November 13, 2019
Wowy Nguyen is a man who wears many hats. He’s an early innovator in the Vietnamese rap scene, an MC, and, most recently, an actor. We tracked him down in the heart of Saigon’s District 5 to learn about what drives his creativity, his latest projects, and the value of getting back to one’s origins. This very meeting point—a nondescript coffee shop in District 5—is itself important to Wowy. As he recounts,“These days, it’s harder and harder to make decisions because, with the Internet, ideas are getting thrown at me constantly. I come back here to remind myself of my roots and experience what I see as the real Saigon”.
Wowy grew up in District 5, the old center of the city. Wandering these streets, camera-in-hand, he marvels at the everyday sights he has come to know and love. Among bustling markets and storefronts that starkly display the old-meets-new identity of the city, one can find inspiration without the need for computers and phones. And as a rapper, Wowy’s initial rise came before the time of instant internet gratification.
“Before my first show”, he says, “I really had no idea if anyone was listening!”
“Before my first show”, he says, “I really had no idea if anyone was listening!”. At the time, he worked day jobs under the hot sun, scheming about how to turn his passion into a full-time gig. Now, however, the rapper can be sure he has an audience. And given these humble beginnings, he’s never one to turn down an opportunity.
So when the chance came to act on the big screen, Wowy took it. His debut role is in the director Tran Thanh Huy’s film Rom, was awarded the top prize in the New Currents category at the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF). A depiction of life, struggle, and ingenuity in Saigon’s back streets, Wowy’s own part in the film comes as something fairly new to him: a bad guy.
“I’m usually the nice guy!”, he says. “At first, I was thinking about how to look mean and, in an off moment, was squinting into the sun. Then the cameraman said, ‘keep doing that!’. I think you have to be ready to adapt, be it in music, film, whatever project you’re pursuing”.
With years of experience navigating what it means to follow a passion, Wowy is set on inspiring others to follow their own. “Whenever I’m chatting with someone—a Grab driver or just someone on the street—I ask them what they love to do. Then I tell them to go after it”.