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Scene Report

ComplexCon bursts into Asia with big brands & artists

Hong Kong hosted the three-day art, culture & music fest

LiFTED | admin1 | 27 Mar 2024

ComplexCon Hong Kong – the first ComplexCon outside the United States - kicked off Friday night, March 22, with an all-Asian music lineup. First up was Hong Kong rapper of the year Novel Fergus, who delivered his trademark dark Trap sounds and brought out crew members Novel Flash and others. Then, 88rising wonder-girl Lexie Liu came on and performed with just the DJ. It was actually refreshing to see a singer owning the catwalk without a team of dancers twirling around behind her. Next up was Taiwanese former boy band singer-turned-rapper [sound familiar?] SHOU, who also turned in a heavier than expected set. He got the girls going when he performed his hit ‘Colorful.’

The excitable crowd had come to see 3CORNERZ, the occasional Hip Hop group fronted by Hong Kong bad boy and CLOT founder Edison Chen, along with OG legend MC Yan and Chef. They didn’t disappoint. One thing Edison has proven over the years is that he’s got bars, as 3CORNERZ often performs at launch parties for CLOT and other cultural gatherings like ComplexCon. MC Yan [LMF] is simply a Hong Kong folk hero and poet, who has also been a frequent designer for CLOT over the years as well. Chef is a straight rapper and creative who also is part of the CLOT family. Together, they rocked it out as 3CORNERZ.

Saturday was the convention's kick-off, and LiFTED headed first to the Kangol booth, where local artist Cath Love was creating a large mural that began at 1 PM and finished at 5 PM. This depicted her surreal take on Kangol’s spring and summer offerings including a lot of bright, vibrant colors. For ComplexCon, Cath created a super cute Kangaroo design which they had printed on limited edition tees and stitched onto caps. As the switched-on, stylish crowd passed by they were forced to stop and take pics of her piece ‘in process’, especially the ladies we noticed. For a legacy brand with some of the deepest ties to Hip Hop culture, there was always going to be interest, but this live street art take was both understated and engaging. The booth was created by Kangol’s Asian distributor DSTRT, who also had booths for The WAOWW SHOP and Billionaire Boys Club BBC Ice Cream brand, which re-created a perfect replica subway entrance of the East Broadway stop F Train in Lower Manhattan. The faux subway entrance was so realistic, that within hours it was covered in graffiti tags, making it all the more authentic.

Highlights of the huge convention were the Futura Laboratories stall, which was stand-alone and looked just like an NYC newsstand [called Knew Stand.] Inside sat graffiti legend FUTURA hanging out as the various artists and writers all stopped by to pay homage to the king. Lupe Fiasco also gave FUTURA a big shout out during his performance on Sunday.

By a stroke of luck, right next to The Knew Stand was the Bape Gallery. They were showing several abstract canvases and sculptures all based on the iconic Bathing Ape logo created so many years ago by NIGO. LiFTED also bumped into New York street artist STASH, who had done a few pieces inside for Bape, and also created a large Wildstyle canvas on the outside wall. As it turns out STASH and FUTURA are old comrades in arms, going all the way back to the very beginning of streetwear with their legendary Phillies Blunt tee. They knew they were both going to be there but didn’t know they’d be next to each other. That corner was certainly the place to be. On Sunday, Takashi Murakami even stopped by to tag up FUTURA’s Knew Stand.

NIGO’s lifestyle brand Human Made is one of the most famous in Asia. His booth concept was a perfect take on today’s social media culture, where everyone can take a pic or shoot a video, especially if there’s something ‘cute’ or ‘famous’ to pose next to. He created a large wire fence cube with a Human Made x Verdy sculpture inside and only one door to get in. Naturally, there was a line of people all waiting to get in so they could pose next to it. If art is all about seeing how people react to creation, then this installation did its job.

The CLOT installation was both clever and from what we could see, financially rewarding. They are the Hong Kong Chinese kings of drop culture, and they used Saturday to drop a new Nike limited edition CLOT design. This ensured long lines of kids [and let’s be honest, adults] all waiting to get their hands on a pair of the pastel-colored monotone kicks. We didn’t ask about the price, but you already know. The booth itself resembled a Hong Kong street butcher’s shop, with hanging red light shades, each with a pair of kicks dropping down from it. The white-coated ‘butchers’ were the ones selling the shoes. Edison Chen showed up later and there was pandemonium as he made his way through the crowd of screaming girls and fanboys. Another interesting booth was from the famous Japanese department store PARCO. They collaborated with the digital creative team YGY and the theme was future TOKYO CULTURE COMPLEX - a creative mix of Japanese anime, games, art, and street culture. What it looked like most was a composite from the set of Blade Runner and it was super eye-catching.

Another brand that was cleverly themed was Fried Rice NYC, which kitted out its booth like a New York pizzeria. The flat pizza boxes doubled as gift boxes, and the larger items were put into giant black bags that put IKEA bags to shame. Maya Wang and her partner Nolan Mecham created Fried Rice on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and her baggy, whimsical garments were born out of the Afro Punk movement and incorporate elements of Hip Hop style and streetwear. They looked like they were doing brisk business, and indeed we saw lots of people wearing their ‘Fried Rice As Fuck’ tees around the convention. Fried Rice NYC is definitely a brand to watch.

Some honorable mentions include Micah Johnson’s AKU interactive sculpture. The character is inexplicably engaging, and the story is even more interesting. This former Major League Baseball player is a self-taught artist who came up with AKU a few years ago and has already been on the cover of Time magazine with it. We’d be remiss not to mention Japanese artist Verdy, who was ComplexCon’s artistic director and who created his signature characters for the logo. Verdy’s name is ubiquitous in the street art and streetwear world. He’s worked with everyone from BLACKPINK to Levi’s, and his ‘Girls Don’t Cry’ and ‘Wasted Youth’ designs are now legendary.

Saturday night’s concert was all about the Koreans. And you knew that simply by looking at the kids who were already lined up by 11 AM on Saturday as we entered ComplexCon. If the lineup felt like ex-boyband singers-turned rappers, it mostly was. Starting with OG Korean rapper Simon Dominic, the bill also included Gray, Loco, Coogie, and Woo Won-jae, who got some of the loudest screams of the night. The kids were out in full force for this one, flashing their phones and waving anything they could get their hands on. Proving the incredible staying power of all things Korean in Asia, Saturday night was a full house that set the stage for Sunday’s headliners.

Sunday was a vibe. 21 Savage was the biggest name, but interestingly they also included Lupe Fiasco and Korean MC pH-1. Lupe was one of the biggest names in the US Hip Hop game in the mid-2000s and was part of a new breed of rappers with thoughtful, poetic bars who paved the way for artists like Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino. pH-1 has become one of Korea’s biggest Hip Hop stars since he signed with H1GHER Music with Jay Park back in 2017. It’s fair to say that all three artists crushed it but in different ways. 21 Savage because he’s arguably the hottest rapper on the planet right now. Lupe Fiasco because I bet half the audience members didn’t realize those were his hits. pH-1 because this is Asia, and Koreans rule. Plus, they all turned in energetic, engaging sets with lots of bass and great visuals. It was a great way to end a great weekend.

Hong Kong showed out for ComplexCon and LiFTED can’t wait until its back next year.