Not many can boast about enjoying mainstream success as a rapper in the local music industry.
But Shigga Shay is one of the rare few who has established himself as a well-received hip-hop artist in Singapore, thanks to hits like Lion City Kia (Lion City Kid in Hokkien) and Lim Peh which have a unique local flavour with their use of familiar colloquial phrases and references.
Of late, he's been busy doing "national service" of sorts, with his involvement in several SG50-related shows like the recent Sing, Love - The Concert and the upcoming National Day Parade celebrations, Celebrate SG50 countdown concert and the Sing50 mega-concert.
In fact, he's so proud to be a "Lion City Kia", he'll be releasing his debut self-titled album on National Day.
Pursuing rap is a brave step for a full-time career, something that had his family raising their eyebrows.
Shigga Shay, who learnt to rap at nine and started rapping professionally in 2010, told M last week: "I never tried to seek a 'real job'. My mum was okay as long as I was happy but you see, all my relatives are dentists or lawyers. At gatherings, I was often asked when I would find a proper job or continue with school, and was told that 'music can't feed you'."
But the passionate 23-year-old, whose real name is Pek Jin Shen, was not discouraged.
He said: "I would argue and tell them, 'Do you want me to do something I don't like until I'm old?' I don't want to be somebody who is living life for somebody else just to match (up to) their expectations of me."
These are the same struggles faced by many homegrown musicians, who juggle day jobs on top of their music commitments.
"I'm definitely lucky. Five years ago, if you wanted to make music full-time, people would shoot you down.
"For my generation, social media opened a lot of doors for us and paved the way for new opportunities. This in turn opens more doors for the future generation of musicians here.
"The landscape is changing and people are more open, thanks to the previous generations who are always testing boundaries and pushing barriers."
Indeed, his plate is getting full.
He will make his movie debut in local director Royston Tan's 3688 as a rapping coffee-shop boy. Opening here on Sept 17 and also starring Liu Ling Ling and Rahimah Rahim, the movie centres on parking attendant Fei Fei (Joi Chua) who aspires to a singer be like her namesake, legendary Taiwanese singer Fong Fei Fei.
Shigga Shay, who is also part of homegrown hip-hop collective Grizzle Grind Crew, will also return to perform at the annual music festival Ignite! at Republic Polytechnic later this month.
One recent performance was especially memorable, he said.
He scored the opportunity to perform with local Mandopop queen Stefanie Sun last month at Sing, Love - The Concert. The pair had collaborated on the song Simply, Love for the Sing, Love SG50 tribute album.
"The album producer told me that Stef requested to work with me. To me, that was not even a question - of course I would! Apparently, she had watched my music videos and saw me perform live once. It was crazy to make a song with her, perform with her and even hold hands with her at the concert," he recalled with pride.
"My mum was sitting in the front row and although she didn't say anything, I knew she was very proud."
As he counts down the days to his album release on the nation's jubilee, he said he is thankful to be born and bred in the Lion City.
"I want to look back five or 10 years down the road and remember that I released my first album on such a special day. I've been representing Singapore in all my songs so it's only right that the release date has a significant meaning," he said. The album will feature collaborations with The Sam Willows' Benjamin Kheng, Gentle Bones, Tosh Zhang and Wang Weiliang.
"(Singapore) is where I owe my life. I grew up here, my friends are here, I built my career here. Everyone says you have to go overseas to further your career but this country has a lot of opportunities that people tend to overlook." He then added with a laugh: "I hate only the weather!"
This article was first published on Aug 05, 2015.
Get The New Paper for more stories.