Some two decades ago, while Singapore was still in its early stages of becoming a global village, a community of local hip-hop dreamers gathered outside Far East Plaza. They would meet to churn out music, infusing local elements in order to keep it ‘real’. Known as street music back then, the dream of breaking into the mainstream seemed like a really far-off one. But with a passion that burned from within, they strove towards their goal of not only turning their hard work into chart toppers, but also to share their stories.
Then 18-year-old Frank Loco was among the crowd of aspiring talents, and fast forward 20 years later, he is now one of Singapore’s best rappers who has made a name for himself across the border. Indeed, Frank has come a long way from the boy in the crowd who watched local rappers performing at the very first hip-hop gig held at Youth Park in 1999.
“I really started from the bottom of the bottom. Back in the mid-90s, we didn’t have Spotify or iTunes, or even YouTube to find our music reference or tutorials. No Google or wiki, no Facebook and no Instagram. I had to actually go out and buy CDs at music stores like HMV, Tower Records or sometimes Borders,” recalls the Tampines resident, who continues to share that sometimes he would resort to buying online where shipping took a month, or sometimes even two. Nevertheless, to him, it was well worth it.
“That’s the effort I put in just to get my favourite rap albums back in 1999, right after my secondary school years, while waiting for National Service (NS).”
As much as music had been a part of his life ever since he could remember, it is Frank’s experience growing up in Tampines that played a role in fuelling his interest for rapping. Having resided in Tampines for 29 years as part of the pioneer batch, Frank witnessed the growth and development of our beautiful Home over the decades. “We now have a dope stadium with malls and restaurants inside!” he exclaims. The Tampines identity is so deeply embedded in Frank’s concept of self, that it shows in his enthusiasm for letting the world know he grew up in this lovely town in the East. “Regardless of whatever I’m rapping about, wherever I’m at, or whoever I’m with – I will never forget who I am and where I came from – Eastsidebarrio Tampines!”
Tampines is also home to a large collection of memories that Frank holds dear. “Everything, from good to bad, funny to sad. Friends I made and friends I lost. These experiences and memories are what made me the person I am today,” he says. One of the fondest memories he has of the neighbourhood, was the first game of S-League held at the old Tampines Stadium, in which Tampines Rovers played. Frank recalls the electrifying atmosphere that filled the stadium that no longer exists today, where almost everyone he knew in Tampines gathered to support their home town team. “I remember walking home after the game ended, as the old stadium was only a few blocks away from where I lived.”
If you wish to sneak a little peek at our local homegrown rapper, you are likely to spot him eating somewhere around the three malls in Tampines, or catching up with his friends at the neighbourhood coffeeshop over teh Tarik and prata koyak kuah campor (soaked prata with curry). One of the best things about Tampines is that it’s home to much of the good food of the east. And Frank has all the top Tampines food haunts at the back of his palm. “Just to name a few of my favourite go-tos - the best thosai masalah is at Tampines St 11 Pasar Bulat Hawker Centre, and the best murtabak at Afghanistan at Tampines St 21,” he said. “If you were to bring a foreign friend to Tampines, you know where to take them!”
It is a strange, but undeniably amazing feeling, watching a fellow Tampines heartlander go through the ups and downs in pursuit of his dreams – and eventually making it through and sharing the stage with internationally renowned performers. Frank Loco has loads of new music coming right up, so don’t forget to check out his Soundcloud if you want to know what’s next: www.soundcloud.com/frankloco
YouTube Frank Loco’ Channel