Hip-hop has had a rough relationship here in Singapore. R&B, in particular, was frowned upon by the licensing department because of it's association with gangsterism.
In spite of this disrespect, the scene here is vibrant and keeps producing great talents; deejays, MCs, graffiti artists, and breakdancers.
One artist who has explored hip-hop is a guy who took the name Mr. Chan on stage in 2003, when he was a member of the trio known as Triplenoize, which you might recall was first runner up in Talentime 2001, airing on Channel 5.
Their style embraces hip-hop backbeats, superimposed with vocals sung in the style of soul music; the lyrics, however, integrated street lingo and adult themes.
Impudence characterises the styling of hip-hop.?While conventional singers sport tattoos, wear leather, and bare a defiant look in the vein of hip-hop artists, here in Singapore, with the focus more on the craft than the image, local artists have created their own image, focusing on collaborating between rappers, remixers and deejays, remixing a unique Singapore sound in their albums.
These remixes are usually released as on-line singles, as there are few retail outlets for this signature style. Mr. Chan is taking it up a notch; with his solo release he aims to carry local hip-hop into higher visibility.
This first solo album, Last Man Standing gives the very best sounds of hip-hop that caters to both mainstream and hardcore hip hop listeners.?Hip-hop is considered more mature than contemporary R&B, and targets an adult audience.
This is primarily due to the genre's focus on the seamier aspects of life; hip-hop soul singers also use adult language and themes, which has drawn censure from people who feel the genre of music, similar to hip-hop, glorifies negative stereotypes.
But sometimes it's just a reflection of the reality of urban life.
The first single on the album 'Joget' (means 'dance' in Malay), portrays the view of a convict pleading to be given a chance from the society. In a lighter vein, the song 'Phatty Gal' compliments the 'big girls' who are often criticised for being fat in this overly image-conscious society.
The album includes the cream of the crop in Singapore's hip-hop scene, featuring fellow rappers like Eminem Rap competition winner 'Freaky Z'; Malaysia's 'King of Rap' Altimet; Ex-Kid Central Artist Rauzan; 'Prince of Beatbox' Zul Mystroe and another member of the trio Triplenoize, Aludra. Mr. Chan also features other talented local artists from Singapore like Lady Elle, Velvetgroove, Chaz Ali, Jid, DJ J-Style, Amanda, RoRo, Nadesh and Bless.
These tracks will soon be all the rage, as hip-hop crosses all racial divides, earning its artists mainstream recognition. I had a chance to check them out at the album launch party at the RedBar in Bugis on the 27th of October.
Although hip-hop witnessed a dull period in the late 90s, it is now experiencing a surge in popularity due to singers like Mr Chan and his associates taking it from level to level up the quality level, not just in Singapore, but throughout Asia.
Just watching Mr Chan performing a couple of songs from his album, which seriously impressed the crowds, I overheard one couple talking, one mentioned "He's born to be a rapper / entertainer," and his album 'Last Man Standing' will be a Singapore's rap classic album once it hits the stores in time for the holiday party season. And just like Mr. Chan always says "This, is just the beginning..."