ST Sessions: Rapper Akeem Jahat takes pride in the wonder of Woodlands

Singapore rapper Akeem Jahat has the distinction of being one of the first solo hip-hop acts to be featured at Esplanade's Baybeats.
Singapore rapper Akeem Jahat has the distinction of being one of the first solo hip-hop acts to be featured at Esplanade's Baybeats.PHOTO: AZIM AZMAN, T KUMAR

Like many hip-hop acts worldwide, Singapore rapper Akeem Jahat takes pride in representing his home town in his music.

Whether he is performing at local or regional shows, his fans will sing back his lyrics about his neighbourhood.

"The most Singaporean song that I've ever written, or recorded, is Woodlands," he says in the latest episode of the fourth season of ST Sessions, The Straits Times' online video series featuring rising talents in Singapore's music scene.

The fact that his overseas fans, who have never been to Woodlands, are singing about the estate is mind-blowing, he adds. "Just thinking about it, talking about it, (it's) giving me the shivers."

In the video, the 29-year-old is filmed performing to a local crowd at the Esplanade's Baybeats, a prominent music festival that puts the spotlight on Singapore artists.

Akeem, who raps in English and Malay, has the distinction of being one of the first solo hip-hop acts to be featured at the festival, which took place from Aug 17 to 19.

He has been wanting to play at Baybeats for a long time. It has traditionally been more focused on alternative rock bands.

"This is history in the making in Singapore," he says of his set at the Esplanade Annexe Studio on the second day of the festival. "To actually be part of it is an honour."

Akeem, who also talks about getting hooked on music through his father's karaoke CDs in the video, has released recordings like the 2014 SeluDOPE Mixtape.

And while he acknowledges that hip-hop has its roots in African-American culture in the United States, he says he is focused on developing his own identity.

"I don't sound like them, I don't go through their struggles. There was this era in hip-hop in Singapore where everybody was looking for that original sound.

"And that day, I decided, you know what, I just want to be myself."

ST Sessions' fourth season is part of a series of digital video programmes produced in a partnership between the Info-communications Media Development Authority and Singapore Press Holdings.

Besides Akeem, the season features seven other acts, including electronic singer Jasmine Sokko and pop singer Falling Feathers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 30, 2018, with the headline 'Wonder of Woodlands'. Print Edition | Subscribe