What a time to be alive – hip-hop has evolved from being the “CNN of the ghetto” to the most popular genre in the United States. By extension, this means that hip-hop is among the world’s most influential cultural and artistic forces. Clubs, the temples from which body-moving sounds emanate and enrapture the captive audience, have also been imbibing these new vibrations – dance floors shake with urgings by Future, Migos et al. Zouk, titanically prominent, at home and throughout all of clubland, is chiming in heavily on this too. Recently, the superclub announced a new, all-hip-hop night dubbed Sin City, helmed by DJ Nash D. Responsible for bringing the bounce to ShiGGa Shay‘s flows, Dhanish Nair more than knows his way around the lineage, legacy and narratives of hip-hop. He’s one of the most passionate ambassadors of the art here and when he’s on the decks, it shows. Below, he fills us in on his much-deserved Zouk residency and what we can expect from Sin City.
Take it back to the beginning. What drew you to DJing?
I’ve been a DJ for almost 10 years now; five years learning the ropes and five years professionally. Music has been a big part of my life ever since I was a child and I was always a bit of an entertainer. I was also in band a before and I played the drums and keyboard, but that didn’t really work out. I got into DJing when in poly when I saw DJ Rattle spin and I thought it was super cool. My interest in manipulating sound took off from there.
How did the Zouk residency come about?
About two years ago, I started playing on this night called Drop It, an EDM night with DJ Matthew. We ended that night when Zouk shifted locations, but I was still doing a night called H.A.M.. Recently, one of the Zouk resident DJs left and there was an open spot so they thought of me. Joining Zouk is, honestly, a dream come true. I believe every DJ in Singapore would want to spin at least once at Zouk since it’s the biggest platform here. At Zouk, DJs can play whatever they want to a mass audience.
“People have a perception that hip-hop can be only played on a smaller stage to a smaller audience, but I want to bring it to the biggest stage in Singapore.”
Were you nervous about playing your music to a large audience?
Yes, for sure. But the feedback has been good. Zouk has its own sound and I try to bring in my own flavour, too. The normal club sound is usually very clean and radio-friendly, but mine is a bit more sexy, grungy and hard. I want to play around with the system.
Can you tell us more about Sin City?
Since Solid Gold has stopped in Zouk, I was approached to do Sin City. They wanted me to come in because they needed a hip-hop night. I anchor the night and have invited guest DJs and emcees on. The night is going to be mad fun and mad hip-hop. People will not hear this kind of hip-hop anywhere else in Singapore because I believe that people have a perception that hip-hop can be only played on a smaller stage and to a smaller audience, but I want to bring it to the biggest stage in Singapore. My ultimate goal is to push hip-hop to the masses.
Why do you think hip-hop is necessary in a club?
Hip-hop never went away, even when EDM was at its peak. Hip-hop is huge and it’s still growing. Right now, I feel that hip-hop is at its punk rock phase. I think hip-hop is essential to setting the tone for the whole music scene. The thing about hip-hop is that it’s not only about the music, but also about how it’s influential in other aspects of culture, such as fashion. Even if someone doesn’t like hip-hop music, you will still see him or her dressed the hip-hop way.
From your vantage point, what’s the local clubbers’ appetite for hip-hop like right now?
It’s definitely growing. More and more people are listening to rap. But I feel that there is a lot more space that we can explore. There are a lot of artists sending me DMs where it’s just rap. Shigga just showed me a video of a few guys rapping to “Tapau” – we’ve never seen this before. It’s great because this is what we want to cultivate in Singapore. The time for hip-hop in Singapore is now. But with that being said, there is still a lot of space to grow.
What would you say is the hip-hop song of 2017?
I would have to say “DNA.” by Kendrick Lamar. It incorporates a lot of elements into one song. Also, you can listen to the whole album forwards and backwards without it being weird. The album also has mass appeal; it’s not a very niche album which only a certain group of people will appreciate. The album is not just about sex or drugs, but also about relatable and real issues. The fact that it’s so popular all over the world is proof that hip-hop is now worldwide.