Majulah Live x It’s A Rap Artists Spill on Hip-Hop Influences

Happening this Saturday, 19 March, 8pm at the Sands Theatre, Marina Bay Sands, Majulah Live x It’s A Rap is a celebration of Singaporean music you never want to miss!

The event will see iconic rapper-performers Sheikh Haikel, ShiGGa Shay, Yung Raja, and Fariz Jabba joined by fresher contemporaries AE$OP CA$H and FEEZ. Jon Chua JX, RRILEY, Rangga Jones, and Joy Alexis will represent the Pop world on this unforgettable night.

On top of the 10-act lineup, Majulah Live x It’s a Rap will also see comedians Fakkah Fuzz, Jacky Ng, and Qamarul Haziq as hosts. Plus, surprise guests are also slated to join the festivities. 

Ahead of the exciting event, the musical performers of Majulah Live x It’s a Rap gave us an insight to their influences from the Hip-Hop world, and how this versatile genre has changed their lives. 

AE$OP CA$H

Photo: Russell Goh, Zendyll Music

“For me, some of my earliest influences in Hip-Hop were Eminem and Meek Mill. I found an Eminem CD, The Marshall Mathers LP, I think, in my mum’s collection. That was how I started getting into rap, because that was the first time I heard music that was angry, raw and rebellious. I related to it immediately as it made me feel all the emotions that I was experiencing but didn’t know how to vent or express. 

I latched onto it pretty quick, and that was also how I started writing as well. From Eminem and Meek Mill, I started to explore the genre more and it led me to discover artists such as Kanye West and Kid Cudi, who also shaped my sound early on. 

Over time, Hip-Hop naturally became more than just music for me. It started to show in aspects of my life, in my lifestyle – how I look at things, how I portray things in my music, and how I put pieces of it together. 

The beauty of Hip-Hop lies in its ability to prompt change, in culture, in politics, in everything. This music originally came from a group of people who were mistreated, oppressed, and people who went through the darker side of things. It was a way for them t voice out their injustices. That’s why Hip-Hop is so special to me: It is able to give a voice to the voiceless.” 

Fariz Jabba

Photo: Russell Goh, Zendyll Music

“At this point, I think Hip-Hop is a genre that transcends race. We acknowledge that we borrowed this culture from somebody else, from another country. We are very far away from the place that it started, but somehow it reached us here in Singapore. Personally, I employ it as a tool to cope with all the troubles that I go through in my life, while celebrating my experiences at the same time. 

Hip-Hop started as protest music, and it has evolved into something beautiful that is more than just that. It is something we wear on out sleeves to show people that they’re not alone, that there’s always someone looking out for them. At the same time, it creates something so big that all of us evolve together with it. 

I’ve been exposed to Hip-Hop since I was young and I’ve held onto it until now. If you strip away everyone’s egos, you’re left with a child. As that child, the first music I heard was Hip-Hop. Obviously, Tupac is a very big part of my trajectory as an artist in general. Tupac was the first person that resonated with me, and his death was very close to my birth, so I could still feel the aftermath of his passing when I was very young. 

I came from a low-income background and I was always at home when my parents were working, so I had to find ways to occupy myself and the only interesting thing was this. It gave me a peek into feeling free and empowered, and it was there where I learnt how to conduct myself with confidence. I saw Tupac as an outlet, and, as I got older, I got into artists like Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Joey Bada$$, Eminem. These are the people that have an impact on what I do.” 

FEEZ

Photo: Russell Goh, Zendyll Music

“My biggest Hip-Hop influence would be Drake, while Chris Brown takes the cake if it’s R&B, as both genres play a huge part in my sound. First off, Drake is a huge influence for me because we’re both from Canada, and he’s just so versatile. Everything about him is amazing – it’s as if he’s never not popular, but at the same time he’s never really been that mainstream either. For me, Drake and Chris Brown are my childhood idols. Growing up, my sisters would play them for me and I’d always be surrounded by music from that space. The way they have such a strong branding also influences my style. Drake is a mogul; he has his own label. 

