Albums Of The Week

Bombast and swagger aside, Shigga Shay is a sensitive dude

Shigga Shay (above) displays his sensitive side and Dr Dre shows he still has plenty of bite and vigour.
Shigga Shay (above) displays his sensitive side and Dr Dre shows he still has plenty of bite and vigour.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, ERIC CHEN
Shigga Shay displays his sensitive side and Dr Dre (above) shows he still has plenty of bite and vigour.
Shigga Shay displays his sensitive side and Dr Dre (above) shows he still has plenty of bite and vigour.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, ERIC CHEN

Dr Dre sings of Compton, where he was born and grew up in, and local singer Shigga Shay raps about Singapore culture

Like all good hip-hop albums, Dr Dre's swansong album, Compton, and Shigga Shay's sophomore full-length represent their hometown and colour bouncy beats with copious amounts of bluster and braggadocio.

Compton is a love letter to the Californian city he was born and grew up in, a community known as much for its drug- and gang-fuelled violence as it is for giving birth to the astounding and globally influential hip-hop talents including, more recently, Kendrick Lamar.

Inspired by early footage to the much anticipated biopic of his controversial seminal 1980s rap group N.W.A., the album tracks the 50-year-old's rise from the ghetto to become one of the most powerful artist/entrepreneurs in the American music industry today.

Production-wise, the tunes are still rooted in bouncy and, often, psychedelic funk. And just as on his previous solo releases, Dr Dre lets his proteges flow on many of the tracks, from rap stars such as Eminem and Snoop Dogg to relatively unknown talents Justus and Marsha Ambrosius.

But his remains the commanding voice. "The world ain't enough, I want it all/God d*****, I'm too old, I forgot I got it all/But Andre young enough to still get involved," he raps on Talk About It.

  • HIP-HOP

  • COMPTON

    Dr Dre

    Aftermath/Interscope

    ****

  • SHIGGA SHAY

    Shigga Shay

    Self-released

    ***1/2

He remembers old comrades, including the ones who died, such as Eazy-E, and reminisces on Talking To My Diary: "I remember how it used to be/Now my money like NASDAQ, my checks you can cash that."

The self-professed first billionaire of rap cautions younger stars against being hooked on the Internet and social media and shakes his head at modern trends. Yet he does not come across as a cranky old man who has lost his edge after achieving money and success - Compton retains much of his bite and vigour in the verses and beats.

In contrast to Dr Dre, 23-year-old Singaporean rapper Shigga Shay does not have the drama of growing up in the inner cities of the United States to bolster his verses, never mind his deep American drawl and accent. What he is, is a constantly evolving artist who has come a long way since his awkward beginnings as a 14-old-year apeing the likes of Eminem, Jay-Z and Biggie Smalls.

It took three years for the independent rapper to finish his eponymous full album and the result is a well-rounded piece of work that could have been made only by someone who grew up in the heartland, with an eye on the global, hip-hop world.

On the album released on National Day, he raps in English and Mandarin, drops local colloquialisms in Hokkien and Malay, and features cameos from his Grizzle Grind Crew hip-hop collective as well as home-grown acts such as Benjamin Kheng from The Sam Willows , Gentle Bones and Wang Weiliang.

He is most self-aware on Ang Moh Pai, a Hokkien term usually reserved for locals obsessed with Western culture. Set to a banging rap-rock beat, Shigga and frequent collaborator Tosh Rock (Wang's Ah Boys To Men co-star Tosh Zhang) reference the accent, the penchant to "rap about assassins but never touch no gun" and the love of local and Asian pop culture from Phua Chu Kang to Xiao Ding Dang (Doraemon).

"They say we want to be American, talk and dress like black dudes, but we are Singaporean," he raps with glee.

Despite all the bombast and swagger, the man is very much in touch with his sensitive side, whether it's an R&B ballad like Afraid To Love, which features an almost unrecognisable and heavily Auto-Tuned Gentle Bones, or album closer Mama Don't Cry, a touching tribute to his mother, who raised him alone after his father died when the rapper was in his teens.

Shigga has global dreams, but keeps it real by staying grounded and close to home and family.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2015, with the headline 'Love letters to origins'. Print Edition | Subscribe