SINGAPORE – With tracks such as High Pitched, satirising the culture of belting high notes on reality singing shows, and K-pop Idol, ridiculing the industry’s obsession with perfection, it seems nothing is safe from Malaysian rapper-songwriter Namewee’s cheeky potshots.
But his first concert in Singapore at The Star Theatre on Saturday night (on Feb 3) offered a glimpse behind the brazen bravado and freewheeling devil-may-care persona.
As a child, he hated studying and always quarrelled with teachers, and now, he just wants to use music to connect with others.
Namewee, 34, whose real name is Wee Meng Chee, said during the 2½-hour sold-out show: “The thing that pleases me most about making music is having my songs resonate with others.”
Wearing his signature beanie and sunglasses, he added in jest: “I write, everyone gets happy. But then I am not happy because I am caught (by the authorities).”
In August 2016, he was detained by the Malaysian police for four days, but not charged, for allegedly defiling a place of worship with intention to insult the religion. He had filmed part of the music video for his song, Oh My God, in a mosque.
Indeed, he jokingly expressed concern that the lights and microphone might be switched off halfway through the performance.
The Singapore show had been given an Advisory 16 rating for mature content and coarse language.
Thankfully, everything went smoothly, despite some risque songs in which certain lyrics resembled swear words, but were not actual vulgarities.
But there were also radio-friendly numbers, such as I Miss You and Stranger In The North, which he performed with local singer Boon Hui Lu. Boon’s cover of the song was uploaded onto YouTube last year, where it went viral and has amassed more than 39 million views.
Singaporean director Jack Neo also appeared as a special guest, performing a remake of the theme song to the 1990s variety show Comedy Night together with the rapper.
Namewee also showed his softer side. Before the 5,000-strong crowd, he thanked his parents for standing by him when he had run-ins with the police and faced a barrage of public criticism. Inviting his mother onstage, he performed the song Mother with her.
Despite his reputation for controversy, Namewee’s heart is very much in the right place.