Rapper Star2: Look back with a smile and go forward with courage

"Writing music, rapping, and singing, allowed me to process my emotions. It lifted my mood and let me dream." – Star2

Star2 is gaining traction. The Asian American singer, songwriter, and rapper based in San Diego, California, stunningly fuses pop, R&B, and hip-hop for a captivating collision of sound. His fame in the United States and abroad is reaching distant places as far as the Mae La refugee camp in Thailand where he was born.

Star2 is a true survivor

The young rapper was born in a refugee camp in Thailand. His people, the Ka-ren from Burma, have suffered genocide by the Burmese military. “I’ve never been to Myanmar,” he said. “My parents, grandmother, and other family members were born in a village in Burma, renamed Myanmar by the Burmese government. When Myanmar is mentioned to me, I see the Ka-ren people running into the jungle to avoid getting killed by soldiers’ bullets and burned by fires set to burn their villages to the ground.”

Star2’s family walked on foot to the Thai border for months after their village was attacked and burned to the ground. Later, he was born in a camp of 55,000 other refugees. Overcrowded and with hardly any resources to survive on. What he remembered of his parents is, “My mother left the camp when I was an infant. She was just a young teenager. My father was in the camp but I don’t know him. My grandmother took care of me along with her four other children.”

The refugee camp in his memory

He described life in the refugee camps, “We are grateful for the safety of the camps – but the camps are fenced in with guards. There are land mines outside in the jungle. They are isolated and primitive. The paths and roads are dirt. There is often flooding and fire is a constant danger. Bamboo huts provide shelter but there is no electricity and no bathrooms.”

“Food is very scarce and distributed monthly – rice and fish paste. There is very limited medical care. Refugees in the camp are not part of Thailand and cannot work or live in Thailand. They cannot return to Myanmar. There is a high incidence of suicide in adults because of hopelessness. They are in a no-mans-land until they are accepted by one of the countries that take refugees. A very small percentage of the camp gets this opportunity.”

It was a miracle that Star2’s grandmother won an American citizenship lottery and was able to take Star2 and her four young children to California. It was February 2008.

A new life in the United States

Initially, it was not the dream they had imagined. With no father and mother, he arrived with the family in City Heights, a hub in San Diego for refugees. There Star2 faced adversity, growing up in poverty surrounded by gang violence.

Star2’s grandmother struggled to pay rent and buy food while she paid off her debt for the airfare from the camp. Leaving for work every morning before sunrise, she tirelessly picked mushrooms at a farm forty minutes away. Just a young boy himself, Star2 took care of her younger son and twin toddler daughters while she was away at work.

On finding music as a way to cope

The extreme hardships though, only pushed Star2 further into greatness as he found comfort within music. “Music is a big part of our culture. It’s been part of my life since I was a kid. People sing, dance, and play electric guitar and acoustic guitar, drums, keyboard, and cool-sounding indigenous string and drum instruments – at church, New Year celebrations, and other festivals. I sang at church and learned traditional dance too. However, I’ve never studied music formally,” he revealed.

Luckily, he received a scholarship in high school to attend the Los Angeles College of Music summer rap program called, “Rap and Hip Hop: Change the World.” The program included making beats, writing melodies, lyrics, and vocal performances.

Star2 on his idols

“Justin Bieber was a huge influence on me in the US. As a kid, I wanted to be him. I sang his songs all the time, for anyone who would listen. I grew my hair long to look like him.” In middle school, a friend set up a little studio in his room. Together, they spent hours freestyling and copying the singers and rappers they loved – Michael Jackson, Chris Brown, Tyga, Akon, and Young Money Crew.

He started writing his own songs. Asked about the first song he composed, Star2 laughed, “My first song was about a girl I liked in elementary school who didn’t notice me. I was in second grade and wrote it at home, singing it all night. There were many others about the girls I loved at school!”

Since 2020, the prolific songwriter has released a series of genre-bending singles that have entranced audiences with superstar producer Chico Bennett. His collaborations with acclaimed rappers Luh Kel, MarMar Oso, YSN Flow, and Lil Poppa have gotten him noticed.

