Singaporean artist ABANGSAPAU makes his Def Jam South East Asia debut with an assertive and dominant new rap single titled “hahaha”. The song, produced by Prodbydan, marks an exciting new phase for the bilingual rapper that begins with a trap-inflicted statement of intent, written in Malay and English. While everyone else is chasing clout, he’s carrying his message out loud.
The song’s title indicates not a belly laugh, but a fiery roar, making listeners take notes by the end of the song: “This is not a rap, this is a keynote speech.” For ABANGSAPAU, he’s made his way from DIY home studios to stages as wide as TEDx Singapore and Singapore’s National Day Parade. With “hahaha”, he’s aiming for the stars, and he’s making the rest of Asia pay attention.
ABANGSAPAU marches to the beat of his own 808s with a message: when life comes at you, have the last laugh. “hahaha” laughs at the existence of a status quo, one that he sees as a limitation not just in the rap game, but also in his daily life.
“Some want to win and achieve through the systems in place, in line with the status quo. Others stand for change and reject it,” he speaks. “In it, I am questioning the status quo as much as I am questioning myself.”
“hahaha” laughs at shallow perceptions of success in the hip-hop game, all measured by social media stats and concise brand-building exercises. He summarises it in a razor-edged verse, adding sting to the gash: “Ku banyak dengar “do it for culture”, half of y’all really do it for the gram”. But, before you think his sights are out to kill, a beat-switch exposes a hunger that is driven not by ego, but by heart.
He raps about the story of a boy anchored by family and a desire to “break out the cycle”. His desire to make art goes beyond copping “luxury clothes” — his late grandfather’s sarungs are all he needs — and creating a reliable formula, no matter his popularity.
In a verse, he keeps his community close to his mind. He alludes to families getting by in rental studio apartments while he’s busy working day and night. “Pagi sekolah… malam studio / We got families living in studios / Those are my ‘what am I doing this for?’” He’s not here to make forgettable songs or shake hands with celebrities — he sees this journey as a platform for meaning, to enact change through art.
The song’s music video, directed by Island Boys, depicts the whirlwind of celebrity life at his grasp — with stylish sequences of hectic car rides, press junkets and alleyways lined up with his likeness. And yet, he finds solace at the end in a neighbourhood park. ABANGSAPAU may be gearing up for even bigger stages, but his identity is what grounds him to keep moving forward. It’s best encapsulated in the video’s parting message: “If you don’t believe in your art, nobody else will.”
With “hahaha”, ABANGSAPAU is making as complete a statement as any for a major label debut. He has the last laugh — not because he believes he’s already achieved success, but that he’s unshackled himself from the need for it. Now, at the start of his Def Jam conquest, he’s waiting for everyone else to catch up.