DAMN.

Sorry for the lack of updates! My bad on that one.

Working on an album and other things.

Much love for the support.

How to Write and Rap in Malay

I've had several discussions with artists and rappers on what makes a Malay rap or verse "good". The jist of the argument is how to make the rap appeal to an international audience. Whilst Too Phat pioneered the Malay flow that we hear today with many Malay rappers including myself, it's still unheard of for a Malay rapper to reach an international stage. Hip-hop to me is exciting because it doesn't have a language barrier, if the flow is cool people will dig it regardless if they understand the words.  

There are a lot of notable Malay acts from the region that has garnered wide viewership particularly because of individual styles that mimic US east / west / trap / R&B trends. Whichever route one chooses to take is a non-issue, but it always comes down to the person's delivery, energy, tone and cadence that will gain them fans. You can be weak in English but a standout Malay rapper because of this and still achieve commercial success.

Find out your inner flow and concentrate on that. Hone that voice and you will be sure to improve your sound and at the end be able to deliver powerful lyrics and rhythm without sounding obscure. Learn from your favourite artists and see where they shine in order to reach their skill level. In a lot of cases, it’s taking away some things and simplifying your raps in order to make it more appealing:

1) You don't have to be shouting to sound energetic
2) You don't have to be too literary in order to sound meaningful
3) To sound exciting and punchy you need to make sure your word choices are exciting and punchy, cut out all the unnecessary lines
4) Punchlines & multi's in Malay is easy to achieve but something you have to work on and experiment continuously

These will hopefully build up your delivery and confidence in laying down memorable Malay verses. At the end of it you want to connect with you audience so it all comes down to your oratory skill: a long winded speech never garners any fans, but that confident “from-the-inside” style will always catch people’s attention.

-ZP

How to begin this year

Happy New Year! Hope everyone had a good rest over the holiday period. It is said that 2017 is the year of the start-ups. With ease of access to a lot of new technology and other opportunities, the general workforce of our generation has begun to realise that entrepreneurship rather than employment is the way to go. Being passion-driven is a key factor in ensuring projects can take off and succeed and so we see the advent of more individuals turning into techies / creatives / entrepreneurs venturing into a whole range of fields and businesses.

Gone are the days when one would finish university and land a job and stay there until they retire. There is more fluidity in career paths these days with more people opting to venture in side businesses, despite meaning that they will be on a constant grind. Everyone realises the need to be versatile and multi-disciplined in order to stay ahead. After all these are the traits if one wishes to truly become self-employed. The opportunities are there and plentiful, so perhaps the question to ask yourself now is: what is your start-up?

I wish everyone the best and to stay positive despite the challenges that lay ahead.

-ZP

How To Rap and Keep Rapping

There's been some new local emcees emerging lately and it's great to see this happening. Here are some that have caught my attention and I'll give a little brief on why:

Wacko Genius

Wacko has this unique style of blending rap verses with catchy visuals to get his message across. I dig his lazy flow as it matches really well with his beats, and the beats are on point too! He is heavy on content, touching on topics like apathy within Brunei society. Peep his latest track Slaves which features Azizi Sabri.

Freezle & Eddie

This duo has released a radio hit with their song Coco. Formulating trap beats that are catchy and easy listening, they make Malay rap fun. They envision being part of larger collective they call KR8F Movement and that's a dope imitative, bringing other talents such as DJs, graphic artists, dancers into their team.

Jaymie Foo

Dubbing himself as Chocolate Chinese, he is monstrous on his Malay verses. Content after content I like how he tries out new styles and talks about some seriously funny subject matter, such as on Blue Tick. Peep an entry he did for a regional online competition called the 32 Bar Challenge.

Young Rul

Probably the most low-key one on this list, I've known of YR from a few years back. He dropped a mixtape online recently and that's something all aspiring rap acts should do, just to put out body of works to build up their profile. Check out his track Last Time which features my veteran Brunei rapper / entrepreneur The Kro.

It’s always exciting when a scene starts to generate more content organically and it’s up the audience to sift through the song offerings and decide who to follow and keep an eye on. I hope there will be more rap creatives that can start their own buzz whether it be online, social media or radio. I wish all the above the best in the pursuit of keeping Brunei Hip-Hop alive and any individual endeavors. Anytime any one needs any bit of advice or a helping hand, you know where to hit me up (IG zed.peace).

- ZP

How To Stay Positive

In a world where challenges and stress can hit you on a daily basis, whether it be emotionally, financially, at home or at work, it is always of utmost importance to first keep your head cool. Not everything will go your way and there are things you need to come to terms with. Realising that one's own problems are, at the end of the day, insignificant compared to others who are going through a lot worse is one of the main ways to stay positive. Counting your blessings is key to becoming a positive individual. 

Wifey and I have been binge-watching this series called Lucifer, basically about the Devil himself neglecting his duties in Hell and decides to live life among humans. He is always impartial to man's predicaments and never actually depicted as evil, the main thrust of the story-line being that it is human free-will that actually leads people to do bad. Currently on episode 9, Lucifer succumbs to some worldly stress and lashes out to God in an emotional scene where he shouts to the skies, "Follow the rules and you fall, go against the rules and you lose. So what is the bloody point?".

Good question, and I don't think anyone has an answer to that. Is life really about staying positive all the time? At the risk of going into too deep or philosophical a post, let me close out by just saying that life is always what you make of it. Make it into something meaningful, and it becomes exactly that. Treat it as something that is a daily headache, and you create something that becomes utterly unbearable. If you are having a particularly bad day or week and just happened to read this, I wish you the best in coping with whatever difficulties you may be going through.

- ZP

How to Start a Record Label

Starting up a music label is no different to opening up any other form of business. At the end of it, the key objective is to break-even on your initial investment and continue to find ways to expand and increase your sales. As a record label, whether independent or partnered with larger companies, your job is to manage the artists you have signed and ensure their music gains exposure and ultimately start selling. Their success is your success, and likewise, their failures are your failures.

As my main business interest lies in Brunei, here are some of the main considerations when planning to open up a record company:

3-5 Year Plan
Nothing happens overnight. Well, maybe besides coming up with the company name. Sit down with you team to work out some high-level plans, i.e. the aspirations and what you hope to achieve after a few years. Then work your way backwards on how to reach these goals. And by goals, please do not put down 'To Make $$$' as one. A goal is something much more meaningful and profound. And the strategies that you have decided together as a team - let those become your guiding principles. Modify and amend to suit circumstances as you go along but don't change the overall mission.

Signing Artists
Before you even start, ensure you have at least a few artists and acts that will be willing to commit. Time and time again it has been mentioned that there are a lot of potential with Bruneian musicians and producers, have you scouted or are already working with one that can become the next big thing? Someone with performing experience and just needs the platform may also be another option. Either way, ensure you have a line-up that is promising and displays versatility.

Distribution
Once you've actually set up your Sdn. Bhd. or proprietorship, think about how you wish to distribute your music releases. Granted, online distribution will become a big factor, but your physical CDs and products will be just as important. Especially as a new record company, you want to promote as widely and as effectively as possible. CD stores, Book Stores, Department Stores, Cube Stores! Try to get in contact with various distributing parties in the country and find out what deals you can get with them to push out your records. This is definitely unfamiliar territory for everyone, so let your music label become the pioneers for this.

Investment
Raising up funds for an independent label will always be a challenge. But as a start-up, if you can beat the odds with small budgets, then it shows resilience and further add recognition to your brand. If you can loan for an initial investment to cover marketing and promotion, then go for it. With the right business proposal, you may be able to negotiate with companies or banks to invest in you. Or you can pool from your own sources and still excel from marketing purely on social media. Either way, it is a priority to re-coup on the initial investment, even if it may take a while to do so. But in general if after the 6th month you are still not earning, then perhaps it will be time to go back to drawing boards. Not to raise the white flag just yet.

Obviously there a lot more factors to consider, however in Brunei we have seen one to many unsuccessful music start-ups that it becomes disheartening for the newer players. I stand by that the music and performing arts industry will continue to grow, where it is up us as the tech-savvy and younger generation to let the sector flourish by making creative entrepreneurial moves.

- ZP

How to Lure a Sponsor

If you are lucky, the sponsors come to you. They observe your buzz and will want to work together with you to promote their brand. Most of the time however it is the artist that will want to reach out to bigger companies and brands for sponsorship. Having that first meeting indicates that they are open to your proposition so the rest is up to you to convince them that you will be worth their while.