Another artist I admire would be The Weeknd, I loved how he executed Dawn FM, and he does his own thing. That’s what’s so special about these people: They do whatever they want. 

A while ago, I saw this interview of Chris Brown where he talks about how he does not listen to anything on the radio or what’s popular now; he sticks to his own sound and he makes music everyday based on what he feels. He knows his sound and he knows what he wants to create. When I hear that, and I see how artists such as The Weeknd are creating generational music with meaningful narratives, it’s so inspiring! The way their mind works and how they portray themselves is what being a true artist means to me.”

Jon Chua JX

Photo: Russell Goh, Zendyll Music

“My influences from the land of Hip-Hop would have to be Pharrell Williams, and Kanye West, for sure! For me, I actually didn’t grow up with Hip-Hop. I grew up with Blues and Rock, and I only started listening to Hip-Hop when Kanye dropped The College Dropout. Pharrell is a big inspiration personally, not only in terms of music, but the moves he makes in other industries such as fashion are insane. I also have a lot of respect for the Hip-Hop people in our region too, such as DABOYWAY, Joe Flizzow, and other people like them. These guys dared to make a lot of moves, and it’s very admirable. 

You see, I come from Pop music, and in that world, it can get quite stiff and superficial at times. So, what I like about Hip-Hop is that it’s all about community and camaraderie. When I go to another country, it’s the Hip-Hop guys that takes care of me! From the time that I land, they take me out to dinner, they introduce me to their city and their people. 

So, because of the warmth I’ve gotten, I’m very happy to do the same when people come to Singapore. Those values are some that I try to incorporate into what I do and I try to carve it into my business, into Zendyll, as well. Regardless of your numbers, we treat everyone the same.”

Joy Alexis

Photo: Russell Goh, Zendyll Music

“Because I don’t listen to only Hip-Hop specifically, I think KAYTRANADA might be the closest influence that I have to that space. For me, in Hip-Hop, I love the kicks and the focus on low-ends – I like the lo-fi Hip-Hop sound, basically. I draw from a lot of the depth and warmth of lo-fi to make my music, and it’s a very homey feel that makes my music relatable to other people. Naturally, when people listen to music, I feel that they’ll want to chill; they want something that they can groove to. 

I’d say that a contrast to this would be Hyperpop – a genre that’s very focused on the highs. I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy genres like that which have higher frequencies, but Hip-Hop and Hip-Hop-influenced genres provide that same warmth and make them more relatable to listeners. They like the depth, people want that “oomph”, y’know?

In terms of how I dress, I love the streetwear culture of Hip-Hop. I don’t have a specific brand that I’m drawn to, though. I just like streetwear in general because it’s accessible. I like the fact that you can go to any thrift store and find treasure – in fact, I own a shirt that is a five ringgit piece from a thrift store in Malaysia! Of course, I appreciate the classier styles also, but everyday I gravitate more towards streetwear because it’s comfortable and accessible.” 

Rangga Jones

Photo: Russell Goh, Zendyll Music

“The funny thing is, I basically listen to Hip-Hop everyday, even though I don’t exactly put out Hip-Hop music. I think there’s something about it that makes me feel confident. I’ve been listening to this rapper called Cochise and he’s basically a mumble rapper, but I think it’s nice to have that in the background when you’re walking or playing games. 

But, in general, Hip-Hop kind of teaches me to produce because it’s based on beats and how catchy the rhythm is. So, when I listen to Hip-Hop songs, I like to breakdown how they do their 808s and drum patterns, and try to employ them in my music – which is a mix of Pop and R&B, and R&B isn’t really that far off from the Hip-Hop genre either. Growing up, I didn’t really listen to a lot of Hip-Hop, compared to now, but the people I did listen to were probably Jay-Z and Kanye West. I listened to more radio Pop, and I only got to Hip-Hop when I was in my teenage years. I also really enjoy A$AP Rocky, and definitely Post Malone. For example, for Post, the thing I love most about him is his voice. He has a unique vibrato thing that he does with his voice that is very uncommon among other rappers; he sings and raps. 

