For all the ink devoted to FAUXE‘s unquestionable brilliance, not enough has documented the fact that he’s a master storyteller. The prodigious, canons-spanning output of the Singaporean musician and producer is also an immersion into narratives of love, life, pain, loss and above all, transcendence. Fact: There is nothing like it out there. For his upcoming project, the Ikhlas EP, he turns his eye and his ear to Malaysia. To its multiple and florid musical legacies. And what we’ve heard of it is legitimately breathtaking. While you await its full reveal, here’s FAUXE himself to unpack it for you.
What’ve you been up to since we last spoke?
I’ve been focusing a lot on my music production and writing music for artists in Singapore and the region. I’ve been working on my own music and instead of putting it all out, I’ve been keeping it and thinking how I can do it differently and doing it in a more structured way. But the biggest change, for sure, has been me living and making music in Kuala Lumpur.
Tell us more about your experience in Kuala Lumpur.
KL was great because I was mostly alone. I lived in an apartment in Damansara and I spent a lot of time focusing on overcoming my fears and insecurities. It made me grow up real quick. The environment in KL is slower but a lot grittier than Singapore’s. Context and environment play a very important part in the growing process for an artist. I can safely say that if I had stayed longer, I would’ve grown even more. Seven months was enough to teach me so much. I knew before that I had to stick to my journey and never compromise, but now it’s even more powerful and significant for me.
“I’ve chosen a conscious side where I do things that make me better as a person so I’ve always been neutral.”
What is the most monumental takeaway from that experience?
Working with MC Syze. We instantly clicked but not just on a musical level. It was a personal and spiritual kind of thing, you know? I usually spend 90 per cent of the time making people believe in themselves when working with someone. This happens a lot in Singapore and a bit in KL.
But when I met Syze, it wasn’t like that. We saw eye-to-eye and it’s almost like a “you do you and I do me” kind of thing. I didn’t need to spend time telling him what has to be done because he knows who he is and I know who I am. Most of us will not be able to have the experience where you can just make amazing music with someone instantly because you’re so in sync. There’s just no one I can work with like that. This was the best experience I had in KL.
And what are some things that you’ve learnt about the community there?
I feel that Singapore and Malaysia are very similar because we both think that that the other is better. Singaporeans are impressed by Malaysian rappers and Malaysians think that Singaporeans are all that. The difference, though, is that Malaysians believe in themselves more than Singaporeans do because they just do it. I think that we don’t have enough people who want to do music the way they do. In Malaysia, people call each other out but in Singapore, everyone wants to be nice to each other.
Music is the product of the environment it’s made in and because there’s much space to breathe and think there, the music is freer. Here, you are bounded by the experience of the producers and rappers. And on top of all that, I feel like Malaysians have more bravery in the work that they produce. We are safe in Singapore and it works here. But with the rise of Internet, we are constantly looking at each other. Both the similarities and differences in each country inspire different kinds of work.
Do you feel that you have to take a side?
I’ve chosen a conscious side where I do things that make me better as a person so I’ve always been neutral. Unlike black Americans, we don’t have an epic struggle in our history and we’ve all grown up together. So, the best way is to be neutral and let anyone’s choices be the product of their actions. If you were to tell everyone here who is correct, there will only be one point of view so it’s great for everyone to have different approaches. That way, it will be something more than us just trying to be a perfect society.
Tell us more about your EP, Ikhlas
Ikhlas is very special to me because it’s a document of my journey and struggles in KL. Malaysia has a lot of roots and depth. Evolution also means you have to dig deeper into the soil and grow from there. Hip-hop is music about struggle and when you sample what is ethnically and regionally yours, it becomes more culturally understandable.
Ikhlas means ‘sincerity’ in Bahasa so it’s about the honesty in what I do by respecting the form and giving it a fresh coat of paint. These tracks are little ideas to realise that this is where I’ve come from and with the travel and experience. I got to see all of it and I took it upon myself to showcase it.
What do you hope people will get from this project?
I want them to feel proud to be Asian because the music I’ve put in is very Southeast Asian. I want them to feel proud of where they are from. I’m just trying to give ideas and inspire someone to do better, and this is me having fun by infusing different elements from different cultures. This is a time where I have to stop being physically active and let the music speak for itself. I’m very grateful for the people who took care of me when I was in Malaysia and I want to give a shout out to everyone I met there. I love these people and they made me who I am today so this EP is first and foremost an ode to Malaysia – I love the country, the people and the music. Now, I can’t wait to get out and travel to another country and do new things.