Since time eternal, youth has been one of the most potent catalysts of revolution. This is truer than ever in the all-digital-everything world of today, where time moves at lightspeed and cultural phenomena envelopes everyday life with an accelerated thrust. Hip-hop is a steerer of global popular culture and like rest of the world, Singapore’s youngblood is chiming in resplendently. Twenty-one-year-old Fariz Jabba is one of the builders lending his hands to the movement/monument. You’ll recognise his elder brother Fakkah Fuzz as the bringer of rib-shaking laughs but know that Jabba is poised to make wide, impactful ripples of his own. You’ll be privy to his kinetic English-Malay flow on the Twitter-resounding “More Better”. Now, get ready for more.
Let’s talk about the “More Better Remix”.
That was an early idea. It’s built around the concept of me being in my messy-ass room and rapping – but not to flex. I added in a bit of Malay and people liked it. It took off on Instagram and got traction – SonaOne saw it. Shortly after that, I made another video and I posted it to Twitter and it blew up there – like thousands of retweets.
I realised that people like this kind of video style, where it’s someone rapping some funny stuff, with subtitles and emojis. But I’m careful about being an Instagram rapper. I see “More Better” as a stepping-stone into other stuff. When Joe Flizzow’s 16 Baris happened, everything fell into place. I took my favourite song of the moment Rich The Kid’s “New Freezer feat. Kendrick Lamar”, incorporated my brother’s joke, and localised it. The main idea behind it is for people to see my and Raja’s personalities.
“Rappers have a responsibility – they’re the prophets of the streets. I think about this every single day.”
Why is including Malay and having a sense of humour important to your craft?
Geographically speaking, there are lots of Malays in the region. I’m an English rapper, first and foremost. But I feel that it’s important for an artist to show their background in what they do. Since my Malay-ness is a part of my identity, I include it my raps. Hip-hop is a borrowed culture and it has to be respected as such. I’m not going to fake being anything else other than myself.
Also, it’s relatable. It’s hard for hip-hop to translate well in an Asian context purely on English alone. You need to shout out your base as much as you need to expand your artistry.
The humour comes from the fact that no one’s going to listen to you unless they like you. Imagine this: There’s a random person and Dane Cook in his prime and they both say the same thing in the same way. Who would people listen to?
So unlike a lot of rappers, you consciously choose not to flex.
Yes. I chose not to flex seriously. For me, the most important principle in rap is that you can never say you did something if you haven’t done it before. This is what a lot of rappers in Asia don’t understand. For instance, you can’t talk about sipping lean and doing drugs freely here. That’s just not real. Over here, it’s a whole different ball game.
Besides that, having a sense of humour shows that you have a personality – and that’s very important for an artist, too. That playfulness and wackiness is lost in the trap craze that a lot of people are following today. But if your trap anthem doesn’t relate to the people at home, you won’t have longevity. Rappers have a responsibility – they’re the prophets of the streets. I think about this every single day.
That sense of truth also seems to the manifesto of “Renaissance”.
That song is very important to me because it came at a point when my fear of the future caught up with my passion for music. It took me some time to rationalise that no matter what I did, that fear would always be there and that it is something that would either stop me or keep me going. Besides my own emotional outlook, the song has another level to it. There is this barbershop near my place where this guy Sol worked at. It wasn’t the right environment for such a talented guy. In the end, he left that place and opened his own shop. That’s where the music video for “Renaissance” was shot.
Besides rap, what else should the people know what you?
I do four things: I’m a dancer, first and foremost, I’m a rapper second, a singer third and an actor, lastly. I posted a video with Rajid and myself dancing on Instagram a while back. What I want to do is go down the Jay Park and Chris Brown route – a quadruple threat.
It’s known that you’re very close friends with Raja. Does your friendship with him motivate you or affect what you do?
Man, that’s the number one thing that drives me. I always wanted to be my own entity. But I don’t believe in the lone-wolf concept. Humans are social creatures; they react to and give off energy. Rajid and I have a perfect contrast – and it complements our dynamic perfectly. We bounce off each other’s energy. The fact that we can help each other focus on different aspects of the art and business side of things allows us to grow meaningfully in our own ways.