Singapore Raps

A. Lin Neumann
Asia Sentinel
26 Nov 07

The chief censor is all that. Y’all.

It’s kind of like a night out with your office mates, including the boss. Everybody gets a little drunk and heads for the karaoke room after a few too many beers. It becomes painfully embarrassing when that marketing VP decides he’s more than just a Wharton MBA with stock options and a striped tie. He clicks into The Real Slim Shady and decides to rock the house. Who Let the Dogs Out? Woof indeed.

Except that we’re pretty sure that the executives from Singapore’s Media Development Authority who appear in MDA Senior Management Rap were sober when they somehow talked themselves into thinking they could be the incarnation of 50 Cent in their desire to promote the hidden hipness of the media business in Singapore. There is a reason why Singapore has a reputation for being unutterably boring. Watch the video and you’ll see what we mean.

On the video, currently available on YouTube and perhaps in the hipper dance clubs in Singapore, Amy Chua, director of media content, dressed in tasteful Anne Klein blue, raps her heart out: “We consult the community to give you a voice/And the industry has a part to play/To make our media city as bright as day.” Uh, you go homegirl.

And they aren’t a bit shy. The MDA, whose job is to put Singapore “at the forefront of the media age” (and also, coincidentally, to cut out scenes from movies and video games that are too sexy or violent for delicate Singaporeans to watch unfettered), has posted all 4:34 minutes of the rap at the top of their home page. It was promptly hijacked onto Youtube, where tens of thousands viewed it and scores made fun of it. The MDA itself is also Singapore’s official censorship body so one has to wonder how they allowed their own video to pass into public hands. This has to be an act of either utter cluelessness or subtle sabotage by the guys in the IT department.

When Lim Chin Siang, MDA’s director of IT and technology, chirps, “To add value to the economy for a bright future/Like an LCD screen you’ll get a crystal clear picture” his atonal delivery behind a generic scratch beat made us cringe in sympathy. Mr. Lim, did they force you to do this? Is this not a violation of your human rights, not to mention those of your colleagues who were no doubt forced to watch this video and smile appreciatively?

To its credit, the MDA did recently allow an uncut version of Ang Lee’s sex-heavy Lust, Caution to play in Singapore, albeit with a rating that restricted it to viewers 21 years and older. Most recently, the agency gained notoriety this month for banning Microsoft’s Mass Effect game, which has a sex scene between a human woman and an alien woman. Singapore seemed to be the only country to block the title and it quickly reversed the decision. Still, Reuters quoted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as saying the island republic should keep its conservative values and not allow “special rights” for homosexuals.

Tham Wai Kin, director of customer and licensing support, though, catches the regulatory spirit of the nanny state even as he gets jiggy with it: “Fees and fines/We make it all the easier/This for the industry and public licensees/You can holler at us 24/7.” We’re glad to know that Mr. Tham is making it convenient for us to pay our fines. Now there’s an incentive to do business.

Not surprisingly, the video has provoked extensive ridicule among bloggers in Singapore, with one astute observer at the Decay on Net blog catching the MDA posse plagiarizing a real rap group.

In the song Step Into a World (Rapture’s Delight), KRS-One raps this chorus: “Yes yes y’all, ya don’t stop/ KRS-One, rock on!/Yes yes y’all, ya don’t stop/ KRS-One, rock on!”

The creative mob at the MDA lifted the rhyme — and its beat — whole from KRS-One, changing it slightly: “Yes yes y’all, we don’t stop/get creative, can do, rock on!/ Yes yes y’all, we don’t stop, get connected worldwide, rock on!”

We sympathize with a viewer on YouTube who commented: “I don’t think I can travel overseas and say I’m from Singapore anymore.”

But we also must admit the whole thing is remarkably compelling. In the words of another YouTube critic: “No matter how hard you try, you just can’t look away.”

%d bloggers like this: