As a teenager, Shazzwan had to prove his worth in a juvenile detention centre by taking on eight other boys.
“You either be a tough guy or become a henchman. So this self-appointed leader in the detention centre said if I can fight eight guys on my own, then he and his gang would leave me alone,” said Shazzwan during an interview in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
Growing up, Shazzwan (real name, Muhammad Syazwan Shawaluddin) described himself as an angry teenager who was lost. He cited stealing and physical violence as some of his misdemeanours. Then at 15 years old, a magistrate’s court sentenced him to three years in a juvenile detention centre in Kuala Lumpur.
“Looking back, I’m really ashamed of what I did. My sins have never stopped haunting me.”
It was only when a detention centre warden told him to carry on as usual after his first big fight that Shazzwan realised he needed to change.
“I should have been fighting to survive the outside world. Instead, I was there getting beat up for nothing. The warden made me realise that I took my freedom for granted.”
After two years, he was transferred from the juvenile detention centre to a boarding school in Subang Jaya, Selangor. While there, he met Poetic Ammo founder and music producer Yogi B (Yogeswaran Veerasingam) through a self-discovery workshop organised by Yayasan Raja Muda Selangor.
Shazzwan remembered how he wrote rap songs about his life in a schoolbook but never showed it to anyone.
He saw Yogi B as a chance to find out if he would ever be good enough.
“I performed some verses for him. Later, we made a deal. He said if I could pass all my subjects in the SPM examinations, then he’d take me as his protege.”
He went above and beyond the deal, scoring 4As in the process. Yogi B kept his promise and mentored Shazzwan on everything he needed to know about music making, from producing his own material to the inner workings of the local industry.
Now a married man with one young son, 28-year-old Shazzwan is ready to share his story through the release of his debut hip-hop album Titipan Banduan Muda. There are eight tracks, each produced and composed by Shazzwan.
“The lead single is Titipan Banduan Muda. It’s about how society sees me after I’ve left the juvenile detention centre. Even though I’ve been out for more than 10 years and I’m a changed person, there will always be people who’d discriminate against me for what I’ve done.”
Shazzwan said he is no longer the angry teenager that he used to be. He expressed his inner peace through this verse, “Hidup tak perlu membongkak/Hidup tak perlu mendongak” (Don’t be arrogan/Don’t look down on others) in the song Hidup.
“I’ve come to understand my purpose in life and I don’t have to be angry anymore just to get by. I realised that I can live a peaceful, happier life just by being a calmer person.”
English track Every Single Morning is a reminder for him to start each day with a positive mindset.
As he prepares to break into the entertainment industry, Shazzwan said he is also ready to face any negativity that could stem from people trying to dig into his past.
“I’ll be fine. I’ve been through worse,” he said calmly.
For Shazzwan, releasing the debut album and trying to establish himself as a rapper is not about achieving fame or fortune. He saw it as a way to help individuals just like himself.
“I just want to share my story. I know there are people out there just like me. They are lost and scared. I want to tell them to not give up. Keep praying and always believe in yourself.”