Albums Of The Week

Mean about daily grind

Mean (above) gets introspective in NSFW: Not Safe For Work.
Mean (above) gets introspective in NSFW: Not Safe For Work.PHOTO: THE.XS COLLECTIVE

Rapper-producer waxes lyrical about how a budding musician juggles his craft and his day job

On his sophomore release, NSFW: Not Safe For Work, hip-hop artist Mean waxes lyrical about one of the most real things that a rapper from Singapore can sing about - the daily grind.

Like many budding young musicians here, Mean juggles a day job and plies his craft after-hours, and he lays it out on one of the catchiest tracks on the album, 24/7:

"Errday I'm hustlin', Stay on my grind from 9 to 5/Then 5 to 9 on a Friday night, I stay fly all night/Get on the mic on a Saturday night, I blow up the place like I'm dynamite."

The rapper-producer crafts a vivid peek into the life of a young adult working hard to upkeep a secondary life as not just an artist, but also a label-savvy fashionista.

  • HIP-HOP

  • NSFW: NOT SAFE FOR WORK

    Mean

    The.XS Collective

    3.5/5 stars

But it is not just all about brands, the high-life and fancy sneakers, and on Take Me, he gets introspective: "Trying to figure out what to do with this life/This obsession with fashion and worldly possessions/Caught up with this life, to notice the action".

He strips down all the de rigueur braggadocio and goes emotionally raw on one of the most accessible tunes, the R&B-inflected track Emotions, laying out his fears of "losing control" and trying to come to terms with internal contradictions ("been on a high but I'm still on the low").

No rap album would be complete without tracks taking a dig at haters and clueless punters, and the explicit verses addressing "wack cats" on Basic, which features female rapper Deeranae, do this with aplomb.

He also employs his compatriots for microphone duties - Villain features cameos from Ilohshix & Azrael while No Guns has verses from Maddie and Young.

Mean, whose real name is Nur Ahmad Muhaimin, is part of two local music collectives - prolific hip-hop family The.XS Collective and the rising community of more than a dozen cutting-edge bedroom producers who dub themselves H Y B R D T H R Y.

The stellar production in the dozen tracks comes courtesy of the latter, whether it is the ethereal haze of Take Me (feat. Fauxe) or the various trip-hop permutations by Mean himself.

The kaleidoscopic beats are quietly banging and there is a lot of controlled restraint without having to resort to harsh, in-your-face bangers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 09, 2015, with the headline 'Mean about daily grind'. Print Edition | Subscribe