran

Chvnradio, VNS