My Jakarta: Saykoji, Rapper
When Saykoji raps, he’s telling Ignatius Rosoinaya Penyami’s life story. That’s because Ignatius is Saykoji, and you can hear him the airwaves and see him on billboards around the city. Once nobody knew who Ignatius was, but now he’s one of the most popular artists in Indonesia. Today Ignatius talks life and how there are no shortcuts to success. He even serves up an on-the-spot rap about Jakarta.
You’re known as Saykoji, which sounds like Psycho G. What does the ‘G’ stand for?
‘G’ can be anything; ganteng [handsome], geblek [dumb], gayung [bucket] … It’s also slang for gangster, like what Snoop Dogg uses. It just sounded cool to have a ‘G’ sound behind Sayko.
Your friends nicknamed you Psycho because you liked to be alone. As a more introverted person, how do you handle all the publicity?
I still don’t like to spend much time in the crowd. I do meet my fans, but when it’s bedtime, I’ll be back at the hotel.
Will you rap a few verses about Jakarta for us?
Sure. [Listen to Saykoji’s 30 seconds of live rap online here.]
Pretty impressive. Where and how did you learn to rap?
Well, there’s no class that you can take. I just listened to a lot of rap music when I was in college and started out by making simple music that sounded like nursery rhymes. There’s no shortcut.
What does that tattoo on your hand say?
Well, if you see it from one way, it says trust. But if you look at it from the other way, it says faith. It’s the only tattoo I’ve got.
Where can we find you on a Sunday?
I got married when I was 22, and since then I’ve been spending a lot of time with my wife and 3-year-old son. If I don’t have a show scheduled, I’ll be spending my Sunday morning at church and then going home to play with my son.
Do you rap any Christian-themed songs?
A few friends, fellow rappers and myself, created a side project called Disciples. We write and rap gospel hip-hop songs as an expression of gratitude to God for what we have. We also hope to give hip-hop a positive image. I’ve been able to make my hobby a source of income.
Would you say Jakarta remains an untapped rap resource for rap music?
Of course. Many people here have the talent. However, they don’t know how to sell themselves and they don’t have the right network. It’s easy to make rap music and be yourself. The difficult part is getting your name out there. I always tell people, if you want to be good like myself, you have to understand how to make songs for people who don’t understand rap music. I make music that can be heard by people outside of the hip-hop scene so many people can hear it, not just rappers.
Not everyone can make a living as a rapper in Jakarta. What’s the key?
Jakarta is demanding and prices are high. You really have to take the time to invest in what you do. Making money selling rhymes was hard initially. But I spent a lot of time trying understand how to make songs that relate to Indonesians. And that helped make me successful.
I don’t believe in shortcuts. Taking shortcuts means cutting your experience short. So my advice would be just to take your time, learn the ropes, and eventually you’ll find your own style and a way to make money. It doesn’t necessarily have to be rapping.
How many hours a day would you say you spend listening to music?
When I was single, I would listen all the time. Now that I’m married and have to drive my family around, well, I can still listen to music when I drive. I’d say 40 percent of my time I spend listening to music.
What’s one song you like to listen to right now?
I like this song by Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys, ‘Empire State of Mind.’ The song can also be about Jakarta because it’s also a big city. I think it’s a good idea to make a song like that here.
Is there anywhere I can find a rap battle in the Big Durian?
You need to get along with the community. You can find them on the Internet. Go to hiphopindo.net. They post a lot of information on hip-hop events. They make homemade music and do their own Internet promotion.
What do you think about Indonesia’s music industry?
Um … to consider it as an industry means I have to consider mainstream. The industry’s changing and evolving and people have started earning money from R&B. Record sales are not as big as they were a couple of years ago. Now it’s just as important to take care of the artist’s management team as it is the artist themselves. Music is not supposed to be only what the industry is looking for, and a lot of Indonesians are making music that’s not mainstream.
Where are you heading after this?
I live near Pejaten Village [South Jakarta], so I’m heading home for a while before going to a church meeting. Then I’m taping my radio show on OZ radio 90.8 FM. It’s every Tuesday, 9-11 p.m.
Saykoji was talking to Angelyn Liem.