Hip-hop has been getting a much-needed overhaul and the recent years have shown more artists utilise their platform to shift our gaze towards socio-political issues plaguing our perpetually distracted society. It was just a matter of time before Lion City gets in line with this global shift and here we are with a burning new drop from Subhas, Not a Public Assembly. We caught up with the rapper recently to get some insights about his album, his social responsibility as a rapper, and Jack Neo.
…And while you’re reading, play this. You’re welcome.
Mugshot: Please give us a brief background of yourself as an artist/rapper and as an activist. Do these two identities clash or do they inform each other?
I am and have been many things. First and foremost I am a son, brother, and friend. I started rapping a year ago just before I graduated from college. ‘Activist’ is a title others call me. It is one I am proud of because I feel it is conferred to those who are willing to take a stand and sacrifice something for what they believe in. But I do not really care about titles or labels; I am fine with whatever is necessary for people to process my work. Personally, I don’t think of myself as an activist. Just a concerned citizen unsatisfied with status quo. But surely, being a rapper and an activist is mutually reinforcing because I constantly ask myself, what I am activating my rap voice for?
What is your process like and how do you navigate the political aspect of rap in a country where media and art are heavily regulated? Does the current landscape of hip-hop in the country have anything to do with how you’ve shaped your career so far?
To be honest, I don’t give a fuck about regulation. I am telling my truth. About the current landscape of hip-hop, I like to lead by example. Also, I’m down if Tharman wants to collab.
Medium is the message — Given rap’s political nature, is explicitly stating your political stance through music a requirement?
There is no other way. How can you be a rapper and know nothing about what you think about issues that affect us on an everyday? We as Singaporeans have been conditioned to become so alienated from our power as political beings. My music is a reclamation of that power. It is true that certain genres can encapsulate the ethos of certain messages better than others can. I am just being loyal to that spirit within rap and hip-hop that has inspired me to fall in love with words and the stories that have emanated from the genre in the first place.
It is a culture championed by the oppressed, after all, no? Which brings us to your new release, Not A Public Assembly, what’s the story behind the title, and what do you intend for people to take away from it?
The name for the album was actually invented by a friend – Natalie Christian Tan. She came up with the idea on a t-shirt so that good, law-abiding Singaporeans finally have clothes they can wear to show their good behaviour. She also designed my album artwork and we later collaborated on those tees as official merchandise that you can now buy at www.notapublicassembly.com.
Every time you say Not A Public Assembly, you are making a political statement. Think about that. Is the title related to the peaceful protests and candlelight vigils that got Jolovan Wham and others arrested? Maybe. Is the title giving the finger to the IMDA? Gosh no. You can’t do that, right?
God forbid. The status quo is too perfect. What can the people expect from Subhas for the next couple of years?
Gotcha. Parting message? (A rap equivalent of a fuck you is also welcome.)
Fuck Jack Neo. Google him. I would call him a cunt but that would be disrespectful to vaginas.
(No offense taken, bruh.)