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From Rapper to Singer-Songwriter: Minh Đinh and the Trials to Find Himself

Minh Đinh's journey of self-discovery is one that represents the effort of the multi-talented artists in the Vietnamese indie community.

Vietnamese music fans are likely to be familiar with this young artist through a number of electronic-influenced songs on the topic of long-distance relationships, such as '7711' and ‘Ngày Em Quên Tên Anh.' And yet, not many people know that Minh Đinh began his performing career as a rapper.

In the four years that he has been working on music, Minh Đinh has shown several personae: sometimes as a romantic with an acoustic guitar, another as an energetic and passionate electronic artist. His creative inspiration also comes from diverse sources; a tiny dragonfly or a durian is enough for him to compose a song.

From a rapper who thought he was bad at singing

While in high school, Minh Đinh was a rapper in a band, and together they composed and performed a couple of songs. However, after moving on to study at the National Economics University, he participated in almost no music-related activities. Though he did create his own music club at school, he couldn't commit for long. It wasn’t until June 2017, when he was about to finish university, that he released his first original piece, ‘Chuồn Chuồn và Nỗi Buồn,’ on SoundCloud.

Before the release, Minh Đinh had always thought of himself as a subpar singer. He couldn’t find a suitable vocalist for ‘Chuồn Chuồn và Nỗi Buồn,’ so he decided to just use his own voice. The colorful piece is accompanied by a bright guitar melody. On top of that, its playful lyrics of “let’s ignore the unkind words,” along with Minh’s unmistakable rustic voice, helped create positive feedback from the artist’s earliest fans.

Minh Đinh laughs when asked about the inspiration behind the song: “At that time, I was volunteering to teach children in Bắc Giang. As I was sweeping the yard, I saw two dragonflies eating each other’s heads on the trunk of a tree. That image kept haunting me; I wondered why they had to suffer and be so miserable.” During the Tết holiday, when everybody was happily celebrating, that thought was still stuck in his head, and the melody was born.

Confident in his first written song, Minh Đinh accepted Cổ Động's invitation to take part in their live performance series, "Cổ Động Loanh Quanh." This is an impromptu series that aims to introduce rising artists to the community by providing a place for them to share their work. The filming angle was fixed with a simple setting. This series helped him gain more attention, especially after the passionate debuts of ‘Ngả Nghiêng’ and ‘Thiên Thần Về Giời.’

‘Ngả Nghiêng’ portrays an overlapping array of emotions in life. In this version of the song, Minh Đinh shows off his warm voice, especially during the emotional rap verses. Video: Vietnamese Indie Club.

In 2019, the artist officially released the EP “Mình Là Của Nhau Đến Bao Giờ?” which comprises three new compositions and two remixes of previous pieces. The EP’s name came from a line in 'Đừng Để Nhau Rơi.' Minh Đinh revealed that he was inspired by Billie Eilish, who named her album “When we all fall asleep, where do we go?” after a line in her song ‘Bury a Friend.’

Prior to producing the EP, Minh Đinh mainly focused on lyrics, while keeping the melody simple. The production process helped him take his music to another level of sounds and mixing skills. After quite a bit of self-teaching and learning from colleagues, the artist managed to mix two tracks, ‘Đừng Để Nhau Rơi’ and ‘Mỗi Khi Đêm Về,’ on his own.

The recurring message throughout the EP is about acceptance and allowing things to come and go naturally; one shouldn’t be tormented too much, because everything happens for a reason. For a rising artist with only two years of experience, an EP like this was a remarkable project. However, perhaps Minh Đinh's biggest regret is not being able to properly invest in the visual aspect of the project. Both the artwork and music videos only use simple static images.

Unafraid to try something new

One thing that might surprise people is that before 2020, Minh Đinh was still a full-time marketing employee with a 9-to-5 office job. The artist shared: “I didn’t think I could make a living with music. At the beginning of 2020, when the pandemic broke out, I decided to quit my job even though they insisted that I keep working.” Since then, he has been fully devoted to music, finding many new sources of inspiration for creativity despite the extremely difficult year.

It can easily be seen through his YouTube channel that Minh Đinh is very excited to experiment with new genres and material. He has released numerous tracks while also creating a strong personal brand. While ‘7711’ has a strong modern, deep house feel, ‘Ngày Em Quên Tên Anh’ shows off his melodic rapping skills. Among them, ‘7711’ is one of the most serious projects: there was a teaser, an official MV, and an acoustic version. This song is about his relationship with his girlfriend, who is currently living in Australia. The number 7711 equates to the distance in kilometers from Hanoi to Melbourne.

The official music video for ‘7711’. Source: Minh Đinh's YouTube channel.

After this big turn in style, some may have expected Minh Đinh to continue exploring different genres within electronics. However, the artist confirmed that this was just one of his many experimental attempts with different genres and that he will continue to challenge himself with different styles. He does not plan to make an EP, album or solo show in the near future. Currently, he is focusing on releasing singles and performing at shows that he gets invited to when lockdown is over. He revealed to Urbanist that he currently has about 20 songs that have not been released due to the lockdown period.

Although his works across all genres have received great support from fans, Minh Đinh assures: "There are too many personalities inside me; the best case scenario is to be able to leave an impression on the audience first, then explore other directions." Hence, in the future, instead of pursuing big projects, he will focus on perfecting his work and affirming his unique colors.

[Photos courtesy of Minh Đinh]

Quãng 8, which means "octave" in Vietnamese, is a series of articles on Vietnam's new generation of unique music personalities. Know an interesting musician and want to introduce them to our readers? Send us an email via contribute@urbanisthanoi.com with your ideas.

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