Hong Kong, home to some of the most diverse communities in the world, is also a hotspot for a talented pool of hip-hop artists. Cantohop—or Cantonese hip-hop—was only introduced to the city in the early 1990s, but has vastly evolved over the years with artists who hail from different backgrounds. While Hong Kong is home to a diverse group of talent, the hip-hop scene is still developing. Despite this, both emerging and established artists alike have been hustling to push the scene to new heights and garner global visibility. From rapper and producer Keni to Hong Kong-born, Filipino rapper JB, read on for a list of Hong Kong rappers to add to your playlist.
Toronto-born rapper TXMIYAMA (pronounced “Tomiyama”) first came to Hong Kong at 12-years-old. Drawing from his Japanese heritage in songs, TXMIYAMA effortlessly incorporates English and Japanese into his lyrics, as well as hints of Cantonese and Filipino—an ode to his friends and community in the city. Speaking to Complex about his music career he says, “I’m just grateful for all of it, [music] has brought me so many surreal moments. There are so many nights where I’m kind of just awake until an ungodly hour and thinking, ‘Damn... this all started with me writing some bullshit-ass lines that barely rhymed in those cheap, black and red hard-cover Hong Kong notebooks,’” TXMIYAMA shares with Complex. While TXMIYAMA has been knee-deep in the food and beverage industry, he’s continuing to make music and has a catalog of hits behind him: “For the City,” “5am Minibus,” “HKG” and “Red Horse'' to name a few. “I’m not sure if I’m allowed to drop names yet, but I’m working with some pretty big [artists] in Japan now and I don’t wanna jinx anything, but I hope something cool materialises from it, because I’d love to do more rap-related things in my motherland,” TXMIYAMA says.
At the age of 20, Keni joined Hong Kong’s version of The Voice, finishing in fifth place. Following this, he went on to co-found the music label Greytone Music alongside local Hong Kong rapper JB and producer J1M3. On top of this, Keni and JB joined forces on a track dubbed ”潮共”—roughly translated to “clout chaser” in English—which became the first Cantonese song to be played by DJs in Lan Kwai Fong (Hong Kong’s nightlife hub of restaurants, bars and clubs). Despite the success he’s found in the city, Keni candidly speaks on the difficulties that come with being an artist in Hong Kong. “We lack economic support from the government for this culture and a complete economic circle within the industry. This results in insufficient support in both our daily lives and investments in our own work,” he says. In an effort to aid the community as much as he can, Keni is currently working with Sony Music to establish a sublabel in Hong Kong, with the goal of providing more resources for young independent artists.
Benny Han’s first EP bk arrived in 2017. Having spent time in the Big Apple for roughly five years, Han developed his sound via inspiration sourced directly from the hip-hop capital itself, mixed in with influences from his hometown. With an interest in sampling since the early days of his career, Han started out producing his own beat tapes that featured Cantonese lyrics. “Hong Kong is like a beehive full of rappers with different practices, and since there are 18 districts here, I think people are actively carrying their district on their back and trying to expand their style into a unique representation of their neighbourhood,” Han shares with Complex AU.
Starting out in his high school hip-hop dance crew and posting original beats online, Hong Kong-born, Filipino rapper JB (aka Jiggie Boy) has been in the game since 2011. The year he firmly established himself as a staple in the city’s underground hip-hop scene was in 2018, when he began experimenting with his own Cantonese lyrics over beats and collaborating with other rappers. In January 2019, JB dropped “潮共,” influenced by his days working at a streetwear store in Mong Kok, with the track’s music video amassing six million views on YouTube to date.