Before they even say yes to sitting down with you, try to delve in why you are approaching them in the first place. Is it simply for merchandise or financial support, or is it for something that's long term? Don't assume you know what they are looking for, so be genuine in your intentions. If you have a vision, make sure it is consistent and something that is true to your craft. Be determined but not overly confident and you will likely get them to warm up to you.

You might face rejection after knocking one or two doors but that's all part of how sponsorship works. Refine your proposal and have clear objectives in mind. There are plenty of companies that are just as hungry to work with talent and influencers so be sure to cast your net far and wide. You never know if your next deal might just be waiting around the corner.

How To Get Live Sound Right

When thinking about music as a profession, live performances can be considered as the main or defining scope of work within the musician's career. Because of this, a live show is something that requires a great deal of blood, sweat and tears in order to get right. Investing into your live sound, whether it's getting better microphones or equipment, or getting the right sound guy is essential overtime in order to deliver quality music performances to an audience.

Any event manager would have the resources to put together a sound set that can get the job done: sound, stage and lighting - and voila, the live show is good to go. However, more often than not, despite soundchecks to ensure the sound mixes and vocal EQing is carried out, you are bound to encounter last minute hiccups that will spoil the show whether to do with the equipment or other technical difficulties. The performer, however talented they may be, is left disappointed with the way they sound. The audience one way or another just shrugs it off as something that is a norm: flat vocals, muffled sounds or straight up inaudible. So what went wrong? Everything, it would seem.

Don't fret! Take the loss and go back to the drawing boards. Remember, singing live is a skill that gets better with experience. Get together with other like-minded musicians and try to organise your own events, where the sound will be within your control. See what changes you can make at a small scale to improve, and overtime, you will have built the confidence and familiarity in order to woo the audience the next time around.

How to handle beef

The more exposure and attention you get, you will inevitably attract hate and resentment, whether online or by your peers. If by chance you happen to get an outspoken critic of your work, always use to it to your advantage. Chances are the critic, however harsh and blunt his or her words are, has some views that are actually valid. Here are some things you should and should not do:

Should:
1) Accept the criticisms, and find ways to improve. Who knows they might even like your next material.
2) Brush it off, move along and continue to put out work anyway.
3) If it's a personal attack on character and integrity, take action: that's libel.

Should not:
1) Take things too seriously. Any attention with regards to your work is generally a good thing. Even if it's hate.
2) Become defensive and try to argue with them, you would have fallen to their trap which leads to an unnecessary feud.
3) Stand your ground by all means, but never show any weakness and self-pity. Read point No. 1.

If all else fails, then take it as a point to re-assess what is it you are trying to achieve by putting out your craft. At the end of the day, only you can stop yourself from achieving something.

- ZP

How to Overcome a Writer's Block

Writer's block is an eventual slowing down of a song-writer's creative momentum. To force yourself to overcome it might result in a waning of the overall creativity of the song or a drop in quality of lyrics. On the other hand to take a break from it all and you end up procrastinating on songs that need to be finished. Listening to more music might give you a bit of inspiration but you end up getting even more overwhelmed and you'll end up losing interest altogether. So what's the solution?

Simple: It's to read. Reading is probably the one way to let your mind relax without stopping the creative juices and ideas from forming. It's the only way to escape the pressure yet still keeping your mind sharp and improve your writing. After a while, you will get back that eagerness to express yourself and before you know the lines will flow out of you naturally. The better the stuff you read, so to will the stuff you write.

So next time you face that dreaded writer's blocks, head over to your local bookshop and pick up something new. Good luck!

- ZP

How To Break Into the Mainstream

I mentioned in my previous post that this mixtape is meant to test the waters. The response has been great, from having sold out my first batch of copies during the launch at The Collective's Makerspace, to having 5 buyers online (Hey, that's a start!) and garnering over 1k+ plays on Bandcamp over the past 6 days of release. One thing I could not quite crack was how to get one of the songs played on radio.

I chose Bintang Jatuh for the track to push out thinking it has mainstream appeal. After submitting the track, I get notified that it didn't get the radio director's approval. I won't try to push any further. It could be song content, song quality or a myriad of other reasons but I've come to take it as an opportunity to try harder when it comes to the single. It is no easy feat to have a song aired out on radio, much less to be able to "chart" following your song release. Especially without backing from a distributor or label who essentially will do the marketing for you.

