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Jiggie Boy energizes his fan base by keeping it really real

LiFTED | Sean D | 9 Nov 2021

It’s been said that all good art and creativity arise from adversity.

Certainly, Hong Kong’s recent past has been a period of upheaval and adversity and, as was evidenced last night at JB’s second sold-out show in a row, a time of great creative growth. While it’s true that region-wide, Asia has entered a Golden Era for Hip Hop music and culture, with explosive growth and greater market share in almost every country, for this to happen in Hong Kong during the past five years or so comes as a very pleasant surprise.

Wilfredo Jr Alconaba AKA Jiggie Boy AKA JB is an ethnic Filipino born and raised in Hong Kong. He has built up a large and energized fanbase [over 85K on his Instagram] by essentially doing what Hip Hop always requires – keeping it really real. The fact that he’s Filipino and spits everyday tales about his life in tone-perfect Cantonese and English [I’m sure there must be some Tagalog in there, too, but I couldn’t detect it] is testament to the real ‘Asia’s World City’ that exists beneath the shiny skyscrapers of international finance, in the cracks and crevices of Hong Kong’s working-class neighborhoods. JB is a product of the ‘other’ Hong Kong – a place of disaffected youth and ethnic minorities who have taken hold of Hip Hop culture and turned it into something they can live and be proud of.

And it’s spreading.

Whereas just a few years ago the Hong Kong Hip Hop scene was almost completely underground, and rappers were increasingly rhyming in Mandarin to tap into the lucrative mainland China scene that exploded in the wake of the meteoric The Rap of China success, a few were staying in their native tongue like JB and his crew. And last week’s show – a second added after the first quickly sold out – in the 1,850 capacity MacPherson stadium was a celebration of Cantonese slang and Hong Kong street culture.

The packed house was hanging on every word from JB, in both his lyrics and between-song banter, where he displayed a local’s sense of sly playfulness and authenticity. Ever since he was rolled up the main aisle to start the show while his DJ dropped the beat, JB was in control. He was among his people, and you could feel it.

The show itself was effectively produced, and JB was involved in all aspects – from set design to the live arrangement and visuals. He featured a tight live band led by drummer Steffunn that included double bass, keys, guitar, and organ plus two backup singers. The background visuals were a visual essay on JB’s influences and lifestyle, from stylized images of the NYC subways to him spray painting a graffiti mural, and of course plenty of gritty Kowloon ‘hood images. Jiggie Boy is well-known for his total immersion in Hip Hop culture, from rapping to break dancing to graffiti, and he incorporated all the core Hip Hop elements into the stage show.

After his opening sequence performing his hits, JB proceeded to bring out a cavalcade of Hong Kong rappers he collaborates and cyphers with. Included among them were label mates Novelfriday, Keni, BMW, and MAEL, but also Wolfe, Kelvin Grave, and Akiko, whose performance added a mid-set burst of Old School Hip Hop energy as they tore through one of the highlights of the night for his track ‘Rollie’. He also performed the X-rated ‘Text Me’ [Produced by SILVERSTRIKE] to the delight of the crowd.

It was the more subdued tracks like ‘Build My Hood’ where JB’s connection to his city and fans was most evident. Featuring his labelmate BMW, this moody, mid-tempo Trap burner is built on repetition and feeling, leaving you with the impression that JB has connected to his environment and his times in a truly intimate and organic way.

Ever since his 2019 breakout hit ‘潮共’ [loosely translated as fashionable public toilet] where he wryly pokes fun at ‘official’ Hong Kong’s obsession with luxury brands and status, JB has been seen as a real one and a voice of the streets. His two shows the past few nights may represent a sea change, where we find the local scene coming of age and celebrating its own unique take on Hip Hop.

Certainly, the label he co-founded [with Keni], Greytone, has become an incubator for local Rap hits, some of them topping five million YouTube views. But importantly, the major labels have noticed it as well, with local rappers starting to ink record deals previously reserved for CantoPop stars and idols. Well-executed, visually-entertaining live shows like JB’s mean that the venues will only get bigger, while the genre becomes more accepted and most of all, Hong Kong starts paying attention to its other talented kids.