“Soto Ayam Bu Karti” has been in our staff members’ conversations for the past few weeks. This absurd short parody by Mamang Kesbor references the style of trap hip hop artists (most obviously Playboi Carti) to tell a story about a chicken soto street food stall. Speed of Sound Mag’s editors and staff writers collaborated on an editorial reviewing the song and the extent of which “Soto Ayam Bu Karti” impacts Indonesian culture, however niche it could be. We hope that you’ll have as much fun reading it as we did writing it.
The first time I heard of Mamang Kesbor was when the rapper Mardial started implicitly tweeting about the “jamet” (jawa metal) subculture, referring to the emo/melodic metal cyber cafe-hogging, hawker food-loving “band kids” community in Indonesia and introduced us to Mamang Kesbor with a trap-influenced yet at the same time guitar-based track titled “Emo Night”, continued by the infamous “Soto Ayam Bu Karti”. Thus Mamang Kesbor can easily be interpreted as a mixed parody – a blend of trap hip hop parody and emo/”jamet” parody, something new to the industry.
There is definitely a market for trap in Indonesia and a market for emo as well. The success of recent local hip hop releases with trap influences such as ENVY*’s “No Wonder We Have No Friends” (most apparent in “Fuego”) proves that trap is beginning to gain appreciation from local hip hop enthusiasts, and the success of “emo night” event organisers such as Die Underdogg and Crowdsurfers further proves that emo isn’t dead in Indonesia. Mamang Kesbor’s “Soto Ayam Bu Karti” caters to both markets in a fun way, yet these two markets are very diverse. The emo market, mostly consisting of “jamets”, are more likely to consume hawker food than the local hip hop community, mostly consisting of middle to high class locals. The hip hop community would appreciate “Soto Ayam Bu Karti” as a fresh set of beats, while at the same time regarding the song as a comic relief. In conclusion, while “Soto Ayam Bu Karti” caters to both subcultures, it has a different cultural impact on each subculture: a hawker food and overall cultural appreciation song for the “jamets” and a trap hop comedy for the local hip hop community.
All things aside, “Soto Ayam Bu Karti”’s got a catchy rhythm, and I could say the trap influence in the song made it even catchier. Mamang Kesbor’s melancholic mumble rap style however made it even more iconic, as Mamang Kesbor itself is the trap x emo parody you’d never thought you’d need in your life. However, I would say the production is a bit too lo-fi and overly autotuned and at times you can’t even hear what the Mamang is saying – and that’s quite disturbing to say the least.
In my music class, we introduced ourselves by saying our favorite music and least favorite music. Almost half of the class answered “mumble rap.” I personally have my own opinions about mumble rap (yes, sometimes the lyrics could be undecipherable, but the beats keep me energized), but I always wonder why it is always vilified as a genre. Most listeners and people who hold strong opinions on hip-hop views mumble rap as a degradation of the rap genre. Some would say that it gives hip-hop a bad reputation. Is it because of the morally ambiguous artists? Laughable lyrics? Should it be viewed as parody or as a form of art?
Mumble rap has felt its ripples to Indonesia. I hear it most often intersecting with automobile and Hypebeast subcultures, as a song they listen to in their cars while copping the new Supreme. Even in the local industry, Indonesian rappers have adopted an aspect or two of mumble rap, from members of crews like Preachja such as Madt Cult, to Matter Mos’s guest verse’s flow in Hindia’s “Jam Makan Siang” (which shows that these kinds of flows definitely sound better in English than in Indonesian). These guys have been doing it seriously, while Mamang Kesbor, on the other hand, took the “low culture” aspect of mumble rap and brought it to the next level in “Soto Ayam Bu Karti.”
We can see what influenced Mardial (owner of Mamang Kesbor’s persona) to create this song just from the title—Playboi Carti, especially his 2017 self-titled album. And the song indeed succeeded to be the parody of all mumble rap is about, from the fascinating ad-libs (“skrrt,” “pew pew,” “owh,” “what” among some of them), the occasional autotuned vocals, the trap beats getting you to move a little, and the imagery of violence and cuss words.
“Soto Ayam Bu Karti” also transcends the genre of mumble rap by being a linguistic marvel; Mardial uses his great grasp of Indonesian, English, and Javanese to create witty, hilarious lyrics—among them include “Slice that chicken with golok” and “Wis mangan ora udud? Paru-paru jadi cemberut.” The funniest lyrics for me remain “Nyang ngeang ngiung anaknya siapa? Pok ame-ame, belalang, kupu-kupu,” a sudden interjection in the food-themed lyrics as Mardial calms a crying baby. It is amazing how the song manages to be an effective critique of a genre that is often vilified by its lyrics, while still remaining to create witty, hilarious lines.
If there’s a bunch of guys in Indonesia doing mumble rap seriously, Mamang Kesbor is responding to it parodically in “Soto Ayam Bu Karti.” It is a humble reminder that we as music listeners and reviewers should take a break from taking the music industry too seriously, look at it from afar, and laugh at its absurdities for a bit.