The name ALYPH is one of the first to come to mind when one thinks of Southeast Asian hip-hop.
Born Muhammad Alif Abdullah, the Singaporean rapper, songwriter, and producer is the complete package, something that he has shown time and time again through his musical creations.
As seen from the viral success of his 2022 track 'SWIPE', which to date has been used in 1.7 million videos on TikTok, the 33-year-old possesses a talent for crafting catchy tunes capable of capturing the attention of many. But if you've been following ALYPH's career over the years, you would know that the infectious nature of his songs has never been their only draw.
Encased within this attractive exterior are nuggets of wisdom that the Def Jam Recordings South East Asia act wants to share with his listeners. In 'CHECK', his follow-up single to 'SWIPE' and first release of 2023, for instance, ALYPH reflects on the importance of keeping what he surrounds himself with in check.
"What ['SWIPE' and 'CHECK'] have in common would be awareness. Like self-awareness. Because 'SWIPE' is [about] being aware of your past situations and how that makes you confident today. And 'CHECK' is being aware of your situation before going out and trying to work on other situations," shared ALYPH, who considers his upbringing to be a big source of inspiration when he's making music.
And when it comes to performing, one can always expect ALYPH to effortlessly command the attention of any crowd before him as he dispenses his teachings with both conviction and verve.
In an interview with Hear65 following the release of 'CHECK', ALYPH explained how he came up with his latest single, talked about his upbringing's influence on his music, and revealed about what goes through his mind when he's on stage.
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Hi, ALYPH! Who are some artists you’ve been listening to lately?
Well, I have Shye on my playlist. I definitely listen to Fariz Jabba, Yung Raja, and ABANGSAPAU. I listen to Aisyah Aziz and Jasmine Sokko. Internationally, I have been listening to Steve Lacy recently. A lot of Young Thug, a lot of Tyler [the Creator], A$AP [Rocky], Kendrick [Lamar]. and Drake. I always listen to Rihanna. Sometimes a little bit of Taylor Swift.
Let’s go back a little to 2022. You ended the year on a high thanks to the viral success of ‘SWIPE’. What was it like seeing the reception that the song got on social media?
I didn't have any words for the most part in the beginning because I wasn't even on TikTok then. I had an account, but it was just an account. I mean I'm always grateful and humbled and happy that any of my songs will get traction — major traction from the listeners that just makes me feel like making music is me doing the right thing.
I didn't expect it to pan out the way it did, but I always hope for the best for every [song of mine]. So I wouldn't say that I am surprised that it did well because I was hoping it would do well, similar to my other songs. But the way that it did was quite spectacular. It made me learn a lot — a lot about marketing, like today's marketing and how the audiences are. It's just so much information. So I just got back to work.
"I'm always grateful and humbled and happy that any of my songs will get traction — major traction from the listeners that just makes me feel like making music is me doing the right thing."
@alyphland #akuswipechallengeontiktok with @Vidi Aldiano #ALYPH #DefJamSEA #DefJamMsia #DefJamID #LaguViral #SWIPETREND ♬ SWIPE - ALYPH
Speaking of getting back to work, congratulations on the launch of your latest single ‘CHECK’! How did the idea for the song come about?
'CHECK' was actually the first song I made when I found a sound that I wanted to stick with. 'SWIPE' [was] like the third [or] fourth song after that, so 'CHECK' is almost like the anchor of this sound that I'm doing. It basically signifies making sure you check your own surroundings before you go out and check other stuff. So check whether your room is clean before you want to go out and try and clean somebody else's room, you know what I mean?
"['CHECK'] basically signifies making sure you check your own surroundings before you go out and check other stuff. So check whether your room is clean before you want to go out and try and clean somebody else's room, you know what I mean?"
How do ‘CHECK’ and ‘SWIPE’ complement each other?
What they have in common would be awareness. Like self-awareness. Because 'SWIPE' is [about] being aware of your past situations and and how that makes you confident today. And 'CHECK' is being aware of your situation before going out and trying to work on other situations. The other anchor would be the sound because with 'CHECK', the instruments that I use all come from the same family that I would later on go and use for 'SWIPE' and all the other songs.
How do you strike a balance between making music that is both catchy and meaningful?
The catchy part comes from my upbringing because I listened to a lot of music, which I now realise was catchy. [I listened to] a lot of pop music [and] rock music. A lot of songs had tunes that [got me] hooked me on them, [and] that was the reason why I really loved them. And that's [why] I guess it's embedded in me, that when I make music that would translate out.
[As for the part about being meaningful,] I think that is also [due to my] upbringing because when I'm in the studio and I'm thinking of what to write, it is not very calculated [with regards to] how many people would relate to this. It's almost like a natural occurrence. I [will] feel like l want to talk about this really badly, so that could also be my upbringing talking, you know like how my mama raised me and all the values. Because hip-hop is such a broad genre with many subjects [you can] approach [it with], I decided to gravitate towards a certain few topics and outlooks. I would love to explore some other stuff also but it just feels right that I go here, and that is possibly because of my upbringing, which compels me to talk about certain things only.
"I would love to explore some other stuff also but it just feels right that I go here, and that is possibly because of my upbringing, which compels me to talk about certain things only."
You have a new album on the way. Can you tell us what we can expect from it?
It will be my first studio album. This will be my debut album, so I would say that I am extremely proud of it.
I had the opportunity of catching you at Baybeats 2022, where you energised the crowd during your performance. How do you keep your audience engaged whenever you’re on stage?
That's a very good question. Before I get on stage, I feel like it's still the first time I get on stage ever. And I will always just leave it. [As for] the energy that I put out, before I go on stage, I tell myself [that] I'm going to leave everything up to the stage. So when we go on stage, as we are performing, doing our job, and working, we read the audience, we read the music, we read whether they are engaging them and how they are engaging in them, and then we take it from there. It's almost like freestyle stand-up comedy where you just go up there and, you know, sometimes you tell a joke and then it doesn't work and you've been writing it for many weeks and you thought it would work. But if they're not laughing then on the spot, I'm like, "Okay, okay, this is that kind of crowd, so I have to..." So that's how it is, I think.
"[As for] the energy that I put out, before I go on stage, I tell myself [that] I'm going to leave everything up to the stage."
@n.i.q.i Best way to end my 🎂 Alyph is amazing as always 💯 (also can’t wait for his next song 🤫) #DefJam #DefJamSEA #Alyph #Swipe #Baybeats2022 #singapore ♬ SWIPE - ALYPH
In your opinion, what are three essential qualities that an aspiring hip-hop artist should have?
These are just my opinions, so you cannot take my word as gospel. They would need to have the ability to preserve life outside of music because that's where the inspiration comes from. So that is very essential. You have to protect that.
Number two would be a lot of hours. You [have] got to clock in your hours with no one watching. It's an actual process and you will never know how long it takes, but you [have] got to put in the hours while no one is watching. That is very important.
And thirdly, after you put in those hours, you will be able to add worth and value to yourself before going out there and trying to get opportunities, find better opportunities and deals for yourself, collaborate, and accept outside input and help. I think before you do that, you first have to... it derives from yourself, from within first, so you have to build your own self-value and self-worth.
"[Aspiring hip-hop artists] would need to have the ability to preserve life outside of music because that's where the inspiration comes from."
Complete this sentence: When people listen to my music, I want them to
There's a word for it. My friend just told me that word. I forgot what the word is. It's about taking you back or taking you to a moment in time in your life that you know subconsciously you are unable to recreate. Or it will be [like you are] in a fantasy world. [I want people] to feel a moment of release.
This interview has been edited for clarity.