Uniquely Singaporean

Uniquely Singaporean
RISING STAR: Local rapper Shigga Shay.

Shigga Shay's latest rap single is as Singaporean as it gets.

Its title is an obvious indication - Lion City Kia (Hokkien for child or kid).

The rap verses are mainly in English, Malay and Tamil, but also include Hokkien and Singlish phrases.

Common local utterances like "wah lau" and "talk cock and sing song" are heard. There are also references to "karung guni" (rag-and-bone man) and HDB estates like River Valley and Queenstown.

For the homegrown performer, whose real name is Pek Jin Shen, rapping about his roots is what he knows best.

"I wrote from a Singaporean's perspective because these things are closest to my heart. These are things that I grew up with and this gave me a way to express myself and be as real as possible," the 22-year-old told The New Paper yesterday, hours before he was due to perform at the annual Singapore Night Festival.

Lion City Kia, the first single from his upcoming debut album, was written three months ago with the help of local rappers Akeem and Lineath.

Lineath and Shigga Shay, together with Ah Boys to Men stars Wang Weiliang and Tosh Zhang, are also part of local hip-hop collective Grizzle Grind Crew.

Shigga Shay said: "At first, it was just me... but it didn't feel right to do it alone. I thought it would be cool to introduce a Tamil rap verse, which I asked Lineath to help with. Then Akeem also came onboard with a Malay rap verse and everything just fitted (into place)."

Asked about the song title, he said candidly: "I didn't want to say 'Singaporean Kid'... Lion City Kia sounded quite badass." The single, with its catchy hook, has been buzzing online since its release on Tuesday. As of press time, it sat at No. 11 on the local iTunes song chart.

The music video for Lion City Kia, which Shigga Shay directed and edited, has received about 50,000 views on YouTube since it was uploaded, also on Tuesday.

Naturally, it was given a full-fledged local treatment and was shot at the old-school playground at Dakota Crescent, one of Singapore's oldest public housing estates that will soon have to make way for new developments.

For Shigga Shay, the choice of location was nostalgic.

He explained: "I wanted to find sand playgrounds from my childhood which most of us grew up with and Dakota Crescent is perfect for the vintage vibe.

"It gives a sense of nostalgia because like most people, I'm a heartlander and grew up in an HDB estate."


The second location in the video overlooks Singapore's famous city skyline.

Filmed in just two days, the video features popular faces in local entertainment such as comedian-actress Patricia Mok, comedian-actor Chua Enlai, Benjamin Kheng of local music quartet The Sam Willows, Alyph of hip-hop duo Sleeq, radio DJ Rosalyn Lee, fashion personality Jade Seah and Ah Boys to Men's Zhang and Wang.

These celebrities have played a big part in his career, Shigga Shay said.

He said he was overwhelmed by the reception of the video, which has been widely shared on social media platforms.

He said: "I didn't expect this at all. It wasn't a conscious effort to put out a song that everyone can relate to - I just wanted it to be an honest form of self-expression."

Shigga Shay's previous single, LimPeh, which features Zhang, is also a quintessentially Singaporean song and shot to the top of the local iTunes song chart immediately after its release.

Indeed, the music video had been viewed almost 150,000 times on YouTube less than a week after its release.

But Shigga Shay does not want to repeat his local-flavour formula for other tracks in his upcoming album, which is slated for an October release.

"There will also be strictly English songs, or songs that are a mix of English and other languages. It's still my local take on hip-hop music. It's all very rojak," he said.


This article was published on Aug 23 in The New Paper.

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