Singapore Rapper THELIONCITYBOY on Trading the Tie for the Mic
Singapore is definitely not a hotbed for hip-hop culture but Kevin Lester has managed to defy the odds. The 33-year-old Singapore rapper cum producer who goes by the moniker, THELIONCITYBOY, has not only developed a strong local following, but also signed with the management company BMBX, a label formed by Apl.de.ap from The Black Eyed Peas.
Starting out in 2004 with the band, Bonafide Vintage Flav’r, he’s fronted Sixx, a nine-piece band that played at festivals such as ZoukOut and Marche International du Disque et de l’Edition Musicale (MIDEM). Thereafter, he decided to go solo, even appearing on TEDxSingapore and the 2014 StarHub campaign with the LIONSXII.
Since then, much has changed for him. Once an employee in a tech company, marketing business solutions for the finance sector, THELIONCITYBOY traded his tie for the microphone—a risk that has paid off. His song “YAYA” ft Benjamin Kheng amassed over 150k views, and is a testament to how well he is doing in his own backyard. His music is relatable and versatile, with colloquial lyrics like: “She lives east side on the green line” to taking a serious note with “HRLY”, a song dedicated to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
Ahead of his Laneway gig happening on 27th Jan, we caught up with THELIONCITYBOY before he drops his new single, “B****, I’m On An OBIKE” in February. Take note guys, he is definitely one to watch in 2018.
On being Kevin Lester and THELIONCITYBOY
THELIONCITYBOY shares the same honesty that I’ve always hoped to have—he is a rapper who makes music for people. I will say that right now as THELIONCITYBOY, I’ve never been more confident of myself. All those years that I spent learning and practising my art, even when I was working in the CBD in a shirt and tie, has allowed me to apply those business aspects to my music. I’m ready to take on the adventure.
On the music of THELIONCITYBOY
What I produce, is an honest, Singaporean rap story. Sometimes the producer is making the beat on the spot and sometimes it’s a tune composed especially for me. If there’s a vibe flowing in the studio, I might finish writing the song in one night, while other times, it takes a couple of trashed ideas before finding the right flow. I am always trying to find a bounce to my music. That’s what hip-hop is about. A tune that gets stuck in your head, so that even when you are having the worst of days, you just can’t escape bobbing along to it. “YAYA” (ft Benjamin Kheng) and “Start Already” will give you the best taste of what’s more to come from me.
It’s kind of cheesy but I’m really stoked for this gig. LANEWAY 2018 is a stage that I’ve imagined myself on for years; wondering when or if I’d be worthy to be on it. It’s such an honour to be part of the line-up. I will be out there having fun with everyone. Just remember to drink as much as you responsibly can and to simply, have fun. I will be playing my new single, so if you have an occasion to celebrate, use my set as the party and be one of the first to hear it.
On upcoming local artist to Tune in to
I think the girls in the scene are super exciting. Jasmine Sokko is one to watch!
On the soundtrack of his life
It’s got to be Marc E Bassy’s Gossip Columns album. Every song on that album is a masterclass in songwriting. I’m a big fan of his work and I am awestruck at how he managed to bring back some old school melodies but still make it so relevant. His collabs with G-Eazy on the album are pure fire!
If I could, I’d love to sit down with the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, and listen to his stories from yesteryear. I’d make a whole album based on the early years of the man and his colleagues, dreaming about changing a city. It’d have 6 tracks of heavy industrial, edgy piano beats, and maybe even like sampling old songs of the era. What a dream that would be.
On the highlights of 2017 and in the pipeline of 2018.
2017 was a great year playing at some really cool festivals. One of the most memorable ones was the Influence Asia 2017 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was a great taste of what the scene outside of Singapore is like. For 2018, there will definitely be more collaborations—across the causeway or with Taiwanese artists and others around the region. I will be pushing out new music too. In fact, the pre-order of my new single dropped on 19th January and I will be releasing it in the first week of February. Watch out for it!
Images Credits: Lenne Chai and Laneway Festival Singapore