September 3, 2018 – #Showbiz: Rabbit Mac ready to rock
TAMIL hip-hop rapper Rabbit Mac has cleaned up smart since he kicked the local underground music scene open with Provoked, a collaboration with Psycho Unit.
The dreadlocks have given way to a modern classic quiff, while the homie from Hong Seng Estate in Penang is now a dad and an artiste with some smartness.
Set to perform with his PU4LYF (Psycho Unit for Life) fellow artistes come Sept 8, Rabbit aka Charles John Macallum has cut a swathe in India as a playback singer, with his most recent foray being India’s Bruce Lee: The Fighter (2015), and Singapore-Malaysia Tamil thriller, Atcham Thavir (Fear Not), which opened in July.
“Those songs in Provoked are over for me,” says the 35-year-old Charles. “I came from Hong Seng Estate, and there was a lot of frustration in growing up there. Most of my classmates are either gone or in rehab, or… I was lucky. My dad was into music and I was in the church choir, so I had other interests going. I stayed clear of those bad influences.”
But as with rap and hip-hop the world over, the Malaysian Tamil brand came from youths who felt disenfranchised in their country of birth, so the lyrics had a message about community empowerment and to be proud of their heritage.
In Charles’ case, the lyrics poured out in not just Tamil but also in Hokkien, English and Bahasa Melayu.
“My hero then and now is Eminem. Look where he is today, and he has evolved too.”
Well, the American hip-hop artiste’s rage seems to have simmered down, but his passion for rhyming and rapping has been consistent.
For Charles, Eminem has proven his staying prowess in the entertainment arena. But Charles and many Malaysian Indian hip-hop and rap artistes have a different edge — a strong grasp of the Tamil language, coupled with a familial history of poetry and music. From Lock-Up, Chakra Sonic and Yogi B, to Psycho Unit, Darkie, Balan Kashmir and Rabbit Mac, the lyrical compositions are in a way a tribute to their cultural heritage as Malaysian Indians. There is undoubtedly a connection in devotional singing and movie soundtracks to the lyricial works from saint-poets like Valmiki (author of the oldest Indian epic Ramayana), Tyagaraja and Arunagirinaadhar. From them come poems of complex rhymes and rhythmic structures like “Muthai Tharu patthi Thiru Nagai”.
While Charles is seeing happier days with his music and the PU4LYF recording label, “the first independent Tamil label in Malaysia”, he recalls the early days before putting out Provoked. “I was in college, and worked part-time at a parking lot to earn that money to make the album.”
With Provoked, things got better for Charles with 15 000 CDs sold in Malaysia alone, between 2007-2008.
These days, Charles – when he’s not in India working as a playback singer, in the studio working on albums for Indian artistes like Yuvan Shankar Raja or being a reality television judge – performs with PU4LYF friends Psychomantra, Sheezay, and Havoc Brothers at concerts around the country like the recent inaugural Concert Sampai Salam Savadi at INDOOR STADIUM PASIR GUDANG Johor Baru and 16 Baris, a Joe Flizzow production for rappers.
His songs are also on Spotify and iTunes. He is also thrilled about releasing album Rabbit & Friendz III, on a flash drive. “For RM50, it came with sleeve notes, album cover, back cover. All 1,500 items of the album were sold.”
The limited edition USB album, released last year, has 12 tracks including Rabbit Mac’s first English song dedicated to the Malaysian hip-hop crowd called “Miggaz” (a combination of “Malaysia” and “N*ggaz”).
Other artistes on the album include Havoc Brothers and Sheezay.
“The songs these days have less of an angry edge and carry mellower messages about life topics. Like the environment, how to handle suicide, or about being a cool lady.
“I recently produced a song about suicide, “Saage Poren”, by Sheezay. It’s a project In association with Befrienders Malaysia. It’s about how five seconds before you kill yourself can make a difference, so don’t do it. Suicide is not an option.”
It’s obvious Rabbit Mac has grown as an artiste, and fans of Tamil hip-hop and rap should keep a date with the Malaysian Independent Live Fusion Festival 2018, to see what’s new with the music scene.
The line-up for MILFF 2018 includes India’s Benny Dayal and his band Funktuation, here for the first time, actress-singer Andrea Jeremiah, Vijay TV Super Singer sensations Sathyaprakash and Pooja Vaidhyanath, veena maestro Rajhesh Vaidhya, singer and music director Sean Roldan and his band, and from Malaysia, Sasi the Don,along with Rabbit Mac’s fellow artistes .
“There will be six PU4LYF singers, including yours truly, and musicians. You know, I’ve never performed with a live band so…” says Charles with a grin.
When: Sept 8, 5pm – midnight
Where: StarXpo Centre, Level 15, KWC Fashion Mall, 2, Jalan Gelugor, Kuala Lumpur
Tickets from RM85. Visit https://redtix-tickets.airasia.com