Easily the most recognisable figure in Singapore Hip-hop, Singapore DMC champion and easily fastest hand on the decks, Koflow has been headlining shows across the island. Gashaus joins the flow...
Deejay Koflow is also part of experimental projects such as KoLab, a seven piece musical collaboration that has been featured at the Esplanade recently. Koflow is also part of Chou Pi Jiang, a chinese Rap rock outfit with renown Tiet drummer Melvin Wong, 26.?I managed to catch him on one of his practice days for a quick chat at Gashaus. Sporting his military style bag, sunglasses on his chrome dome and symmetric square diamond earrings, Koflow came across as a casual vinyl slinger, the type who might crash on the couch amidst his records with a copy of Think Magazine over his face. After turning down my beer offer, I flicked on my recorder...
GASHAUS: When did you start spinning?
I was 19.
GASHAUS: Since you were 19? What's your full name?
(laughs) I am 25 now. Wayne Liu..
GASHAUS: Do you want me to say all that sh*t about how you were born in a 3-room flat?
I still live in a three room flat. That's just how life is. Some people are born rich, some people are not.
GASHAUS: How far did you get in the world DMC competition?
I was ranked number 14 in the world after winning the local DMCs, in 2003. I participated in the competition 2004-2006 and came in second all the way.
GASHAUS: You managed to stay up there though...
DMC is like an examination for me. Makes me feel how I can do out there. Just a little challenge... day by day. Its something that I like, and that's why I really want to be good at it.
GASHAUS: So how do you describe the genres that you play?
Hiphop / Experimental.
GASHAUS: And your idols, as you said, are DJ Shadow and Krush?
Not really Krush and DJ Shadow... Its more than just the music. When you talk about a piece of music, you actually talk about the character of that guy and how they can bring out the music. That's why I'm inspired by them, its not how good a producer is. It's their own character that they bring into their music.
That's the soul of the music: The essence of the person producing it. Like if you are born too rich, you never experience too much negative stuff. And never on a downfall most of the time. The soul doesn't bring out what you want to bring out. The story you want to tell is not as vibrant. That's my opinion of people in Singapore, not everyone in the world. I know rich people who produce really good music. Over here, you just go to school and that's about it.
GASHAUS: What's the best gig you've ever played in Singapore?
I think it was a gig in Liquid Room... actually every gig that I can satisfy myself is a good gig.
GASHAUS: What's your best gig in the World?
I think it would be Pattaya music festival in Thailand. And... San Francisco last year. I met DJ Shadow at San Francisco at a 'meet and greet'. This happens quite common in the U.S. It doesn't matter what kind of DJ you are, they hand out your promos from new emerging artists. You start doing promotion for them and it so happened that DJ Shadow was there.
GASHAUS: I should give you a promo track myself haha...
Actually that's how it works. A lot of music, especially hip-hop tracks is played for the first time in Strip clubs. 50 cent got famous big because his tracks were played in Strip clubs by DJs that he gave his promos to and got exposure that way. That's how it is in the clubs. Not necessarily if you go to a big club, they will 'break' your music for you. If you go to a less... You get what I mean... club, they'll me more helpful.
GASHAUS: From this interview so far, you seem to be influenced strongly by the notion of Poverty.
'Cos that's how poorer people tend to be humble. We have a tendency to be more helpful. Say, if I knew this poor rapper and I was a DJ, why not I help break your music in. I think that would be cool for someone else.
Its not about representing yourself. Its about being in the community and helping everyone out.
GASHAUS: So this would be hiphop culture?
There's a lot to it. This is just one of the factors. Black music was meant for people to be united and be as one. It was during the racist period that Hip-hop prompted all the black people to come together - that's why it became so widespread. They were all promoting it...
GASHAUS: So this is 'solidarity' per se?
That's too cheem (hokkien for 'deep') for me.
GASHAUS: Tell me more about KoLab.
KoLab is a musical collaboration between 2 DJs (DJ Garuda and KoFlow), a beatboxer (Dharni) and an MC. KoLab is meant for us to diverse our artform to a new craft. Singapore is not where people can open up and appreciate what you want to play. KoLab is about what we want to play, not about us.
This started as a friend thing and we joined Heineken Thirst and went on because of the love of the four of us towards the art form. All of us have a different direction of what hip-hop can be and what hip-hop should be.
For example me, I'm more into 90s Hip-hop Culture; New York, Premier stuff. Garuda is more into Gangsta Rap. Tom, the other DJ, he's more into funk and abstract. It all comes back into hiphop. Dharni will listen to music... like if you play drum and base and all and go with it.
GASHAUS: Since you are big on helping other people, would you like to shout out to the lesser known hip-hop artists in Singapore?
I think there's too many to name. There are few of the more struggling ones whom I like to do well, like DJ Inquisitive and hmmmm: Rappers wise, I'd like to see more people doing more substantial rap. Don't be influenced by other people and do your own thing, you get what I am saying?
Doesn't mean that hip-hop is like... you go to a club and you think its cool and you start rapping about you being in a club and all...
GASHAUS: Its all about 'bling' now isn't it?
Yeah, is all about the glam and being all 'pimping' now. Hey man, some of you kids come to my club and ask to be on the guest list. Come on, how pimping can that be? (laughs)
Hip-hop in Singapore is not so much about being 'me' right now. It should be about representing Singapore Hip-hop out there and not just representing yourself. A lot of them don't think that way. They all want to be rappers tomorrow. If Singapore is not on the globe, how long do you think Hip-hop artists in Singapore can survive?
'I have to be the best' that's where all competition and politics starts. IF you can represent Singapore then MAYBE you are somebody. A lot of these ego problems create competitive vibes which are not good for the younger kids that are coming around.
GASHAUS: How are your students doing?
Do you know the old saying that chinese kungfu masters only teach 90% of their art? I don't believe in that. I teach them everything I got. In fact, the last couple of years my students have surpassed me in the DMCs. That way, when I get beaten, I learn 120% of what I had taught them in the first place. They push me to another level. Its all about reinventing yourself
GASHAUS: Last question. This is a hard one. Do you think you could have done better if you were born rich?
If I was a rich kid in Singapore, I won't work as hard as I am now. Because when you are poor, every move is about survival.