During President Barack Obama’s visit to Vietnam, he conducted a Q&A session in Ho Chi Minh City on Wednesday and received an unexpected musical performance.
A Vietnamese female rapper named Suboi stood up to ask Obama a question, but not before mentioning that she was a musical artist.
Obama — who was seemingly surprised and intrigued — asked her to briefly spit a few rhymes before moving on to her question.
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He even busted out his own mini beat box to get her started. She was prepared to oblige and asked if he wanted her to rap in English or Vietnamese and, as one might guess, the POTUS chose Vietnamese. (Because, who wouldn’t want to be rapped to in Vietnamese?)
When she finished, she explained in English what she had said. As it turns out, she made a bold political statement in just a few short lines in the presence of one of the most influential world leaders.
Her lyrics were about rich people with big houses and material wealth not being truly happy. According to Mashable, she added that she has been stereotyped in the music industry and has been dismissed as just a “cute girl.”
“Vietnamese people don't think rapping is for women,” she said.
Obama admitted that the same mentality exists in the U.S. and began to engage with Suboi about hip hop culture and how it is a necessary form of expression.
“There's always been, sort of, sexism and gender stereotypes in the music industry, like every other part of life,” he said.
“And imagine if at the time that rap was starting off that the government had said 'no' because some of the things you say are offensive, or some of the lyrics are rude or you're cursing too much,” he added. “That connection that we've seen now in hip-hop culture around the world wouldn't exist. So you've got to let people express themselves. That's part of what a modern 21st-century culture is all about.”
Ironically, Obama’s conversation with Suboi about expression directly correlates with a current issue going on in Vietnam in which officials have been trying to restrict social media and internet access to try to suppress public dissent.
We aren’t sure what Suboi’s original question was going to be, but the spontaneous and authentic exchange that came out of her impromptu performance was certainly worthwhile.
Watch Obama and Suboi's full conversation below. (Performance begins around 1:00).
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