I think Hip-Hop also plays a huge part in fashion, and it’s influenced me a lot on how I dress. I look up to a lot of Hip-Hop artists because their sense of style is very unique, and it’s very out there, which I love. When I see them in photos, I get inspired to try something new, maybe, and it gives me a confidence boost. Fashion-wise, I’d have to say A$AP Rocky is very good, and we cannot forget Tyler, the Creator as well.” 

RRILEY

Photo: Russell Goh, Zendyll Music

“Hip-Hop has been a huge part of my life, maybe without knowing it, because I started dancing when I was in secondary school. Basically, the first forms of dance I learnt were Hip-Hop and Street. I think it was that which made me fall so in love with music and movement. 

Hip-Hop is something that nobody can resist! When the beats come on, you just want to move! When I think of music, dance is always what comes first automatically. Hip-Hop taught me how to move and that has been a foundation seeing as I’m a professional performer now.

In my music influences as well, Hip-Hop, and even R&B, is in everything. I’m very inspired by female Hip-Hop/R&B artists such as Mary J. Blige, Cassie, and Aaliyah. I looked up to the women in Hip-Hop, in R&B, and in the music industry in general. Basically, when you were younger, the things you liked came naturally to you, and the things that interest you are not by mistake. And somehow, Hip-Hop was a huge part of my life, even though I used to play the piano, there’s just something about it that drew me in.” 

Yung Raja

Photo: Russell Goh, Zendyll Music

“My gods in the Hip-Hop realm include Lil Wayne, The Notorious B.I.G. aka. Biggie, Kanye West, Drake, and definitely The Weeknd. We can start by saying that they are all veterans in the game and they’ve put in the hours. I used to think that these people were born with their talents or gifts and that we cannot put ourselves in the same conversation as these icons that we look up to. But, as I got older, I realised that, actually, their status might very well be credited to the fact that they’ve been putting in their 10,000 hours and more, and for so long. 

So, of course, if you repeat the same things for that amount of time, you’re bound to get better at it. And I’m inspired by that. I learnt how to rap when I was about 10 or 11 years old, I’d rap for fun. All the things that I can do now came from practice. That’s how I realised that I’m naturally drawn to guys that made themselves into who they are today. 

Drake talks about it all the time – he used to watch Lil Wayne perform, travel the world, and he used to mould himself to that. These are my GOATs because, not only have they been at it for so long and have achieved an outstanding careers, they are still doing it when they could easily just decide they’ve done enough. Drake has no more awards to win, whatever there is to achieve has been done. Think about how easy it is for them to do it, but they don’t – because they love what they do, and I’m inspired by that. I want to always be at a place, mentally and spiritually, that allows me to continue the pursuit despite the many times I feel like giving up. I am sticking to the script, and I am sticking to the programme. I’m going to keep pursuing, and I’m going to find the answers.” 

ShiGGa Shay

Photo: Jana Yar

“There are quite a few to name. Eminem, Jay-Z, 2Pac, Notorious B.I.G, and Kendrick Lamar, in no particular order. The dedication they have shown in their craft has inspired me to follow my dreams since I was 9. Hip-Hop taught me things about life that I would never have learned in school.”

Sheikh Haikel

Photo: Russell Goh, Zendyll Music

“Notorious B.I.G aka Biggie Smalls because of his voice quality, and ability to tell a story with imagery. He has a presence like no other and there can only be one of him.”

Majulah Live x It’s A Rap, presented by Base Entertainment Asia and Red Spade Entertainment, in association with Zendyll Music and DRINK Entertainment, and in partnership with the National Youth Council, is happening this Saturday, 19 March, 8pm at the Sands Theatre, Marina Bay Sands. Tickets, starting from $58 (SGD), can be purchased here. Follow @majulahfest on Instagram for flash sales and promotions. 

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