YoungQueenz, Hong Kong rapper and Wild$tyle Records founder, performed in Singapore for the first time last weekend.
We caught up with the rapper to find out more about his passion and influences, interests beyond music, and plans for the future.
Just who is YoungQueenz? Meet the talented 23-year-old who does everything from rapping to running his own record label and directing music videos. He hasn’t started making his own beats yet but he’s definitely banging down doors miles away from his hometown of Hong Kong. Last weekend, we got to witness his talent firsthand as he made his Singapore debut at Phuture, Zouk Singapore. Curious? Read on to find out more.
Welcome to Singapore! Could you tell us a bit about yourself – were you born and raised in Hong Kong?
Yeah, I was born and raised in Hong Kong. My first memory of rap music was back in primary school when my classmate introduced me to Cantonese rap, but I only tried rapping when I was 15 years old. Cantonese rap started it all but I moved on to old-school American hip-hop after. Queensbridge rappers, Nas and Mobb Deep made a huge impact on shaping my perspective of rap music – part of the reason I call myself YoungQueenz.
Hong Kong and Singapore share a similarity in that people tend to chase high-paying office jobs. How did you decide you weren’t going to do that, but pursue music instead?
If you don’t like what you do, your life and your time will just become a waste. I love music, hip-hop and rap. So I decided right away, “I’m going to do that”. If you’re still young, you should learn to find yourself. A lot of times, people only tell you to be yourself but you should learn to find yourself first. Pursue something that you really believe in. For me, I didn’t have the support of my family at first. They only came around after noticing that I’m actually doing good – garnered a healthy fanbase, touring and doing shows. I had their blessings in the end.
Animation, drugs, violence… These are some things that you rap about. What sort of response do you get from people in Hong Kong about your music?
Yeah, I have two stage personas – YoungQueenz and Otakku Mobb. I talk a lot more about drugs and violence as YoungQueenz and the animation stuff as Otakku Mob. I thought it would be interesting. Rappers like to talk about swag, fast cars, and money. But I like games, Pokemon and all that sort of stuff. Why not flex it, right? Hip-hop is all about being yourself. I’m just showing my different sides. Maybe my music can be too dark and people just want to relax when they listen to music. There’s still some way to go before my music will be widely accepted. But people still do listen and relate to the things I put out. That’s why they end up becoming my fans in the first place.
Could you tell us what the hip-hop scene in HK is like currently, and how does your label, Wild$tyle Records, fit into the landscape?
It’s definitely gaining traction but I don’t really care for that as I like to keep my family tight. For YoungQueenz and Wild$tyle Records, we’re just trying to do our thing. I believe that to be successful, you don’t really have to follow what’s hot and what’s not. Take Apple, for example. If they were concerned about that, they would never have produced the incredible products that they have now.
You frequently collaborate with fellow HK rapper, Fotan Laiki. How did you meet her?
She’s not actually a rapper, man. But it’s quite a funny story. I was slated to perform at Clockenflap, a music festival in Hong Kong, and Fotan Laiki hit me up asking for tickets. I told her I didn’t have any and that she needed to become a rapper, then she could come. We decided to make a song and that’s how it started. It was so random because she only did it for fun and it was a hit. As the saying goes, “You won’t know until you actually try”.
Your music combines metal-rap elements and Chinese-inspired tunes, with lyrics that are rapped over in a mix of Cantonese and English. How did you create this sound? Who are some of your musical inspirations?
I listen to a lot of Cantonese and Japanese rap. A lot of MCs in the Japanese rap scene have this hardcore sound. I needed to find my own sound and I thought mixing hip-hop with a hardcore sound fits me really well. Having English in my lyrics has become natural for me. I’ve been into rap culture for a long time, so naturally, I tend to speak more English. Also, for those who can’t speak Chinese, they can at least catch a bit of the meaning of my songs from the English lyrics.
What are your plans for Wild$tyle Records in the next few years?
At the moment we’re trying to produce more solo albums and music videos for our different artists. After all, we’re a record label, not a music crew. I have to think of my artists and their solo careers too. So it will take a bit of time.
We know that you’re a big Kiko Mizuhara fan. How did you first learn of her existence and why are you so fascinated with her?
Yeah (laughs), but it all started because of Tumblr. I used to browse through Tumblr a lot for creative inspiration and I stumbled upon a blog dedicated to Kiko Mizuhara. And I thought some of the concepts were cool. Of course, she looked good in it too. At the time, she wasn’t that famous yet. So I really got to see her popularity grow over the years.
In a day, how much time do you spend playing games? What games do you play?
Usually, I give myself a month’s break from music to find inspiration. During that time I’ll just play video games on my PS4 every day. I like a lot of games, but one of my favorites is definitely Dark Souls. I try not to get addicted though. The time could definitely be used more productively (laughs).
What you wear is very much part of your image as well. What’s your style inspiration?
I don’t really have a style inspiration. Of course, in hip-hop, you have ASAP Rocky who’s big on fashion, but I don’t really follow too much. I do like some Asian styles, like dragon motifs, some silver, and jade. Perhaps also a bit of punk influence coming from my music. In terms of brands, I’ve recently started to cop Margielas. I got myself two pairs of shoes but they’re too expensive, I’ll never wear them on tour. I also go really hard on dad shoes, way before it was even a thing. You can think of me as a trendsetter if you’d like (laughs). Overall, I think if the stuff is cool, I’d want to rock it. It doesn’t matter the brand.
Check out YoungQueenz’s DragonTown EP on Wild$tyle Records’ Youtube channel.
All images: Zouk Singapore