Shigga Shay: Feng Fei-fei rap 'worse than Chinese oral exams'
First-time actor Shigga Shay on rapping in Mandarin in new Royston Tan film 3688
He may be one of the best rappers Singapore has spawned.
But local hip-hop star Shigga Shay faced his most difficult career challenge when he had to spit rhymes about the late legendary Taiwanese singer Feng Fei-fei in director Royston Tan's new movie 3688.
The Chinese-language musical-themed film, which tells the story of a parking attendant named Fei Fei (Joi Chua) and her relationship with her dementia-stricken father, opens here tomorrow.
It also stars Rahimah Rahim, Brandon Wong and Michael Tan.
In one scene, Shigga, who plays the nonchalant son of fashion-forward coffee shop auntie Ah Luan (getai veteran Liu Ling Ling), raps in Mandarin to a group of taxi drivers sitting in a coffee shop about Feng, who died in 2012 at age 59.
He was given a timeline of Feng's life and career two days before filming the scene and had to summarise it in a one-minute performance.
The 23-year-old told The New Paper during 3688's press conference at the National Musuem of Singapore yesterday: "It was very challenging, worse than Chinese oral exams.
"I had to make the words rhyme and Royston wanted me to rap the entire thing in one take. There were so many words to memorise, it was very difficult."
On his acting debut as a rapping coffee shop boy, Shigga said: "It's quite similar to me in real life, so it wasn't too difficult. On normal days, I love chilling at coffee shops drinking my kopi-O and teh-O, too."
Actually, every time he raps common Singaporean beverage orders, these scene-stealing segments break the monotony of the film.
Those lyrics ultimately inspired 3688's theme song Tapau and an accompanying music video.
Shigga, whose real name is Pek Jin Shen, was scouted by Tan, 38, right after his cameo in the Ah Boys To Men musical last April.
Tan was impressed by Shigga's skills and created a role just for him in 3688.
Tan told TNP in a separate interview: "He's very special, I can see his passion in music. The way he raps is very captivating and he has a certain quirkiness to him.
"He reminds me of myself when I was younger. He's definitely an interesting character and I wanted him in my movie."
Shigga, who also has great admiration for Tan, agreed to act in 3688 without any hesitation.
He said: "I mean, it's Royston. I have seen his works before and the role is very suitable for me, so I said yes immediately."
Shigga also felt honoured working with Liu, saying: "My mother loves her and we would go watch her getai shows together in the past. I am very excited to be able to debut in a movie, acting opposite her."
As the pair were not familiar with each other before 3688, both described their initial encounters as awkward.
Shigga said: "Royston made me call Ling Ling every night for two weeks and talk to her on the phone. It was odd at first. I would call and say things like, 'Mum, ni hao ma?' (Mandarin for 'how are you?'). Each conversation lasted about five to 10 minutes.
"It got better as the days went by. We talked about random stuff like what she ate and how her day was."
Liu, 52, who is the single mum of a two-year-old son, sang Shigga's praises, calling him "a very talented 'angmoh' rapper".
She said: "At first, I found it quite difficult acting as his mother as I am totally unfamiliar with him. So I tried to imagine him as my real son and invested a lot of emotions.
"Now, when I see him, I still have the feeling that he is my son. I even gave him a red packet as it was his birthday a few days ago."
I had to make the words rhyme and Royston wanted me to rap the entire thing in one take.
— Shigga Shay, on his rap about late legendary Taiwanese singer Feng Feifei in director Royston Tan’s new movie 3688.