Spotify Spotlight: mid90s by Charles ENERO
STORY: Farhan Shafie
17 July 2020
Are you a 90s kid? Then this latest single from hip-hop artist Charles ENERO will hit you with the nostalgic feels. Featuring a laidback beat and lyrics that reference 90s pop culture, "mid90s" is both a trip down memory lane to much simpler times and a poignant rolodex of moments to carry with us as we look to the future.
Charles ENERO is a pre-eminent name in the Singapore hip-hop scene, as part of the popular collective Grizzle Grind Crew alongside Shigga Shay, Tosh Zhang and others. Highly regarded as the top battle emcee in the country, he has cut his teeth in the arena of competitive rapping here and overseas with an unbroken winning streak under his belt.
"mid90s" showcases another side to the rapper's personality however, away from the bravado and hype into more instrospective territory. We sat down with the man to find out his inspiration behind the track.
Share with us the idea and process of coming up with mid90s
Jonah Hill’s "Mid90s" was the catalyst to me writing the song, hence the title. The film captured the zeitgeist of the 90s so accurately, it took me so far down memory lane. The writing was cathartic even ‘cause I was already feeling a lot of nostalgia personally; much of it coming from my attempts to connect the dots so I could see the bigger picture going forward.
So while the first verse covers much of my childhood in the 90s, it eventually becomes a commentary about where I was, where I’m at, and where I wanna go. Write that over a LINEATH (producer) beat and the rest is history!
The song references a lot of nostalgic 90s pop culture, what are some of your own favourite personal memories growing up in that decade?
Man, as a kid growing up in the 90s, it was all about the cartoons and video games! Before the PlayStation, we had the Sega Saturn. That was also the golden age of the Power Rangers. Those were also the days we’d ask for coins from our parents to put into a capsule dispenser with a tiny Dragon Ball Z figurine.
For the most part though, spending the 90s in Hong Kong as an expat family, my older brother was my best friend. Perhaps what I’ll look back fondly the most would be the time we spent doing everything together. In retrospect, my parents really gave my brother and I a perfect childhood.
The music video shows a lot of footage from not only your time on stage but some of your quieter, personal moments with loved ones. As an artist and rapper, do you feel it's harder to be more introspective and vulnerable, especially in hip-hop?
Thank god for Cudi’s A Kid Named Cudi. Thank god for Kanye’s 808’s and Heartbreak. Thank god for the artists that preceded and inspired them.
I think those projects brought about an important paradigm shift in hip-hop. It allowed for more artists to embrace vulnerability as a strength and not as a weakness, deepen their introspection, and diversify the subject matter of their music. Much like many rappers of this generation, I benefited greatly from that shift.
One of the standout lines from mid90s is "Knowledge gave me confidence that fashion can't". That is a powerful statement. Can you elaborate more on this and how you relate to this sentiment?
There’s no way to say this without being annoyingly philosophical but I think when we’re young, many of us become victims of our own vanity. Simply put, the improvement of skill will always bring more satisfaction than the acquirement of things.
I’ll be bored of this new pair of Nikes this time next year but I’m pretty sure the joy of getting better at something will be more enduring.
What do you hope listeners take away from the song and what's next for Charles ENERO?
Honestly, it’s such a relief that the song’s resonated with so many people beyond my own sphere of influence. Not everybody’s gonna understand the references but I think everyone will be able to immerse in the nostalgia of the music.
Nevertheless! Hope the song finds its way into their personal playlists; to keep them company in those long commutes on the bus or the train, to vibe with on a rainy day, to vibe with on that quiet car ride in the evening. I hope it puts them in a reflective mood as well as it did for me when I was writing it.
As for what’s next, probably more movies to watch, more books to read, more art to be inspired by, more life to experience, and eventually more songs to make. I’m not sure where I’m supposed to go still but I’m pretty sure I’m on the right track.