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Hip-hop Duo Livingroom. Discuss Channeling Summertime Youth

Hip-hop Duo Livingroom. Talks Channeling Summertime Youth in New Album
Hip-hop Duo Livingroom. Talks Channeling Summertime Youth in New Album

The duo’s English-language LP, Are You Free This Summer, is poised to be your go-to soundtrack of the summer.

Only during summertime does youth last forever. That is pretty much the thesis statement of Livingroom.’s freshman studio album, Are You Free This Summer, which is available to stream on digital streaming platforms.

The hip-hop duo, fronted by the 21-year-old Liam Amadeo and his younger brother, the 17-year-old Ingmar Anargya, knew very well what was at stake before they dropped Are You Free This Summer. All eyes were on them when they first nabbed critical acclaim at such an early age, but a full-length album would be seen as a definitive declaration of whether Livingroom. is, indeed, the future of the Indonesian hip-hop music scene. Are they truly built to last? Is the future of hip-hop safe in these youngsters’ hands? Or, worse, are they simply a one-hit wonder?

Turns out, as evident in Are You Free This Summer, the brothers decided not to sweat over those questions. They are simply a hip-hop music act who wished to cherish their youth, their adoration for the hip-hop genre, and the magical vibe only summertime can exude.

“This is a summer album. It doesn’t matter when you listen to this album. Even if you listen to it in December, you will still feel the summer,” Amadeo summarised Are You Free This Summer.

On Friday, the 19th of April, 2024, I had a sit-down with the two brothers as they discussed their album and the future of hip-hop.

Why hip-hop?

We began with what was possibly the simplest, yet the most difficult question of this interview: Why hip-hop? 

Turns out, even to this day, the duo were still struggling to articulate why they fell in love with the genre in the first place.

“What I can say now is this: the first time I fell in love with music was when I was first introduced to the hip-hop genre,” Amadeo reminisced. “Our parents introduced us to music, but they have their respective preferences. Our mom is more into pop artists such as ABBA, The Beatles, and Michael Jackson whereas our dad prefers the more alternative-leaning ones. But, at the time, I wasn’t totally hooked into music until I discovered [American hip-hop artist] Childish Gambino.”

Gambino’s 2014 mixtape STN MTN fascinated the pre-pubescent Amadeo and eventually encouraged the latter to probe into the genre, finding more inspiration from artists such as Pharrell Williams and A$AP Rocky.

“It was like no music was better than hip-hop,” Amadeo quipped.

Liam Amadeo (right) and Ingmar Anargya (left) fell in love with hip-hop music in the first place
Liam Amadeo (right) and Ingmar Anargya (left) fell in love with hip-hop music in the first place

Amadeo’s testimony might sound audacious. Having said that, he couldn’t help but acknowledge how the hip-hop genre possesses a unique way to articulate human emotions. He pointed out American rapper Jay-Z’s lovelorn “Song Cry” as an example.

“I always feel like [in this song] Jay-Z is literally just there, telling his story as if we were hanging out together in a cafe,” Amadeo gushed. “But the story was complemented by a very good production and a flow that unmistakably belonged to Jay-Z. It was an idiosyncratic level of storytelling.”

As for Anargya, hip hop’s biggest appeal in his eyes (and ears) has always been its fluidity.

“Hip hop is a very fluid genre,” Anargya explained. “You can generate strong rhythm and flow even by applying the slowest, most subdued tempo. There’s a style emanating from the genre that is indubitable. It doesn’t matter whether the production is acoustically driven or electronically driven — an audience can immediately tell that it’s hip-hop music either way. You hear it, and you immediately see it.”

In the early 2020s, the brothers teamed up and formed a hip-hop duo named Livingroom. — their stage name was inspired by how they would often jam together in their actual living room. After signing with Wonderland Records — a music label and a subsidiary under Universal Music Group — the duo made their professional debut in January 2022 with the upbeat “Precious”.

In the same year, to the duo’s surprise, Livingroom. earned two nominations at Anugerah Musik Indonesia (AMI Awards) which is equivalent to Grammy Awards in the Indonesian music industry. The duo later managed to bring home a trophy for “Precious” in the Best Rap/Hip-hop Duo/Group Performance. On top of that, the duo’s critical success seemed to pave the way for younger hip-hop acts to join major labels in the subsequent years, namely ENVY* and Kara Chenoa.

Amadeo billed their professional debut as a “now or never” moment.

“When can we have this shot ever again? It’s not every day you get to work with a major label and learn from them — especially considering I’m currently studying music business in college,” Amadeo explained, who is enrolled at British and Irish Modern Music Institute, UK. “It’s a golden opportunity for us to better ourselves as well.”

