Singapore music reviews: Sam Rui, Richard Jansen and Big Calo, Jjdroy and Mithun Karthik, Wheelsmith and Luq Here, Shahrizal, and Burmese Bombshells

Singapore music reviews: Sam Rui, Richard Jansen and Big Calo, Jjdroy and Mithun Karthik, Wheelsmith and Luq Here, Shahrizal, and Burmese Bombshells

Every Friday, many local musicians release new music that flies under the radar. To bring you the best new local music releases this weekend, we've compiled a playlist featuring some of the newest songs out from artists such as Sam Rui, Richard Jansen and Big Calo, Jjdroy and Mithun Karthik, Wheelsmith and Luq Here, Shahrizaland Burmese Bombshells

Sam Rui– ‘When December Comes’

One of the best things about Christmas is the build-up to its arrival. Anticipation is a powerful, heady and altogether infectious drug. Absent of religious poignance, it’s the frenzy of communal expectation of its occurrence that elevates December 25 from being yet another empty date in the calendar. On the first song off her Christmas-ready triptych No Show, Sam Rui shows how deeply she understands this. 

She savvily flips the script, putting the full force of her baby-voiced charms into telescoping the very public excitement over the holidays into the personal joy she’s feeling because of her lover’s impending arrival. Her approach is thus on-brand twofold. This time, she sings not of the searing pain of heartbreak but of the simple and sublime happiness of seeing the one that you love at a time when it feels so good to love and be loved – to the tune of sleigh bells.

Richard Jansen– ‘BADDD feat. Big Calo’

Tires screech before the track properly starts – Richard Jansen has literally has pulled up.

What follows is three minutes of laser-focused rage. This is the soundtrack to the funeral of all your naysayers. Jansen is a firing squad of one here, weaponising as he does his lyrical comeuppance with threats, curses and flexes. But it’s not insular. The scope of his ire is panoramic: One of the most piercing jabs is, “All these parody rappers turned comics”.

Though Big Calo is the ice to Jansen’s fire, he never cools off the intensity. His relaxed flow brims with braggadocio and intent. “You can’t tell me nothing / You a sugar muffin”, he spits to awesome and hilarious effect, like Jansen, having the last word over the opps.

Wheelsmith– ‘Vanilla’

It’s not just about lyrics – it’s about strength. The transcendental power that inheres in hip-hop derives from the elemental nature of its how it gives all who bow before it strength. Strength is a dazzling, uncompromising bar. Strength is wisdom. Strength is going through the ringer and being able to dust yourself off and move on. Strength is, above all, not giving in or up.

As a debut song, ‘Vanilla’ is a masterful showcase of vitality. But its true and deeper merit lies as a personal manifesto. There are parts of your biography you can’t control, like being diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, as Wheelsmith was when he was four. What’s in your power to influence, is how you go about living with the dice you’re cast – and he makes it clear that his destiny is his alone. “Never blame nobody for no body like this”, he raps, over a soul-inflected boom-bap canvas, redolent of history and battle-weary clarity. Lush-yet-sobering, it’s a stone-cold self-examination that privileges real talk over the false comfort of pep. This is the extent of his perception; this is how pure his vision is: “Die like a legend / ‘Cos I live like a myth”. 

  Burmese Bombshells – ‘Nicotine’

Burmese Bombshells makes its debut with the wonderfully crafted ‘Nicotine’, and positions itself as a late entry for debut of the year. ‘Nicotine’ is a soft, easy listen that doesn’t require much attention, but the closer you look, the more you’ll uncover. The tracked is coated with layers upon layers of soft, almost minuscule accents, that add depth and texture to an already-great song. The quintet puts on a great performance across the board, but the vocalist stands out with her buttery and velvety singing. The piano work towards the end of the track also stands out as a highlight of the song. Much like actual nicotine, the track is extremely addictive.

Shahrizal – ‘Why You Gotta’

Shahrizal’s 13th single of 2019 brings to light just how much he grown and developed as an artist over the course of the year. ‘Why You Gotta’ is the most stripped-down we’ve heard Shahrizal, but it’s a stylistic change that works. The track’s strength lies in its simplicity. The bare-bones approach to ‘Why You Gotta’ elevates the dark and heavy theme of being pushed away by a loved one. It forces you to confront your feelings, and feel everything. Dreamy sweeps set against singularly thumping bass kicks and trap hi-hats and snares converge to create a sound that’s mesmerising and captivating. 2020 is looking very bright for Shahrizal.

Jjdroy & Mithun Karthik – ‘War Zone’

The global rap scene has recently been dominated by trap and emo rap, so it's no surprise that most of Singaporean musicians within the genre have followed suit. Fans of the older generations of hip-hop have long been begging for true lyricists to return to the fold, and at long last, that time has finally come. Enter Jjdroy and Mithun Karthik, who are firing shots at anyone who says mumble rap is the future. But instead of empty call-outs, Jjdroy and Mithun back up everything they say with some of the hardest bars and flows we’ve heard out of Singapore in a long time.