HomePop CultureFrom trauma to triumph: Star2’s journey to pop-music stage

From trauma to triumph: Star2’s journey to pop-music stage

By Mimi Chen

Luckily for pop and hip-hop artist Star2, he has few memories of the harrowing experiences and escape his family faced in fleeing the turbulence of their homeland in Myanmar (Burma). “I was just a baby,” he says, “but my family has stories that I’ve heard.”  

Born in a refugee camp in Thailand, Star2 belongs to the Karen ethnic group, a target of Myanmar’s prolonged civil strife for 75 years.

As the Karen faced ethnic cleansing by the Burmese military, Star2’s family fled on foot to the border with Thailand and found safety in the spawling Mae La refugee camp.

And when he turned 5, his life took an unexpected turn when his grandmother won a lottery granting them relocation to the United States. They soon found themselves in the City Heights section of San Diego, home to a significant population of refugees from across the Pacific.

Star2 says that moving to the U.S. at such a young age means that he’s “pretty much Americanized.” But, he says, “I still remember the roots of where I’m from, all that stuff. I still speak the language. I don’t read and write it, but I would love to, like, relearn it to read and write.”

As for his name Star2, he says: “As a kid, I’ve always wanted to be a star, you know, and my last name is spelled Htoo, pronounced Tu. And the word Tu in our language means gold. … So yeah, a star of gold and an American lady named Star – she’s my guardian that also guided me into this music lane.”

Another mentor has been famed producer Chico Bennett, who produced his holiday break-up song Lies, released last month. “I feel pretty good about it,” he says. “It’s a song that I’ve been holding on to for two, three years.” It’s part of his upcoming EP-slash-album Shooting Stars.

With numbers of over 300K streaming, his latest release has him feeling “excited and happy.” He added: “I’ve got a lot of shows coming up. I got some shows coming up in February, March, and I’ll be in Thailand in the next couple of days. I’ll fly back out to Thailand to finish the music video shoots and record some more music.”

His affilation with Bennett has led him to even more collaborations, including with the rap artist Mozzy who Star2 says is known in the Asian community for helping Asian American artists such as Stupid Young. Both artists as well as Hood Trophy Bino feature on Star2’s track Up.

He says he is currently recording an album acknowledging his roots as a “Karen, my people, where I put a little bit of my language onto the music. I’m trying to do a whole album with the artists back home and the artists in the U.S.”

Star2 expects to release not just one but maybe as many as three albums this upcoming year, noting, “I’ve already filmed a lot of music videos. It’s going to be a lot of surprise for the fans, you know a lot of exciting stuff.”

He has plans to involve himself with more musical interactions with local Thai artists, “you know, Fiixd, 1Mill, Sprite, you know, OG Bobby. There’s a lot of big artists like Youngohm and that’s in Thailand.”

He hopes to eventually build a base camp where he has his own label and team in Thailand as well as in the U.S., enabling him to fly back and forth for work.

Star2 acknowledges that while this is an exciting time in his career, it’s hard to get people to believe in you in the beginning. “It takes a while. Everything takes time. It’s like growing a tree, you know.”

His advice to other young, emerging artists: “You need to have a team that believes in you, supports you, really, really, 100 percent, to succeed in life, to elevate, to be the next biggest artist out there, you know? If you have a team, you can do anything. Anything is possible.”

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