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Going Behind the Curtain With Singaporean Rapper Shigga Shay

By Eugene Lim

Following the launch of his latest single "uRight" featuring Jay Park, we speak on rapper ShiGGa Shay on his latest work, the inception of his career, and his partnership with HUGO.
 
Hugo
Following the launch of his latest single "uRight" featuring Jay Park, we speak on rapper ShiGGa Shay on his latest work, the inception of his career, and his partnership with HUGO.

When presented the opportunity to interview ShiGGa Shay who drew his stage name from an onomatopoeic play on the Chinese words, “是个谁” which translates to "who are you", it would be befitting to dive into his origin story.

Shay was 14 years old when he first decided that he wanted to be a musician. Like a scene out of a MasterCard advertisement, the fulfillment he got from performing on stage for the first time was priceless. But his love of music started a lot earlier. "I’ve always been passionate about music. I was playing the Dizi in a Chinese orchestra while I was in primary school, and was a Trombone player in the marching band while in secondary school," says Shay.

Rap remained his first love. "I would listen to hip-hop music every single day because I was so intrigued by how different it sounded from other genres of music," explained Shay. "I dived deeper into hip-hop and became pretty much obsessed with the culture ever since."

That obsession served him well, driving him as one of the leading voices of the Singapore hip-hop scene. The list of accolades runs long, from performing on the nation's biggest stage, the National Day Parade to spitting bars with APL de AP from the Black Eyed Peas during the Sing50 concert. The multi-hyphenate also tried his hand at acting, playing the role of Yoyo in Royston Tan’s movie "3688".

Hugo
 

But no man is an island entire of itself. When asked about projects that excite him, he draws inspiration from collaborating with creatives from different parts of the world. Case in point, his latest single "uRight" that he recorded with Korean-American rapper, Jay Park. 

"The song was recorded in 2019 while both Jay Park & myself were in Los Angeles. We’ve known each other for quite a while now but we’ve never had the right opportunity to collaborate," says Shay when discussing the inception of the single. "My producer in the UK ,  superjdoug sent me the beat, I finished my parts of the song on the same night with OkayJJack. We got in the studio a couple of days after with Jay Park and he laid down his verse in 20 minutes. It’s always an inspiring process working with Jay."

This collaboration also saw Shay partnering with fashion label HUGO. "I have always loved Hugo Boss as a brand ever since I was a kid. To rock on Hugo at my shows, events, and music videos was something that happened organically. Being an independent artist also aligns with Hugo’s brand of boldness."

Hugo
 

How did you get into music?

I was just really obsessed with rap music ever since I was a kid. I would listen to songs on the radio and write down the rap lyrics bit by bit because you couldn’t find lyrics online back then. I would then memorise the lyrics and I was so intrigued with the entire process.

What is your day like? How much do you sleep, and what’s your work schedule?

My days are pretty much-doing things revolving around my music career. 

How many hours of creative work do you think you do in a day?

It varies from day to day. Some days it could go from the evening till 8 in the morning. Some other days I might switch to other forms of creative work just to get a different outlet to stay inspired. 

What’s the worst studio you ever had?

I guess my bedroom studio when I was 14? But even then, I still enjoyed every moment of making music in the “worst studio”. 

Hugo
 

How do you know when you’re finished with your work?

I think there’s never a point an artist or musician would feel 100 per cent finished with their work. I think when we feel we’re at 90 per cent of completion, we’ll still find flaws to make it perfect. In other words, I feel that nothing will be “finished”. 

Is there a meal you eat on repeat while you’re working?

I have a bad habit of forgetting meals at times while I’m focussed at work. 

What is the weirdest object in your studio?

A Singing Bowl.  

What music do you play when you’re working?

I don’t play any music while I’m creating music. 

Are you binge-watching any shows right now?

Not right now, but I am a big fan of Anime. 

If you have windows, what do they look out on?

The city. 

What is your biggest fear?

Not being able to make music. 

What would you like your legacy to be?

I want to be able to open doors for future generations of musicians.