But once you are able to break into that stage, and have your songs aired on a weekly or daily basis, that's when you will start to build mainstream following and gain a bit of attention. Your success now depends on how you follow up to the initial buzz, whether you are able to live up to your own hype and continue making hit songs, or become known as a one-hit wonder. The best way to avoid the latter is to lay out a clear strategy on how you intend to get from music single release to garnering mainstream appeal, and eventually, building your brand and increasing your market share. As I said, no easy feat.

Before I sign off, would like to wish everyone out there Selamat Hari Raya and have a good one.

- ZP

How to sell your music

I read that artists no longer make money from CD sales. With the trend of digital platforms for listeners to stream and purchase music, there has been a great debate whether physical albums are even worth putting out other than for sentimental value. Then again I think people just don't see the need to pay for songs anymore. Myself included.

Still it's always cool to have CDs around. So on that note, I have just finished working on my Ramadan Flow 3 mixtape. I'm planning to print out copies to see how the market is at the moment, whether people still indeed would buy copies. Printing is not as competitive in Brunei so I don't have much choice if they charge me $3 or $4 per CD. Taking that into account, I don't intend to sell them too high a price. This is an exercise in testing the waters so in the future I can make informed decisions on what to do when a real album is complete, where the objective is to make money.

The songs don't have any particular theme other than the usual things I rap about: life's ups and downs, relationships and general banter. I brought in some new local artists this time around and again big thank you to those who helped me out in this project. Not wanting to go all-out just yet, I plan to organise a mini launch some time soon and maybe have a song on the radios. Point being, whether with the resources and promotion I have so far, will I be able to recoup my expenses and turn a profit? Time will tell.

  - ZP

HOW TO WORK WITH OTHER ARTISTS

As artists we each have are own eccentricities so it is only natural that we will get along well with some and become awkward with others. In music you will always find the need to work with other musicians, or when someone reaches out to you, all with the intent of working on new music together. A song venture may lead to a potential commercial venture, but at the start of it, the question that poses itself is whether the two have any chemistry together. You will only know once you start to sit down and begin discussing ideas, brainstorming and getting down and dirty with them. And from there, true friendships and camaraderie are built which I'm sure a lot will agree, is where the real value is, regardless if the collaborative project becomes a success or not.

So to all interested in keeping the music industry alive, never turn down a fellow artists plight to work with you. Keep the communication open and you will never know what benefits both can reap out of it.

I am off for holidays, but when I'm back I plan to share a small project I was working on: RFIII.

-ZP

How To Write a Radio Hit

The song has to be catchy. It has to be meaningful. It has to leave a strong impression on the listeners.

But it cannot be too deep. Shouldn't be long-winded. Shouldn't give an impression that you are trying too hard to make it sound 'radio-friendly'.

So where is the balance?

The art of radio-song writing can be very intricate, you have to take into account the mood of the people, trend of the day and ultimately the commercial environment during the release period. One has to study all these factors in order to be successful and not put out a release that will be purely seasonal and easily forgotten.

A lot of times it will be trial and error. Feel-good songs usually work nicely for a Summer release. Deep and thought-provoking songs usually can have an impact for Fall. Up-beat party songs for Spring. Cold songs about heartbreak and tragedy for the Winter.

Brunei is currently experiencing a hot spell at the moment, coupled with an unfavourable economic situation, not the best time for a music product release. But come May-June, when we enter the rainy season and when people cool down after a tough first half of the year, I believe it'll be an ideal time for a release. Something uplifting that all listeners can reflect and relate to, and generally enjoy together with friends and family. A song that evokes inspiration and hope.

Here are some pictures from last week's show at The Collective's Makerspace, Batu Besurat.

The good folks at DIG are putting together a video from the set we did, can't wait to share it out.

- ZP

How to Organise a Tour

Sorry for the lack of updates. Promised myself I'd try to update / blog at least twice a month. I am afterall paying $16 a month for this.  

I would just like to confirm that I am working on an album. Don't have a name for it yet, but some of the songs are there already. Might be premature but I am planning for a Sept-Oct release for this if everything goes through.

My plan with the album is to organise a tour with ticketed sales. These would be the ideal steps for this:

1. Identify the venues / dates
Try to lock down the venues that are within your budget range if they can provide decent sound + stage equipment to complement your show. In Brunei, general locations would be Gadong, Kiulap, Seria and KB. No wedding halls this time. Any location that can accomodate 100-150 pax is good enough.

