Singapore ain't no Bronx, well it's not even close, but one thing's for certain - we do love some good hip music to shake our bon-bons to.
Walk into most any club these days, and you'll notice how much the music has changed over the years. Hip hop is now a common staple here in Singapore; a popular choice among youths especially. Tune in to any radio station and it's likely you'll be listening to popular hip hop artistes like LL Cool J. It's really fascinating how music can evolve so quickly and ingeniously.
Especially for hip hop, which started out as music sung and enjoyed by America's Black communities. In case you didn't know, clubs in Singapore began playing hip hop all the way back in the 90s. One of the people responsible for the exposure is 36 year-old DJ Titus. Having been a DJ for over 15 years, Titus is certainly no rookie.
His first brush with dj-ing began when he was still in college. Back then, he used to volunteer himself at parties and what not. He took up part-time dj-ing when he was serving National Service. "I was one of the first few people who played a lot of serious hip hop in TGIF and Caesars", says DJ Titus. In those days, during the early 90s, few people had ever heard of hip hop and were relatively skeptical about this genre of music. "Music was very niche then. At that time, house was coming into Singapore but I liked his other form of music (hip hop) and presenting this kind of music to people", adds Titus.
DJ Titus is certainly pleased with how well hip hop has been received by the various public since then, "It was always a hope and dream of mine that hip hop would come to this level. I'm happy to be a pioneer in this area, it's a great honour and privilege to me."
Music is universal and Titus takes it seriously, "Music is a very personal thing, everyone relates to it differently. It's hard to define what's good hip hop and RnB". As a DJ, he has the knack for being able to sound out the quality and standard of music whether it be hip hop or not, "The creativity of the producer is important and good hip hop must be something that's got good production and the lyrics must have a good base".
Ask him what his favourite type of music is, and he'll have you know that it's not solely hip hop, "I listen to a lot of old school funk and soul, people like Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. There are a lot of good artistes like LL Cool J and Eric Sermon.
He admits that the general Singapore crowd tend to favour music that's more commercial than niche but he maintains that the music scene was 'better than what it was 10 years ago'. He adds that "a lot of hard hip hop tracks have crossed over to main stream". Look at the Billboard Charts these days and one would find that hip hop ranks rather high and it helps that radio stations are playing new stuff that reaches a huge audience.
As for the local music scene, DJ Titus says that he's "all for local talent, people like Shiek Haikel - I have a lot of respect for him and Bonafide too". He laments that "there are lots of young talent but they're not exposed enough. A lot of people don't give support to local talent".
In all honestly, there certainly is a talent warp. One might compare countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Beijing and discover that Singapore pales in comparison. It's due to the lack of exposure which DJ Titus hopes will be a thing of the past as more events are held to expose these people.
DJ Titus plays at Attica on Wednesdays and Saturdays, CoccoLatte on Thursdays and Bar None on Sundays. Sounds impressive? Wait till you hear his regular schedule around the region. He's been to Indonesia, Malaysia and Beijing to perform. "I'm happy doing this at the moment but I can't say what my future plans are. I would want to own a nice little bar where they play good soul music, a place where everyone can relax".
For those who are keen to follow his foot steps and bring hip hop to the masses, he advises that 'when you start, you need people to show you the ropes. It's an art form, the more you practice, the more proficient you become".
"I think if a person is very keen on becoming a DJ, he'll have to be honest and have the passion. Keep on trying. This sort of thing doesn't come overtime. You need patience. Keep at it and stay focus and maybe enroll at a DJ school", adds Titus.