Leslie Cheung’s hip-hop successor? Hong Kong rapper Cheng Hoisen seeks global power

Cheng grew up in Hong Kong until his parents divorced, when he and his brother moved to the city with their mother. Shanghai. He was nine years old at the time and could barely speak Mandarin.
With newfound success in mainland China, Cheng hopes to represent the hope of young people in Hong Kong. Photo: Zheng Haisen

Mr. Cheng attended international schools for much of his childhood, where he witnessed firsthand the lives of the privileged.

Western-style private schools follow a separate curriculum and provide Asians from upper- and upper-middle-class families with a comfortable pathway to top Western universities.

Later, due to environmental factors, the Hong Kong Tang people went to the Canary Islands (Spanish Islands located on the northwest coast of Africa) for three years. Basketball enthusiast Cheng joins Canary Islands basketball The college provided him with a scholarship.

As financial pressure began to mount, his training in Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands, was halted and the family returned to Hong Kong.

Cheng’s signature gruff voice is the result of a tough time coaching basketball by day and working in a factory by night. Photo: Zheng Haisen

Cheng watched former classmates apply to Ivy League schools and his teammates in Spain were scouted by major basketball leagues.

Although Cheng received more than six scholarships to American universities based on his excellent grades, the 18-year-old had to give up those dreams and start working two jobs.

Cheng coaches basketball during the day and works in basketball at night. egg rolls I worked in a factory in Kowloon City with my mother, and the two of them would work until the early hours of the morning.
Cheng chronicles his struggles in his lyrics, ranging from DrakeJ. Cole and Kanye West – The rapper was also raised by a single mother.

After paying the rent and his brother’s tuition, Mr. Cheng was able to record for two hours a month at a recording studio in Kwai Hing.

“Don’t take it for granted, you only live once; I never had a good father figure, but my son might have,” Cheng raps on his 2020 single “Two Steps.”

his first album, Durag and chopsticks (2019), was recorded during these hasty studio sessions and at home using his own microphone.

Cheng had a particularly thick voice at the time—the effect of tutoring children during the day and talking over factory noise at night—and it became his signature sound.

“That tape was the first time I got into Spotify’s editorial playlist – seeing me with other players, e.g. Wang Jiaer and Haier Brothersis a crazy thing to me,” Cheng said.

“People outside of my circle of friends started to notice me, and it made me feel like, ‘OK, now I have to work harder,’ because I knew people actually saw something in me.”

Much of Cheng’s early music was recorded at home or hastily recorded in a studio in Kwai Hing. Photo: Zheng Haisen

But for Cheng, the meaning of working harder soon changed.

After a grueling shift at the factory, he arrived late for a potentially career-changing basketball tournament, spraining his ankle in the opening minutes.

Forced to leave the venue dragging two large bags of packaged egg rolls for delivery, Cheng decided on the spot that things had to change.

After causing a stir among local producers and some in the United States, Zheng applied for HK$80,000 (US$10,250) Severe special infectious pneumonia pandemic Hang Seng Bank Loan – Repayable over five years at low interest rates.
“I gave my mom some money so she could take care of herself and my brother,” Cheng said. “I took the rest of the money and booked a flight to Shanghai— Quarantine there for 21 daysthe happiest 21 days of my life.

It’s hard for me to make real friendships with people here because I can’t respect [inauthenticity]

Zheng Haisen
Leaving Hong Kong for Shanghai in 2021, at the peak of the epidemic anti-mainland sentimentovernight, Cheng lost hundreds of local fans, but top artists across the border began to lend a helping hand to him.
Among them is British-Jamaican producer Harikiri, who has given hits to A-list rappers in China and the United States and founded Iris Creative Collective in 2017. Chengdu.

Cheng signed with his long-time idol and moved to the capital of Sichuan Province, one of China’s most culturally vibrant cities.

“The irony is that all these people are now starting to show me love and respect again because they see me working with their favorite artist and becoming a good friend,” Cheng said.

“It’s very difficult for me to have real friendships with people here because I can’t respect that.”

That said, Cheng has several projects in the works that will bring him back to his birthplace, including a series of club shows next month.

After instinctively moving to Chengdu in 2021, Cheng has been working with top hip-hop musicians in China and beyond. Photo: Zheng Haisen

“Maybe things are changing here, maybe people are more open to mainland China,” he said. “Maybe I have to have more love in my heart to forgive those who don’t believe in me. […]

“I feel like if your goal in life is to lead, you have to be something greater, and I feel like I’m destined to be a leader here.”

It’s a precursor to his first Cantonese album due out this summer, following years of releases in English and Mandarin.

“I’m the only person in Asia who can write a complete song – for myself or for someone – in my native English and Mandarin. [else] – and Cantonese,” Cheng said.

“I’m not tied to anything and I can write great melodies, which makes me feel like I’m untouchable in this space.”

Cheng’s brother now lives with him in Chengdu, where he is a top student. Zheng often travels to Hong Kong to visit his mother and grandparents.

From struggling teenager to rap star with loyal fans across China, he hopes to represent hope for Hong Kong’s youth.

“It’s not really about what you do,” he said, “or how much money you have. It’s about whether you can create happiness out of your situation — and that’s one thing I really want to impact the people of Hong Kong one day. .

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