Singapore is getting bigger day by day, which means more talent and more arts are being produced everyday. Today I am interviewing one of Singapore's biggest rappers, Samuel Simpson, aka REQ. He came to Singapore a while ago but has now made a name for himself in the rap scene.
Q:Why Singapore of all places?
A: Singapore is where my dad is from, so technically I’m half Singaporean. I needed a change in environment. I grew up in the U.K, not from a super rough area or anything, I just needed a change. Singapore reminds me of the U.K when hip hop was first starting. In the sense that it’s still trying to find it’s sound. Now it’s starting to get its own sound and I am trying to be a part of that.
Q: Is there a real rap scene in Singapore?
A: There is definitely a rap scene in Singapore, but to be honest scene isn’t exactly the best word to describe it because now it’s very based on individuals. When I first moved here around 5-6 years ago it was all based on crews. Now there are still crews but it’s not as prevalent. It’s more about the individual artist now. But music in general has changed, now we have YouTube which is the main platform so it’s not often that there is a hip hop gig where everyone is together and performs because it’s just not how people get their music. There is definitely a rap scene, there are some really dope rappers. The scene is still growing and more and more rappers are joining
Q: How come there aren’t barely any rap performances in Singapore?
A: Actually there are a few but it’s often limited to a small venue. Normally, when rappers perform here it’s as part of a large festival or something else. So you really have to follow the rapper on social media and stuff to try and find the show. They are definitely around but unfortunately almost all the performances are in clubs or bars which limits the audiences quite a lot. There are definitely few shows and there are many reasons for that. For example, venues don’t usually want rap and nothing else. Also the culture in Singapore really only wants music covers, there isn’t much time for original music. For example, when someone is just grabbing a bite or a drink they don’t want to hear original stuff especially with rap, they want to hear familiar tunes.
Q: How has rap impacted you as a person?
A: Hugely, I think on a very surface level you can look at it like it’s my job, everything I managed to do in my career is rap. Rap wasn’t always what I was doing but always got my foot in the door because of rap. On a surface level, it's been great I’ve got to travel to new places and meet great new people. But in a deeper sense as well, I was quite a shy kid at school and rap made me more confident. Even though it’s a bit cliched, rap helped me air out my thoughts by writing songs and stuff. It was almost like therapy to let something out rather than keeping it all in
Q: Do you think rap is its own standalone art or is it a mesh of all art forms?
I think in every way all art is standalone. I like to see rap under a big umbrella under the pretense of creativity. There are people who say when a footballer does a good trick that’s art, and painting is obviously painting – like making dope pictures is art. It’s all creative and how different people express their creativity. I love it when it gets meshed together. Like how music videos are amazing art as film and music complement each other very well.
Q: What song/artist got you into rap?
A: What pulled me in uhh, I think it’s a combination of albums. One of the albums was by a group called A Tribe Called Quest it was called “The Low End Theory”: that just fascinated me musically. The one that got me hooked lyrically was Nas’s first album “Illmatic”. Later on, I got more interested in grime which I think is a genre on its own even though it does borrow from Hip-Hop. Such as Dizzie Rascal “The boy in the corner”. When I first heard it I thought “Wow, this sounds very U.K” and I was very proud of it.
Q: Why do you think now there is a huge boom in the amount of people in the rap community?
I think through social media and stuff like that music is spreading so quickly. The influx in new rappers in some ways it’s a voice of a new generation. For people who are 18 and becoming rapper, things like hip hop has been around their entire life. Another thing is for people who don’t have much access to music or they can’t learn to play due to the lack of access. Rap is something you can do well if you are determined. You can just get a cheap mic and plug into your laptop and you have a song. Also if you can’t sing you can always rap. It’s dope that there is an influx of rappers as we get to hear new sounds from around the world and rap is finally being recognised across the board which is sick.
Q: Do you think the Hip-Hop/rap community in Singapore will adapt for the youth of Singapore since they are the majority of listeners?
I mean yeah, I hope so. I always would like to get the younger people involved and try and get something going. To try and show them that there is an avenue in Singapore to get into rap. The only way that’s gonna work is if there are more people supporting, listening and helping. I hope it happens, it’s hard to say. Singapore is such a small country that, in a way, you have to look out for yourself. It’s very tough to become a full time rapper here. There are probably only 3 full time rappers here. That’s how difficult it is and they managed to do it and as long as the audience continues growing, more will get in.
Q: Where do you see your rap career going in the next couple of years?
I hope it goes further. I am making a lot more music, doing a lot more collaborations with great artists and I’m looking forward to release that. Something I want to do in the future is help and look out for younger rappers as I have responsibilities and stuff and I can’t really gallivant around all the time. And hopefully I can help the next generation of rap.