Rapper REQ embraces his Singaporean father's homeland

Rapper REQ.
Rapper REQ.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

British rapper REQ, whose career took off after he moved to Singapore six years ago, embraces an electronic music style that started in Britain in the 2000s

In Britain, rapper REQ plied his trade only at house parties and street corners. When he moved to Singapore six years ago, his music career took off.

This month, the 28-year-old Briton, whose father is Singaporean and mother is British, will perform across Asia to promote his recently released sophomore EP, Sleeping Giant.

The string of gigs includes an appearance at the annual 100 Festival at former Bedok Town Secondary School on Sunday and in Macau on July 28.

REQ, a full-time artist whose real name is Samuel Simpson, says: "If I had stayed in the UK, I would have still done music, but it wouldn't be in any way professional. There, it was very much a hobby for me. My hometown doesn't even have a jamming studio. I have a lot more access to music facilities here."

He is signed to AOR Studios, a home-grown music studio and record label, whose honcho, Shorya Sharma, is the main producer of most of his songs.

His debut single, Badman, was released last year. He released two EPs this year - Against All Odds in February and Sleeping Giant last month.

The variety of sounds in the two EPs showcases the breadth of his music.

If I had stayed in the UK, I would have still done music, but it wouldn't be in any way professional... My hometown doesn't even have a jamming studio.

RAPPER REQ on easy access to music facilities in Singapore

"In Against All Odds, I was experimenting, so all the tracks are different. Sleeping Giant is a complete body of work, all the songs are related to one another and they showcase my ability as an MC."

REQ's distinctive music is known as grime, an electronic music style that started in Britain in the 2000s, with roots in genres such as hip- hop and dancehall.

He says there are no other rappers making music in the genre in Singapore, but is confident that there is an increasing number of music fans getting into grime here.

Cherry Discotheque at York Hotel, for example, recently started a monthly grime night.

While he was born in Birkenhead, Britain, the rapper's growing-up years were spent moving from country to country due to the nature of his father's job in the logistics industry.

As he rarely stayed long in one place, he described himself as an "oddball" among his peers and turned to music as a way to cope. He wrote his first rap verses at the age of 15 and started performing at house parties two years later.

After he dropped out of university in Britain at the age of 22, he decided to join his parents, who were then based in Singapore. They have since returned to Britain, but he has extended family here.

"I was meant to come here for six months, but ended up staying for good. I like the vibes here, not just the music, but life in general. I know it's a cliche, but it's a safe country and I just felt like there are more opportunities for me here," he says.

At private education institute MDIS, where he studied mass communications and got his degree, he met fellow student and home-grown rapper Charles Enero.

A song the two of them collaborated on with singer Sheeq Luna, called Mother Nature's Cry, won the 2013 Eco Music Challenge, a music competition organised by the National Environment Agency.

In recent years, Simpson has worked with home-grown hip-hop veteran Sheikh Haikel and Filipino artist Yeng Constantino, as well as volunteered to teach rap at juvenile home Singapore Boys' Home.

While his music is making forays in the region, the rapper says he calls Singapore home.

"Singapore is my base. I just want to do more music and see what happens."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2017, with the headline ''Oddball' with a gift for grime'. Print Edition | Subscribe