Even though Livingroom. is a united front, one could easily predict that, as the music producer of the duo, it is Anargya who might have to face bigger, more intricate challenges than his older brother who mainly serves as the duo’s rapper, vocalist, and co-songwriter. It does not escape Anargya’s attention that the number of young music producers in the industry can be counted by fingers — let alone the number of music producers who are specialised in the hip-hop genre.

Anargya candidly remarked how being the odd man out is both a blessing and a curse.

“On one hand, I get to make music in whatever manner that I wish — and no one can call me out about it. Still, some people criticise what I do, though I don’t take it personally,” Anargya said with a laugh. “On the other hand, because of my young age and the fact that most Indonesian music producers out there are a lot older than me, I basically have no one to discuss music with.”

Fortunately, Amadeo has no qualms about having his younger brother as his music producer.

“As long as the music producer in question can make the rapper or the vocalist comfortable, well, that is it,” Amadeo added. “Nothing more, nothing less.”

Livingroom. was formed in the early 2020s
Livingroom. was formed in the early 2020s
The new rules of hip-hop

Livingroom. later decided to put their youth and their boyhood energy to good use by giving birth to the duo’s freshman studio album Are You Free This Summer.

Comprising eight tracks with zero featured artist, Are You Free This Summer doubles down on the hip-hop sound that the duo introduced in their debut single, “Precious”, by fusing in American-style hip-hop stylings with massive, pop-influenced hooks and linguistically chaste lyricism. Narratively speaking, Are You Free This Summer touches on things that usually occur during the so-called summertime youth, such as burgeoning romance and adolescence-fueled clumsiness.

“We wrote the songs during the pandemic. The pandemic was a really long summer,” Amadeo jested.

Regardless of the wholesome nature of Are You Free This Summer, hip-hop devotees and purists might shake their heads at the album’s brazen incorporation of hooks as some might believe that such elements only belong in Top 40-focused pop music. However, after winning their first AMI Award for “Precious”, Livingroom. deduced that, perhaps, the duo’s boldness in incorporating hooks is what makes them stand apart from other hip-hop acts in the industry.

“You can see this as a hot take,” Amadeo offered. “But the way I see it, when we won an AMI Award in 2022, it was for a [hip-hop] song that possesses the most indelible hooks. Based on that, I believe that the award voters, consisting of fellow musicians and industry players and industry observers, have started perceiving hip-hop more seriously as a genre of music to the point of which they may have acknowledged hip-hop in the same league as pop music.”

Chiming in, Anargya divulged that, throughout the recording of Are You Free This Summer, the duo decided not to follow what hip-hop music is, normatively speaking, supposed to sound like.

“To be completely honest, our heads never went there,” Anargya continued. “We never think restrictively when it comes to genre; our concern is to go with the flow and follow what inspires us. For example, the reference of the opening track, ‘Miscall’ was the early music of [American R&B duo] The Neptunes and [American R&B artist] Usher. The song ‘Precious’ obviously took cues from the Korean hip-hop scene.”

"Are You Free This Summer" Album Cover
“Are You Free This Summer” Album Cover

The lyrical theme of Are You Free This Summer might also polarise the critics, the music audiences, and the hip-hop purists. Being a music genre historically known as an expression of revolt, some might find Are You Free This Summer too bubbly and effervescent to be called a hip-hop record.

Ironically, the gracious nature of Are You Free This Summer can also be seen as Livingroom.’s revolt against hip-hop’s stereotypes.

“What I love the most about this album is how we show everyone that we do not limit ourselves,” Anargya opined. “Because we had so many references and inspirations to take cues from, we could create something with hip-hop as its foundation, yet is still acceptable in the world of pop, R&B, and even jazz.”

When all is said and done, Are You Free This Summer might hint at the future directions of hip-hop. Innocence might be the new form of edge. Youthful petulance might be the new form of diss. Catchy, yet moreish hooks might be the new standards for the continuously evolving genre. Ultimately, instead of overthinking about the past, the duo decided to look ferociously into the future.

“These new rules in hip-hop are the leading frontier right now. Those are the reasons why young people listen to hip-hop. And I think Indonesia is supposed to follow suit. You don’t have to worry about whether your music is not hip-hop enough anymore. Now, as long as the artist possesses the right roots and the right foundations, anything can be hip-hop,” Anargya concluded.

With that kind of youthful spirit, well, it seems like these brothers’ summer is going to be a wild ride.

All photos courtesy of Wonderland Records / Universal Music Indonesia.

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