Malaysian rapper Airliftz hasn’t always had the easiest life. He was born with a nose missing its cartilage, and was bullied mercilessly throughout his childhood because of it.
“I was called ‘alien’, ‘pig-face’ and so many names while I was growing up,” said the rapper, real name Aliff Shaharom. “I never really fought back, because there was nowhere for me to speak up.”
Now, he can. He has joined the ranks of celebrities like Lisa Surihani, Jinnyboy, and Harith Iskander as a #StandTogether Kindness Ambassador.
WATCH: Rapper Airliftz has been bullied his whole life but he's responding with kindness.
The campaign was initiated by R.AGE and property developer SP Setia to empower students and schools to create a new culture of kindness across Malaysia, especially with school violence and cyberbullying on the rise.
Here, he shares about how he found solace, first in his supportive family, and then in his music, and how he uses his music to make a difference.
R.AGE: What made you want to become a #StandTogether Kindness Ambassador?
Airliftz: As someone who has been through so much (negativity), I feel like I need to stand up for those who are going through the same thing now.
I went through so much, physically and mentally. Back then, I couldn’t voice out my problems, but now we can. This (#StandTogether) is a really good platform - and I’ve had a lot of people help me, now I want to use this to help others, if I can.
How did you get through those years when people were being so unkind to you?
I owe a lot to my family, especially my mother. On my first day of primary school, she went to speak to my principal. I got called up to the stage during assembly, and the principal told all my new schoolmates “This is Aliff, be nice to him.” While she was speaking, I saw my mom crying in the corner - she’s done so much for me over the years. I wouldn’t be here without her.
Did music help you get through your experiences too?
Yes! When I got older, I found that music also played a big part in helping me with my feelings. It’s always been my best friend, and now it’s also my platform to voice how I feel.
My music also helps people hear me! Sometimes people come up to me and say “Bro, that song, wow. It’s so deep, and I really got the message you were trying to get across.
But it was actually the same message I’ve been trying to get across all this while - it just took putting it to music for people to listen.
How can we as a society resolve bullying?
Honestly, up until now, I still get cyberbullied. People hate on me just because of how I look, but I don’t like to fight back. I always try to be nice to people, no matter how mean they are. I think being kind helps them want to be kind too. So my message to society is: No matter how bad or evil a person seems, just remember to be kind because if you react in the same way as them, you’ll just be the same kind of person.
#StandTogether is a student-led initiative. Do you think it’s important for students to be in charge of creating change?
Most definitely! Students need to be a part of this because this is an important time in their lives. If you see someone being bullied, step in to help. Be kind to each other.
To those students going through #StandTogether National Kindness Week right now, here’s a shout out to you guys. Mad love - you are all doing something great, something amazing, that’s for real.
Find out more about the #StandTogether National Kindness Week campaign at www.standtogether.my. The campaign will culminate in the first #StandTogether Kindness Concert on May 4 at Setia City Convention Centre 2, where Malaysians from all walks of life will come together for kindness and to uplift the country. Admission is free: RSVP at bit.ly/stconcert2019.
WATCH: THE KINDNESS CONCERT: End hate. Celebrate kindness.