Entertainment

Meet the Rapper Exploring Singapore’s Identity in a Tight Green Bodysuit

Singaporean Rapper BGourd calls the bodysuit a “literal greenscreen” that signals his willingness to try anything.
November 19, 2021, 6:33am
singaporean rapper bgourd
Singaporean rapper BGourd wants his work to communicate the ethos of life in Singapore. Collage: VICE / Images: Chris Sim

On Our Radar is a VICE Asia series that profiles young, upcoming creatives across the Asia-Pacific, giving an inside look into their interests, communities, and inspirations.

What is Singaporean culture? The country’s identity has been a rolling question mark for both locals and outsiders. “Melting pot” often gets thrown around to describe a culture so varied that it’s difficult to pinpoint the thread that ties it all together. Some people embrace this mix of influences and identities as an identity in itself.

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Among them is 24-year-old Sean Lim, who goes by the moniker BGourd, a quirky character in a unmissable bright green costume, who raps about and embodies this amorphous Singaporean identity. His hope is to communicate the ethos of life in the Lion City that’s often hard to put into words. 

“Singaporean identity is about exploring and experimenting and trying new things, and that in itself is what Singapore hip-hop can be,” BGourd told VICE.

BGourd Sean Lim Singapore hip-hop rap music artist Asia musician

The artist’s costume is meant to mimic a bitter gourd, as well as a greenscreen. Photo: Chris Sim

The name BGourd is itself the result of multiple influences. One is the rapper’s lifelong fondness of eating bitter gourds, a common ingredient in many Asian cuisines, and the other is American rapper Lil B who calls himself “The BasedGod.” BGourd thought it would be “punny” to call himself a gourd instead of a god. At the same time, he thinks the name represents what he wants to do, which is to make music that is an acquired taste.

“Not everybody loves to eat bitter gourd, but the people that love it tend to really love it, and that’s all I can hope for in my music. I just hope that people that like to listen to my music, love to listen to my music,” BGourd said.

“Not everybody loves to eat bitter gourd, but the people that love it tend to really love it, and that’s all I can hope for in my music. I just hope that people that like to listen to my music, love to listen to my music.”

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BGourd’s signature green mask and tight suit, on the other hand, are a visual representation of his name, a tribute to one of his key rap inspirations—the late MF Doom, who was known to perform wearing a Doctor Doom mask—and a symbol of his musical pursuits.

“[It’s] a literal greenscreen. Whatever challenge you put in front of me, I want to be able to do it to the best of my abilities. Do any style, try out and experiment, and explore any kind of style that is put in front of me,” he explained.

BGourd was careful to acknowledge that plenty of other local rappers—like Yung Raja and THELIONCITYBOY—made great music even before he entered the scene, but now he wants to add to it.

“Something I really treasure within the hip-hop community is the want and desire to say something about Singaporean culture. To try to express what Singaporean culture is, and create an identity for this very young genre. Everybody is trying.”

“Something I really treasure within the hip-hop community is the want and desire to say something about Singaporean culture. To try to express what Singaporean culture is, and create an identity for this very young genre. Everybody is trying.”

BGourd said that Singapore’s hip-hop scene was already rich with certain styles of hip-hop, like trap, but he wanted to hear other styles represented, tried out, and listened to as well.

Today, he describes his musical inclinations as “left field”—hip-hop that’s less mainstream and more experimental—and his voice and flow as more smooth and chill than punchy, but still boom bap.

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Much like how Singapore is a space where different cultures come together to create something new, the greenscreen-clad rapper is eager to work with other local artists to create his sound. 

Collaboration—constantly working with different people from different backgrounds—is the ethos of life in Singapore, as well as of Singapore hip-hop, he said. The very act of collaborating is what makes Singapore hip-hop what it is.

“I realize that’s exactly what the Singaporean hip-hop identity is. Number one, it’s collaboration—working together to form a body of work. And number two, it’s an effort for everybody to showcase their pride in Singapore in multiple and various ways,”  BGourd said.

BGourd Sean Lim Singapore hip-hop rap music artist Asia musician

Veggie Wraps, Vol. 4 features BGourd alongside several other local artists. Photo: Chris Sim

Veggie Wraps, Vol. 4, which dropped in November, is the latest and last EP in his Veggie Wraps series. BGourd enlisted the stylings of fellow Singaporean musicians Mary Sue, Danikiddo of Mediocre Haircut Crew, Krysta Joy, and producer e-Plant, to create an eclectic musical experience that he hopes shows people what he thinks Singapore hip-hop can be.

In the track “Who I Am,” for example, BGourd and Krysta Joy explore what it means to embrace individuality while coming to terms with their identities, all to sonic elements reminiscent of a tropical holiday. In “Far Side,” BGourd and Danikiddo write a love letter to old school hip-hop through satirical observations and West Coast-inspired flow.

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“There must be a constant process of communication, empathy, and love. This kind of partnership and exploring and experimenting is something I hope my music embodies. That’s what I hope people who listen to Singapore music feel,” he said.

Constant experimentation and collaboration can come at the price of a coherent style, admitted BGroud, but, at least for the meantime, he doesn’t mind the trade-off.

“At this stage in my career, I’m not ashamed to say [that] I don’t mind forsaking a little bit of coherence to explore more, to experiment more, to see how far I can push not only myself, but explore to see how far we can try to build hip-hop that is different especially in the Singaporean context.”

Below, VICE finds out more about BGourd’s aspirations and inspirations.

I believe in… friendship.

My friends say I am… loud.

But I like to think I am… passionate.

I’ve been working on… my live performances.

I’m inspired by… everything I come across in life. I try to be present and feel things I come across.

Recently I’ve been really into… DJ-Kicks on Spotify. I really love the DJ-Kicks by Lone, Moodymann, and Mount Kimbie.

You can usually find me… cafe hopping in Singapore.

On bad days, I… listen to Moodymann, and I quite like going for runs as well.

I live for… great and meaningful relationships. I do feel like having a real conversation and having a cup of coffee with someone, even with no words spoken, is a great feeling. Interaction is very important to me.

In five years, I… hope to still be trying.

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