Hong Kong Hip Hop comes of age with the Whats Good Music Awards 2022
JB wins big at the city’s first-ever Hip Hop awards
In yet another sign that Hip Hop music and culture is making deep inroads into Asian popular music, Hong Kong [one of the smaller regional markets] held its first Hip Hop honors on Saturday, August 6. The Whats Good Music Awards 2022 had been postponed a few times due to the pandemic, but despite this, the crowd was large and raucous throughout the almost five-hour affair.
The big winner on the night was JB, who collected five awards including Artist of the Year. And OG’s LMF [Lazy Mutha Fucka] who took home the night’s top honor of Hall of Fame Artists. Overall, the show featured over 50 performers and handed out a massive 47 awards in all. Not bad for a first-ever Hip Hop awards show.
The idea for the Whats Good Awards has been 20 years in the making, with original Rap stalwarts, 24 Herbs, wanting to celebrate Hong Kong Hip Hop since the early 2000s. As the scene has grown over the years there have been some big-bang moments – like the phenomenon of Rap-Metal gods LMF, or Edison Chen, MC Yan and Hanjin Tan’s ‘Hong Kong’, and even some radio hits courtesy of 24 Herbs. But the scene was always fringe, and always dwarfed by Canto Pop.
Ever since the turbulence of 2019, the Hong Kong Hip Hop scene has turned inward and begun to celebrate its own ‘Hong Kong-ness.’ This meant rapping in Cantonese and celebrating Hong Kong rather than trying to reach bigger markets by rhyming in Mandarin or English. It may seem counter-intuitive, but this approach is what has solidified the scene and won the local fans over. It also coincides with the Asia-wide movement of rhyming in local languages and seeing Hip Hop take off in just about every market regionally. So the time was right to hold the first Hong Kong Hip Hop awards, created by the OGs and honoring their contributions while recognizing that the new MCs and groups are the stars of today.
Just a few years ago, the idea of holding a Hip Hop awards show in front of over 7,000 fans – at the HK Convention Centre no less – would have seemed impossible. But the vision of 24 Herbs’ Phat and JBS, and Kingdom C Music’s founder Bert Liu, along with Greytone Music’s Keni, knew that it was time. Add LMF’s MC Yan to the mix as the Chief Consultant, and all the ingredients were in place to make it happen. In fact, it was MC Yan who initially got LiFTED involved as a media partner. By the time the event finished Saturday night, we had sponsored four winners of the LiFTED Asian Flow Award: Balming Tiger [South Korea], Miyachi [Japan], VannDa [Cambodia], and Asiaboy禁藥王& Lizi栗子 [Taiwan].
LiFTED also presented the Song of the Year, Album of the Year, and Impact Song of the Year awards - the last won by JB for his massive local hit ‘Waiting.’ Other big winners were Artist of the Year [JB], Favorite Hong Kong Rapper [Novel Fergus], Song of the Year [Matt Force ‘Farewell’], Album of the Year [Young Queenz Spirited Away], Best Hip Hop Group [The Low Mays], and Best Music Video [TIAB x LEWSZ/NUMB ‘Sorry’].
The biggest highlight of the night was undoubtedly the LMF/24 Herbs live set where the entire place went berserk. On a night full of highlights, some of the highest were early 2000’s group MP4 shaking the foundations with their underground hit ‘老豆咪索K’ [Daddy Don’t Do K] which literally had the floor bouncing up and down. JB’s performance with The Afroseas' Supa Massie and Trisyo, plus an all-ages group of cuter-than-anything dancers was pure joy. Also, the Beatbox Cypher with Heartgrey and eight others was mind-blowing, especially when they turned it up a notch and finished on a blazing Drum&Bass groove. It wouldn’t be Hong Kong without a bit of Canto, so the collabs between DJ King@C AllStar, Novel Flash, Novel Fergus, Novel Friday, Jason Chan, and Jill Vidal were big favorites.
But at the end of it all, the night belonged to Hong Kong Hip Hop, and by that I mean the fans. The fans were loud, proud, and celebratory all night even at the end after five hours. This is their scene and their heroes, and it felt like a big family celebrating and fighting for their right to party after two-plus years of no clubs and almost no live shows.
Hip Hop is truly ingrained in Hong Kong culture now. It’s overground. It’s not just about rappers and DJs. It’s about Bboys and Bgirls, breaking, graffiti and street art, skateboarding, and streetwear, but most of all it’s about the fans. Because of them, we know that Hong Kong Hip Hop and next year’s Whats Good Music Awards will be even bigger.