2. Identify other acts to bring along during the tour
Although you are headlining, bring in other acts so it won't be a lone performance and to fill up the space on poster. Make sure the acts get a cut off the pie too!

3. Identify your performance set
Put together a solid show for 45 minutes with a 10 minute break in between. The idea would be to showcase your best work from your album and add in some twists to make the 'live' experience fun to watch: an unplugged version, an acoustic version, a live band version etc. In any case, the focus should be on this. Try to make something that is worth buying a ticket for.

4. Identify any merchandise to sell (Optional)
Together with the album that you'll sell during the show which people may or not buy, you can get also order some t-shirts and caps, which people may or may not buy.

5. Identify the commercials
Once the above has been sorted out, work out the costings and expenses to put all this together. Let's say you work out a deal so each venue costs you roughly around $800 per night, and you locked down 4 of these. That's $3200. Together with other side expenses such as promotional material, lets tally it out to $4000. If each venue can accommodate up to 150 pax and that's 4 venues, you'll need to sell the tickets at $6.60 to break even. Let's bring it up to $10 a ticket assuming you won't get a full house each night. That's $6000 in expected revenue. Pay off the $4000, and voila! You made a cool $2000 to share with your comrades.

See what I did there? 0_0

On another note, I'm doing a show on the 16th for Do It Good Records at there new store opening. Show starts after 8.30. Come through.

- ZP

How To Make an Album

I feel like death right now. Just got hit by this killer flu so gonna just take it easy.

I remember listening to Logic's 1st album, Under Pressure, and in one of the songs there was a skit where the narrator stated something along the lines of "Trying to release a single before finishing an album is like releasing a trailer for a movie you have yet to produce". Basically saying the singles you air out might not end up being in line with the rest of the songs in the album you'll eventually release. So best to start working on something in its entirety first, and think about the singles later on.

On the night I released Look to the Heavens, I had a small listening party inviting over close friends and family, playing the whole mixtape while enjoying over good company and food. Loved the reaction during the night, almost as if it was a mini-showcase. I haven't performed in a while so I might be a little rusty, but hey, offer me a slot at a gig and I'd probably say yes to it.

 From L-R: Zed Peace, Apai, Kro and Khaos. During the little "listening party". There were more people around :P

From L-R: Zed Peace, Apai, Kro and Khaos. During the little "listening party". There were more people around :P

I am keen on releasing an all-Malay album. There's something about the formula of using US-style rap and beats but having it written Malay that might have strong appeal even with non-Malay listeners. That is what has been done with the Korean / Asian rap industry that has made it successful internationally. Remember when S-Word released "The Answer" with Christina Millian, nobody knew what he was talking about but the song and energy was so intense that it became an instant hit. People just love a fresh new take on something they have been familiar and accustomed to. On the other hand if it's too "Malay", you might lose the appeal, but add an American swag and sound to it and you might hit all the right spots.

We'll see how it goes.

- Z


2016 - Look to the Heavens

Thank you.

The release of Look to the Heavens wouldn't have been possible without the support and encouragement from friends and family who tell me to continue making music. I have rediscovered a drive to want to put out tracks, to shoot videos, to organise shows, to perform and ultimately to contribute and make an impact to Brunei's music scene. So thank you, sincerely.

I don't call it an album for the simple fact that most of the music are downloaded instrumentals. Even though the songs are written and crafted as intrinsically as a real album would, I believe an album can only be called that if everything in it is yours and owned by you. So instead we get away with it by calling it a 'mixtape'. Look to the Heavens is a reminder to always think positively and remain steadfast despite whatever turbulence we go through. 'Heavens' describe a desired outcome or particular goal that we should always have as motivation to keep moving forward. This means different things to different people and that in itself is the beauty of inspiration, it's unique to the individual.

Have a listen and let me know what you think. I've uploaded our previous 'mixtapes' as well just in case anyone would like to check out our older stuff. I would upload the even older Micbandits material but I don't have them anymore. If you do happen to have them, let me know too! I'm trying to find out if anyone has any of our www.microbandits.com releases as well. But then again rather than looking at the past, I'm more excited about the new things to come, so stay tuned.

Here's to 2016.  

- Z