JB : The Young Prodigy of Cantonese Rap
At first glance, JB may seem like an expat with his tattoos, but you would be surprised how fluent his Cantonese is and the Filipino hopes to show he can rap just like the locals.
By Wingki Yeung
Advisor: Ms Sandra Lowe
Pages editor：Meko Liu
Born into a musical family in Hong Kong meant he was surrounded by instruments of all shades as he was growing up.
His father was a drummer and his mother was a Hawaiian dancer. His uncles and aunts all played instruments such as the saxophone and keyboard as well as singing.
“I learnt hip hop from my two brothers for the first time when I was young,” said JB. “When Idance it mostly contains hip hop elements.”
JB started posting his raps on YouTube in 2011. “I focused on dancing for eight years and I got fair results, so I decided to pick rapping up again,” said the rapper who has a full-time sales job.
“Being a rapper is not an occupation for me, but as long as I love music, I consider myself a full-time rapper,” he said.
He confessed that his family did not support his goal to play music in Hong Kong. “They said it’s better to be stable, but my attitude is that it’s okay for me to continue what I want to do and they don’t need to worry,” JB said.
JB does not want to be labelled into a certain genre, saying “you could do music under any situation and contribute your time and spirit as long as you love it”.
He believes his music and lyrics will always be true to himself regardless of the
arrangement . “If I grab the guitar and struma song out with a rap, it is totally fine as [hip hop] music is highly flexible,” he added.
“Rap God” Eminem and the late rapper Mac Miller have influenced him the most. Eminem’s famous song “Lose Yourself ” had a strong impact on JB as a youth.
“At the age when I started rapping, they were popular and trendy. When you first get in touch with hip hop, of course you listen to them,” said JB.
“I personally think that hip hop started to gain more exposure in Hong Kong through the mainland TV show, The Rap of China.
“But there are many renowned hip hop artists in Hong Kong such as LMF and 24Herbs. It’s mainstream music in countries. Hip Hop is a culture with spirit.”
He gets his songwriting ideas from daily life. “I make music based on my emotions and things going on in my life, and it’s my lifestyle,” he said.
As rap lyrics frequently depend on rhymes, JB would think a lot about different phrases. “For example, if I am producing a love song, I would group phrases with loving and sweet feelings together.”
“For me, sometimes it’s one story for one song and sometimes it’s just a feeling,” said JB.
In CHILL N’ DAB, he expressed his feelings about discrimination: “You can keep on discriminating rings on my face and tattoo on my body, but tell y’all we truly love arts and we even put our yellow skin on”
“It actually happened to me that people thought that I was a thug,” JB said with frustration,“Hong Kong seems to be open-minded, but it actually turns out not to be.”
JB set up Greytone with his friends earlier this year in hopes of promoting their music.
“Greytone is not just for hip hop, it’s for any kind of music,” said JB, “We don’t want to make it commercial as music is not a tool for money.” JB thinks the music industry does not nurture individuality. “I don’t know why is music pegged to money in Hong Kong,” said JB.
“I was once contacted by an entertainment company. They asked me to delete my entire music catalogue and follow their instructions if I signed with them. It felt like they didn’t even respect the music and the artist, and treat all of us like merchandise.”
He believes his love for hip hop won’t be twisted by the profit-oriented industry, “I do music for people who listen to me, but not the market. I am not going to satisfy the market and change any of my music.”
JB sees criticism as motivation to try to do better every time. In one of his earlier songs.
Love Your Haters, he wrote: “I stand up where I fall down, I do it all over again and sacrifice for the arts”. He explained, “There are many people in Hong Kong who would throw a wet blanket on you. It’s a place that keep testing how much you love the arts. So when you need to walk further, you must fall but you should know how to stand up again.”
Hip hop is still not mainstream music in Hong Kong. Like other hip hop artists, JB is chasing his dream of being on a larger stage to share his messages through his music.