Hip-hop has ruled the airwaves for decades and the rap game evolves every year, interweaving a barrage of genres from pop and jazz to Afrobeat and producing fresh new faces and sounds.
Brunei is no exception and the country has seen some rising talents producing cool hip-hop of our own. These boundary-pushing rising stars are taking the urban sound to another level.
Jaymie Foo from Kuala Belait has been dropping rap verses – minus the cliché tropes of expensive cars, hard cash and the sorts – with an unpredictable flow in both English and Brunei Malay language.
The 25-year-old of Chinese-Dusun descent says he never thought of becoming a rapper. “I was just the same as others who were passionate and obsessed with music from a very young age. Back then, I wasn’t the type who was into hip-hop but pop instead.”
Jaymie, whose real name is Jeremiah Walden Foo, loved performing on stage and took gigs for weddings, birthday parties and charity events to express his feelings through music. However, after doing it for quite some time, nothing really excited him because there weren’t any opportunities to go further.
Jaymie was on the brink of giving up, but he is glad that he didn’t. Instead he followed the famous phrase, “When there is a will, there’s always a way.”
In 2015, he changed his tune from a pop singer to a rapper as a try-out. His big break came after releasing his first hip-hop track Bluetick in local language, which garnered positive feedback and compliments on social media from local fans and Malaysian hip-hop artistes.
“(Bluetick) used to get a few hundred views back then, but now thankfully over 10,000 views are more than enough for me.”
“Viewers and feedback are definitely a motivation,” he added. “I just can’t stop myself from striving for more, to get noticed or even know if I have any potential to go far.”
He kept making songs based on what people experienced in local languages and fortunately a lot of listeners could relate and wanted to hear more, which motivated him produce more tracks.
By the end of 2015, his consistency in producing tracks garnered notice from several hip-hop artistes in Malaysia and he was invited to take a look at the hip-hop scene there.
The trip gave him more insight into the hip-hop culture and also led to him making great friends like Benzooloo who is now an uprising rapper in Malaysia under Sony Music Malaysia and working with Qarmamusiq who is owned by the legend, Mr General Malique from Too Phat.
He has been affiliated with a rap group in Sabah called Outlaw Wijaya Brothaz until this very day. As a year passed, he produced some covers of trending songs in English on social media and it really caught a lot of attention.
“That is where the leader of YMY, Kmy Kmo, a former member of Nukilan under Qarmamusiq, who is also in a great relationship with Mr General discovered me and decided to take me in,” he explained.
Jaymie was signed with YMY and was called to do his first overseas show during an event called RAPC (Rhythm And Poetry Culture). He was the sole rapper from Brunei and shared the stage with long-time rappers like Altimet, Caprice, Aman Ra and others from Thailand and Indonesia.
“I achieved my goal which was to bring Bruneian Malay language to perform outside,” he added.
He continued on performing live shows and producing tracks with YMY for three years until he landed a permanent job in Brunei. “It was really addictive and enjoyable at first when shows kept coming, but it then slowed down for quite some time and that’s where making a living was hard throughout.”
As music is always close to his heart, he still manages to produce tracks on a regular basis, so listeners would be entertained and have something to wait for.
“I always turn to music to express how I feel and what I really want to say,” he shared. “I don’t intend to stop in achieving because there’s a lot more in life to be achieved when it comes to this art.”
He is currently working on a new track alongside local rapper Faezal, who is famous for his song Ballin featured in local radio stations.
Jaymie worked with Zed Peace a few years back on a track called It’s Alright, where they rap about work life and unemployment.
He is also eyeing a collaboration with local rapper Nazmo. “It would definitely be an honour to collaborate with not only him but other rappers from the same home ground as well.”
Recently, Jaymie worked with local event management companies to host an event for rap battling and, to his surprise, there were a lot of underground talents with the potential to go far.
While many talents eventually give up when they know it is difficult to go far in music here, Jaymie managed to do the opposite by rising from the bottom. Some wanted to follow his footsteps, from nothing to something, and it was a good feeling to know these talents still have hope, even if it’s a hard road.
“My journey is just the tip of the iceberg as there is still a lot more to learn in hip-hop,” he said.
He hopes to see not only hip-hop but the music scene here in Brunei grow or even be made possible as a career and, better yet, sponsored with scholarships in music.
“That way, people who love or want to do music would have a path and hope in their future if academics weren’t their strength.”
“My honest vision for Brunei’s hip-hop scene is to see the locals support one another without making any comparisons or competitions between each other,” he added.