Meet BGourd, Singapore’s Underground Hip-Hop Talent

Image Credit: Ong Sin Yee

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I don’t know about you, but I’m partial to music that makes you feel a little like you’re a film protagonist, and a little like you’re in an alcohol-induced haze. If you’re like me, then it’s time to add BGourd to your rotation. The self-proclaimed “6th Best Wrapper” brings his A game with every song he puts out and every live performance in his signature green bodysuit. At the beginning of 2020, BGourd released his debut EP, the aptly-named ‘Veggie Wraps, Vol. 1. In under two years, he’s picked up a nomination for Best EP at the *SCAPE Youth Music Awards and a special mention for his second EP ‘Veggie Wraps, Vol. 2’ from the seasoned judges at this year’s Freshmusic Awards.

By day, BGourd is Sean Lim, an SUTD graduate working at an international fintech company. When he slips on his bodysuit (gotta thank MF Doom for the inspiration), he transforms into the human embodiment of a bitter gourd, our favourite controversial vegetable. His stage name hints at his goal of making music that is an acquired taste, but the fact that it’s also a callback to The BasedGod (a.k.a. Lil B) is much more impressive.

Knowing BGourd’s intent, his music is simultaneously everything and nothing you would expect. Take for example his song “Whack,” crafted with his producer brother Beansprouts. It starts off calm, then takes everything most of us love in music and turns it on its head. The unrelenting synths are dizzying, and the vocals feel almost self-indulgent. But that’s the point. As BGourd yells “Off-key! Off-white! Blue hues!”, the fantasy of a hundred people headbanging along to this song in a dimly-lit bar becomes impossible to erase. What’s amazing is that all his songs paint a similarly vivid mental image without fail. The off-kilter production of his music gives it character, ambushing listeners with a sudden sax noise here and a reggae-sounding piano chord there.

BGourd’s latest release ‘Veggie Wraps, Vol. 4’ draws the curtains on his debut project, one that has earned the newcomer significant praise. Produced by e-plant, this album deviates from BGourd’s past work in that each song sounds ethereal, transporting the listener to a quiet road illuminated by street lamps in the wee hours of the morning. “Who I Am” featuring Krysta Joy epitomises this peaceful ambience. Opening with gentle guitar straight out of a folk classic, the exhilarating backbeat lends a sense of urgency to this deceptively cheerful tune. Beneath the pretense is a brutally honest meditation on the trials of being yourself in a world with stifling expectations. This song also features my favourite lyrics in BGourd’s discography: “Like deep fried dough / No fillin’ inside / Like you feelin’ alright / And you feelin’ just fine.” Forget the mask; youtiao (Chinese fried dough) is the new perfect analogy for acting like everything is okay when your life is falling apart.

We recently had a chance to ask BGourd some of our burning questions about his success so far, his latest album and the man behind the bitter gourd suit. Check out The Ridge’s interview with him below.

The Ridge: How were you introduced to rap music?

BGourd: Through my elder brother! By the time I was 12 he got me listening to Jay-Z, Kanye West, the late MF Doom, and De La Soul. Kanye West’s “Homecoming” was the first ever hip-hop song I memorised word for word.

TR: Who are your biggest inspirations, musically and otherwise?

BGourd: Hip-hop wise, I’m very inspired by the likes of Danny Brown, Earl Sweatshirt, MF Doom, Nas, Cities Aviv, JPEGMAFIA. I’ve also always been inspired by many musical acts here in Singapore. Artists like Fauxe, Subsonic Eye, Sobs, and Mediocre Haircut Crew really make me proud to call myself a Singaporean artist. 

TR: Your music spans a wide range of subject matter, from society’s relationship with technology (“Virtual Machine”) to personal identity (“6th Best Wrapper”). How do you stay inspired by everything around you, and prevent yourself from becoming jaded by the seemingly mundane?

BGourd: I’m a person who writes and chooses the subject matter of a song after listening to a beat. So I would say the lyrical content of my music tends to differ based on what the beat “reveals” to me and the general mood of the track. So, staying inspired lyrically has never been a problem because with the collaborators I’ve worked with throughout the Veggie Wraps series, it’s hard to not be inspired. I also try to challenge myself to write things that would not let great beats down. That continuous challenge definitely keeps writing from being mundane. 

