Newpaper
From:The New Paperposted on 30 June at 9:35 AM
30 June at 9:35 AM

Local rapper Shigga Shay's Limpeh goes straight to No. 1

BY JULIANA JUNE RASUL & TAN KEE YUN

Consider these lyrics.

"Some say we kiasu, some say we are kiasee, but we are gia (Hokkien for scared) of you because we very nu li (Mandarin for work hard) ... From a small fishing village, to the big city".

LimPeh, the latest single from local rapper Shigga Shay, is the new generation's quintessentially Singaporean track, poised to rival older hits like Sheikh Haikel's Witulah, the Kopi Kat Klan's Why U So Like Dat and the unforgettable Sars rap by Phua Chu Kang.

The song, rich in Hokkien phrases, hit No. 1 on the local iTunes charts immediately after it was released on Tuesday, leapfrogging over tracks by big pop acts like Pink, The Wanted, Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars. At press time, it was still at the top of the charts.

Its Singaporean-ness is hard to deny - the rapping is done mainly in Hokkien and English, with a smattering of Mandarin, Cantonese and Malay.

It recognises the everyday struggles of a Singaporean who cannot have fart-free MRT rides, as well as our everyday pleasures like kopi siu dai (coffee with less sugar), 4-D, Toto and even Hello Kitty.

The catchy chorus sees Shigga Shay - whose real name is Pek Jin Shen - repeating 'Wa si lim peh' (I am lim peh) with much faux swagger. For the record, "lim peh" translates to "my father", and is our equivalent of denoting who's "the boss".

To top it all, it features two Ah Boys To Men actors. Tosh Zhang wrote and raps the second verse of the song, while Hokkien-spouting Wang Weiliang makes a cameo appearance explaining what "lim peh" means.

Album cover: Shigga Shay's Limpeh

Pek, 20, completed the three-minute track last Friday with his one-time mentor, music producer Don Richmond.

It was released by local record label Aging Youth on iTunes on Tuesday and has been buzzing ever since.

LimPeh came about after Pek was "challenged" by the founder of local record label and artiste management company Aging Youth, Mr Willy Tan.

"I said, why not do something different and weird? Why not do a song in Hokkien?" said Mr Tan, 34.

"Artistes like (Taiwanese hip-hop group) Machi do that (rap in dialect), but in Singapore, no one really does it."

Pek roped in Zhang to perform LimPeh live at Esplanade's outdoor theatre in March, and a fan-shot video of that performance has since garnered over 19,000 views on YouTube.

But the track was released only this week because Pek and his team were busy completing a yet-to-be-released music video for it, and designing a snapback (a kind of baseball cap) with the words LimPeh on it to coincide with the release of the song.

"We were hoping it would be something big and exciting, but even we have been surprised by the reaction," said Mr Tan. "To have a number one on iTunes with no radio airplay and no music video is quite amazing."

Pek was unavailable for comment as he is currently serving his national service.

Other local artistes who have topped the iTunes charts since the download service was made available here last year include The Great Spy Experiment and Derrick Hoh.

Richmond, who mixed and mastered the track, said the song is a "bold" one for Pek, who, since his debut on the local scene at 16, has mostly produced English-language songs about his own personal struggle to gain acceptance as a rapper here.

"For the first time, I thought this is where he could actually make a true breakout," said the 36-year-old.

"(With LimPeh), Jin is stepping out and not afraid of being local, which is not just about spouting a few Hokkien words, but also has issues that I think will ring true for a lot of Singaporeans."

Unique

Zhang, 23, added: "I did expect it to do well because of how unique and Singaporean the song is. I do feel that songs with local flavour have a big market in Singapore because ultimately it is an extension of our culture, but whether the song connects or not depends on its quality.

"In my verse, I try to break the common stereotypes that people might have about Singaporeans and also talk about how far we've come from a humble fishing village to a bustling metropolis. I am extremely proud to be who I am and where I'm from and that explains my lyrics."

Pek and his team are gearing up to release the music video for LimPeh soon, said Mr Tan.

The video, which was directed by Pek and has already been shot, will show Pek and company swaggering around different parts of Singapore dressed like 70s bad boys with wide lapel print shirts and flared pants - an image that's similar to the one on the single cover.

The song, which is also available for streaming on music services Deezer and Spotify, is unlikely to air on radio due to its heavy use of dialect.

The radio programme code provided by the Media Development Authority to all radio stations here states that "... songs in dialects in a programme may be allowed provided the context justifies usage and is used sparingly".

But that does not matter for fans like Mr Jace Chen, 22, a part-time barista.

"I love it because it's like an inside joke for Singaporeans. I don't usually download songs from iTunes but after my friends told me about the song, I went to iTunes and spent $1.28 to download it," he said.

"I'm going to use the chorus as my ringtone!"

Fans can also go to www.shiggashay.com to purchase those limited edition LimPeh caps, as each purchase comes with a free download of the track.

Richmond's advice for Pek is to "inject social commentary messages" like the ones found in LimPeh into his body of work, but even he thinks that having a whole album of Hokkien and colloquial stuff would be too much.

"The novelty would wear off after a while," he said, "But you can have these little tokens for Singaporeans."

This story was originally published in The New Paper on Friday, June 28.

Copyright 2014 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. Regn No. 198402868E. All rights reserved. Terms & Conditions