Star2 on the partnership with Chico Bennett

Star2 shared his story about working with the renowned producer. “Chico has been with me from the beginning… We have been working together for almost four years now. A mentor at the refugee tutoring program introduced me to Chico after discovering my music videos. I went to his studio in LA. We recorded a song and then filmed a music video. The rest is history…”

He could not hide his admiration for Chico, “Chico is very patient. He doesn’t force anything, he lets the session flow. He is a master with beats. He has worked with the greats: Gaga, Usher, Madonna, Britney Spears, Destiny’s Child, and the Killers. He plays ten instruments! He has influenced me to reveal myself in my music, work hard in the studio, and make the very best art possible. We have become like family and are very close.”

They have recorded more than 16 songs and filmed more than 16 videos.

“My life and my story influence my music”

Music is part of his life story and who he is. therefore his lyrics related to his past in some way. Star2 recalled, “I wrote my earliest songs about being a refugee with my Ka-ren friends. We wrote half in Ka-ren and half in English. I wrote about my people’s struggle in my single “Run Away” and a new song I am working on called “Where I’m From.” I write about gang life. I also write love songs, break-up songs, and songs with a hard beat you can dance to.”

“When I have a feeling or experience I want to share, I vibe with a particular beat and start with a verse or a hook idea…and just go from there. Sometimes the lyrics come to me first. I write verses on my phone. Sometimes I actually dream about a song and hum the tune into my phone as soon as I wake up.”

Star2’s taste in fashion

“Fashion is huge!” he exclaimed. Star2 experimented with different looks and constantly changed his hairstyle. “I want to look fun, and new, and of course, the bling is important,” the rapper emphasized with a big smile. “Hip Hop has influenced high fashion, especially with Virgil Abloh and Louis Vuitton. Streetwear is the new go-to for the fashion industry. Shoes remain incredibly important for any look – sometimes they are more important than clothes.”

However, Star2 liked to be comfortable when performing. He explained, “It can be very hot and the shows and practices are long. If my clothes are too tight or scratchy I will not perform well.”

The achievements of the young rapper

Until now, Star2 has received more than 1 million and 4 million views respectively on two separate singles that debuted on WorldStar Hip Hop.

Thinkin Bout You, his latest romantic pop single, has one million views on YouTube and over 800 TikTok and Instagram Reels videos. He has upcoming singles and music videos completed and due for release with Soulja Boy, $tupid Young, and two more with Lil Poppa.

Inspired by music great Tyga and Justin Bieber, Star2 is making a bold mark with an intensely loyal fan base in the U.S. and more recently in Thailand and the UK. Crafting a unique style of modern R&B, his suave sound oozes with a spirited soul.

With over 1 million streams to date on Spotify and after garnering acclaim from Allhiphop, Earmilk, Worldstar, Notion and many others, Star2 is a compelling force.

Striving to reconnect with the past

Star2 is trying to perform at The Rolling Loud Festival. “It is one of the biggest in the world. They recently announced they were bringing the festival to Thailand for the first time. It is scheduled April 13-15, 2023 in Pattaya.” He is looking forward to it with excitement, as he has not been back to Asia since leaving the refugee camp.

Star2 cherishes his heritage and hasn’t forgotten how much the Ka-ren people have suffered. Many have reached out to him to give support on the internet. He has recently reconnected with his mother. She is now living in Bangkok, married with two children. His eyes sparkled with joy, “Her daughter looks a lot like me.”

He hasn’t forgotten the people in the camps, “Many people know about the Rohingya. I want people to know that all the minority groups in Myanmar, including the Ka-ren, have been attacked and subjected to these atrocities. People should not have to escape death in their own countries. I am very very grateful for the help I have received. But, I will always be a refugee and stay involved in my people’s struggles.”

Star2 will also continue to rap about his people. “I want the world to know about the struggle of my Ka-ren people from Burma. I hope to make it big and give back to those left behind.”

Check out Star2 and his music on his socials:

@Star2Official (Instagram, Twitter, TikTok)
@Star2 (YouTube, Spotify)
@It’sStar2 (Facebook)


Photographers: Aram Ki @a_r_a_m_k; Clint Schwabedissen @directedbyclint;
Ted Emmons Photography @tedemmons
Teams: Star Soltan Management LLC and Zero 1 Entertainment
Fashion Stylist: Jamar Hart @Jamar_Hart

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