“Seven years is a very long time/They took my all the things,” croons Thaiboy Digital on the opening observe of his newest solo album, Again 2 Life. Born Thanapat Boonleang within the Thai metropolis of Khon Kaen, the Drain Gang rapper relocated to Stockholm at eight years outdated, however visa problems compelled him to return to his beginning nation in 2015. The years since haven’t been simple for Boonleang who, in addition to having his life uprooted completely, misplaced his good friend, the producer Vattenrum, in 2019. The identical 12 months he got married and welcomed his first child. “I realised that I used to be in a darkish place after which it’d been seven years and loads of issues occurred,” he tells me over Zoom. “I received my child after which I misplaced a good friend. I didn’t know easy methods to specific any emotions that I had, so I began doing this album via all these items happening in my life.”
Whereas the load of these turbulent years haven’t been misplaced on Thaiboy, Again 2 Life alerts the beginning of a contemporary chapter. Not dwelling in concern, the 28-year-old appears happier, extra content material. “Thailand is a loopy place, folks prefer to stay on the sting,” he says, “I’ve needed to be taught loads of life classes since being right here, undergo a number of good and unhealthy stuff.” He’s calling in from the seaside city of Hua Hin, the place he’s on trip along with his spouse and child. The connection is lagging however Thaothawong doesn’t appear too bothered. Often his two-year-old daughter clambers onto his again and giggles shyly at me. He says one thing to her affectionately, stating of body to his spouse who’s additionally sitting close by. Even via the Zoom display and dodgy connection, the love is palpable.
“Earlier than we had the child, we partied rather a lot,” he begins. “We had been partying a lot and there was one time after we got here house with the sticker. It mentioned ‘Again to Life’ in pink and black.” It was a seemingly inconsequential discover that will find yourself sticking in his thoughts. “After I take into consideration this entire album and what I am making an attempt to say, I really feel all the things factors to that sticker. It’s illustration.”
Again 2 Life is Boonleang’s third solo album and marks a transfer in direction of a extra mature sound. With manufacturing by DG family and friends equivalent to Mechatok, Lusi and Whitearmor, the sound remains to be drained-out, that includes sparse, ethereal beats and dreamy synth traces. However whereas earlier lyrics tended to contain floor flexes, stacking Benjamins and smoked-out ragers, the brand new tracks replicate the adjustments in Thaiboy’s personal life. “I made this album largely sober, 95 per cent or one thing,” he says. Whether or not he’s flexing “household first” on “All The Method” or reflecting on the beginning of his daughter on “Angel” (“[She] got here down like a blessing”), there’s a vulnerability to the tracks that pulls in your feels and reaches deep into the center. The bars are meatier, much less hedonistic, indicative of somebody who’s gone via shit and made it to the opposite aspect.
“We can not go to the previous, we solely go ahead” – Thaiboy Digital
It’s a pure and regular development that displays Drain Gang’s decade-long journey as an entire, from viral teen cloud-rappers to completely established artists on the cusp of worldwide domination. “I feel it has simply occurred naturally, we all the time are elsewhere in life, completely different locations, completely different instances,” he says, “we can not go to the previous, we solely go ahead”. Again 2 Life, Thaiboy explains, chronicles the expertise of turning into a dad. “This album is me making an attempt to precise my emotions for my child,” he elaborates. “It’s each feeling you would probably really feel mixed with additionally bringing a brand new life into the world, she’s an entire new universe. There’s one other dimension of affection and care and duty. It modified me rather a lot as an individual, I’ve began taking duty. I’ve by no means needed to actually use my mind rather a lot in my life however now I’ve to step up, be sturdy.”
In 2020, Thaiboy launched an EP My Fantasy World below a brand new alias DJ Billybool, AKA “the primary DJ on the entire planet, man”. Impressed by big-room DJs equivalent to Tiesto and Basshunter, the sound is euphoric, life-affirming trance, imbued with a cry-in-the-club depth. “I misplaced one in all my associates, it occurred similtaneously when my spouse was pregnant with my child. I went see my daughter with the ultrasound after which the physician confirmed me her BPM. It was round 138 BPM which is the proper tempo for pleased hardcore and trance music,” he explains. “I received loads of optimistic vitality from that, all the things occurred so quick. I got here house and I solely had Garageband or one thing, I watched one Basshunter tutorial video and began producing the primary tune.”
Across the identical time the pandemic occurred and the collective’s already deeply obsessive fanbase went into overdrive. Name it a symptom of a world switched on-line, or the inevitable subsequent step in Drain Gang’s stardom. However the group, and their terminally on-line sound, started to tackle new significance, spilling out into numerous meme pages, IRL style campaigns, and culminating in a 2022 world tour. “Possibly as a result of they received bored of all the opposite stuff,” he grins. As one of many extra laid again members of DG (“I’m virtually like a ninja”), interactions with followers might be intense, although he seems at it “very fondly”. “I discover it humorous,” he says, “I get impressed by how good or how unhealthy it may be. I don’t get mad anymore. I used to get mad again within the day, however there’s nothing to be mad about. I perceive the place they’re coming from.”
However exterior of the tour cycle, Thaiboy is content material at house along with his household in Bangkok. “I’m exterior of fame proper now,” he says. “Particularly after I’m in Thailand, I simply stay my life. As of late when now we have exhibits now we have to do that and that however the remainder of the day we simply do our personal shit.” If the previous few years have taught him something, it’s that irrespective of how a lot darkness you endure, there’s all the time gentle – and Thaiboy is feeling blessed. Or, as he places it within the album’s title observe: “Seven years is a very long time however now Again 2 Life.”
Again 2 Life is out now