TR: Did anyone in school approach you about your music? How do you feel about that?

BGourd: Hardly. Don’t think I’ve been approached by anyone to talk about my music who wasn’t already a friend or an acquaintance of mine. SUTD is a pretty small school so there aren’t many strangers, but I don’t think there are many people who listen to me. I think that’s dope and really keeps me grounded. I definitely cherish the time I spent in SUTD. Lyrically, I would say I’m pretty inspired by the things I’ve learnt in school as well as my experiences there. 

TR: Any protips for juggling your side hustle with school?

BGourd: Honestly, I’ve been really blessed to find myself a great team in Northeast Social Club—they’ve helped me by doing so much on the non-music side of things and I don’t think I would have managed this success without them.  

I also can’t speak for all side hustles, but maybe I could give some generic advice on juggling school with making music. Due to the cyclical nature of making music, I would try to do as much as I can during school breaks and I would aim to cease music production by the fifth week of school—before mid-term examinations. 

TR: Let’s talk more about what you’ve been up to musically. Congratulations on your success so far, and on the release of ‘Veggie Wraps 4’! How does it feel to have come to the end of the Veggie Wraps (VW) series?

BGourd: Thank you so much! It feels great, you know, there are not many things or projects that I’ve done in my life which I can say I’ve followed through to the end, so I’m definitely happy to have completed this journey. 

TR: What’s your favourite track off ‘Veggie Wraps 4’? Why?

BGourd: My favourite track is “Now 4, the final track off of Veggie Wraps Vol. 4. It’s probably the most heartfelt I’ve ever been lyrically. I think it just summarises my growth since ‘Veggie Wraps Vol. 4’ and really reflects my current abilities as an artist. 

TR: How did your collaborations with Mary Sue, Krysta Joy and Danni Kiddo come about? Is there anything in particular you’ve learned from each of them during the process of making the album?

BGourd: To be honest, I’ve actually always been shy to ask for features evidently from the lack thereof in VW1 through 3. However, for “V Dubs” and “Who I Am” I knew I had to enlist the help of Mary Sue and Krysta Joy respectively to elevate the song to the next level. Plus, I love both of them so much individually as artists, it was truly an honour to have them on board and do such a great job. 

With regards to “Far Side, honestly, it was Chris Grosse’s (Fauxe) and our mutual friend Paul’s idea to put Dani on the track. Immediately, I was like, “OMG! You’re right!” You know, Dani being the elusive and super highly rated rapper that he is, it was a no-brainer for me and I’m really grateful he made the time to record a classic verse for “Far Side.

Lessons aside, I was simply in awe by being in the same space as these artists and listening to their work. The way they brought their own flavour to elevate my track is something I hope to one day emulate as a featured artist. (If I’m called to, of course.) 

TR: I LOVE the ad libs in the intro of “Abound, the back-and-forth between you and Danni Kiddo in “Far Side, as well as the more conversational nature of “V Dubs. Is this candid style something you consider characteristic of your music?

BGourd: That’s really nice to hear and thank you for noticing! I would say that throughout the VW Series, I’ve been constantly trying to experiment and create new sounds—so yeah, my music definitely has a candid nature to it. 

TR: What from this era will you incorporate into future releases?

BGourd: Wow, I think I’ve learnt so much at each iteration in the VW series. I just aim to not stop growing, you know? Hope to always have the drive and imagination to not be afraid to try something new.

TR: Where do you hope to go, or what do you hope to do with your music?

BGourd: I hope to take all the lessons I’ve learnt from the VW series to curate a cohesive full length LP. Fingers crossed—in the months to come, I hope to perform a proper live set for my fans and friends.

TR: Any parting words for our readers? Or anything you’d like to plug?

BGourd: Stay safe and healthy! Naturally I’ll have to plug ‘Veggie Wraps, Vol. 4.’ I hope my fellow friends in NUS enjoy it and hopefully one day I can come over to perform at NUS. 

I would like to give a special shout-out to Didymus Ne of Cinnamon College and of the Computing faculty. He’s in Y2S1 and I hope he’s coping well.