Wednesday, March 3

Keeping the hip hop beat alive


HIP hop is now widely regarded as one of the most popular music genres in Sarawak.

On social media or even online video platforms like YouTube, there’s a chance you would encounter a lot of rappers either from Sarawak or based in the state if you search for them.

For those not familiar with the music, Wikipedia explains hip hop is a genre of popular music developed in the US by inner-city African and Latino Americans in the Bronx borough of New York City in the 1970s.

It consists of stylised rhythmic music (also known as beats) that commonly accompanies rapping and chanted rhythmic and rhyming speech.

Chris (left) and Desmond.

With many hip hop loving youngsters searching for a platform to promote their music, two brothers from Kuching have started a movement known as Borneo Menace to help them.

They said as old-timers of the music scene, they liked to give young people or newbies a leg-up for the love of music and music development in their hometown.

Desmond Hill and his brother Chris Zafri created their platform after looking back to their younger days as hip hop fans. Back then, the genre had yet to catch on and there was hardly anyone to teach it to.

But the brothers continued making the music they love to keep it alive.

“In promoting and developing the local hip hop scene, we came up with this idea to let artistes submit their vocal tracks to us and we would use our hip hop beats to pair them to create a song.

“That was what we devised so that we, the innovators of the local hip hop movement, and the participants could have fun working in this project together,” Chris said.


Need for platform

Chris and Desmond during their teen years in 1998.

He added that with the Covid-19 pandemic, he felt the need to create the platform as many fans in the country had to go through home confinement under the Movement Control Order (MOC).

With the lockdown, Chris thought it was opportune to start the project since many would have the time to record their vocal tracks.

For a start, Chris would create a beat called an anthem for the movement. Artistes would send in their vocal tracks and raps to the beat. The end-product or finished song with a video would be uploaded to YouTube.

For now, all songs produced by the movement are of the same beats — but with different artistes rapping.

According to Desmond, the movement is a loose collaboration with any artiste who wants to participate. Project contributors or participants do not have any obligation apart from agreeing to the use of their vocals on the beats, created by Chris.

“We design the artwork and create the beat — or music as some outside of hip hop would call it — for the movement while promoting the works of the participants.

The brothers perform on stage.

“Anyone can join so long as the participants get to do what they want. We don’t want to impose any other condition,” Desmond assured.


Borneo Menace

On Borneo Menace, Desmond said the name was chosen as it represents the aggressive side of the music — without being violent, of course — and the place of its origin.

The movement has attracted a lot of attention even from outside of Borneo. What the brothers thought was a movement that only Sarawakians were interested in has now caught the interests of people outside the state.

“We have participants not only from Sabah but also neighbouring Brunei and Indonesia. This is a good start because our efforts to promote hip hop are recognised all over Borneo island. It’s beyond our expectations,” Chris said.

He pointed out that the project is not limited to artistes from Borneo but open to anyone interested. For him and his brother, the more the merrier.

So far, 34 artistes have taken part in the first phase of the project. The brothers thanked them for their participation, saying the movement would not be a success without their support.

The Hill brothers at a hip hop event in Kuala Lumpur recently.

Among the first phase participants were Knowno Hornbill, Silooman, Najeeb Loco, Boy Toretto, Gloria

Glo, Fuzz, Mr Aizawa, NDRSN JMS, Healme, A-Chill, and DoubleEKStudio from Kuching.

The others included Brotherwong.chill and Nocturne BDKHTN from Miri; FeedThePsycho from Bintulu; MR Mokha from Sibu; Nekara, Kalvin, Dabisz, and Biel.Jo from Sri Aman; RF from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah; Ynek from Labuan; NXF from Putatan, Sabah; Afif Haziq from Membakut, Sabah; and AK Danial from Brunei.

The groups from Kalimantan Barat were ACIL EMCE from Pontianak; Ferri Rap from Sintang; and JoeHxntu, Double Shoot, Bad Ball, Saint Murder, Wawan DMC, Blow G, Slim Phi, and Freaky Phi from Singkawang.

Chris and Desmond are hoping to get sponsors, especially from those who feel local hip hop can develop through Borneo Menace and who believe the movement can do more for the music scene not only in Sarawak but also the whole Borneo island.

“Hip hop has gone on to become a positive music genre, channelling the thoughts of today’s generation. It’s poetic and to grasp it, one needs to master a set of skills which invoke thoughts and promotes intelligence through critical thinking. We believe it not creates innovative and also intelligent youngsters,” Desmond said.

For them, hip hop will always be an art and a passion, saying it was what kept them going since discovering the genre in their early teens.

They hoped their movement could help the Sarawak hip hop scene develop and grow with more youngsters getting into it.

The brothers can be contacted via [email protected], or look for them on YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram.