The Mon­treal rap­per sub­verts ideas of Chi­nese iden­tity and hip hop.

The Coast - - HPX 2018 - BY MOR­GAN MULLIN

Hua Li w/DJ Shub, Ca­dence Weapon, Jayd Ink, Fat Tony, Blak­denim Satur­day, Oc­to­ber 20, 9pm The Mar­quee, 2037 Got­tin­gen Street, $25 adv/$33 door


of why I started rap­ping is be­cause I wanted to be the hook girl. I would write these rinky-dink raps as place­hold­ers and sing a re­ally cool hook,” says Hua Li, speak­ing by phone from her lat­est tour stop in Man­i­toba. In a few hours, she’ll be warm­ing the stage with her self-de­scribed “golden-era rap over hazy beat pro­duc­tion” be­fore tour­mates Fat Tony and Ca­dence Weapon per­form. But, for now, she’s ex­plain­ing how she went from go­ing by a Cana­dian-ized name and fronting jazz bands to lean­ing into her Chi­nese her­itage and be­com­ing a sonic blend of Lil Kim verses so sharp they cut and Lau­ryn Hill-style hooks that save your soul.

“It’s re­ally im­por­tant to me to rep­re­sent these dif­fer­ent sides of Asian wom­an­hood that are not the model mi­nor­ity, cookie-cut­ter ver­sion of what peo­ple imag­ine,” Li con­tin­ues. “When I started this project I re­ally wanted to do some­thing mu­si­cally that re­flected these other sides of my­self—I wanted to have a larger range in terms of em­brac­ing both my Chi­nese iden­tity and my queer­ness as well as some of the less re­spectable sides of fem­i­nin­ity.”

Li lists Big­gie Smalls as one of her ear­li­est in­flu­ences, and “Lux­ury,” the sec­ond track on her 2015 EP Za Zhong, backs up the claim with the brag­gado­cios swag­ger that made “Big Poppa” a time­less nou­veau-riche an­them—it’s the slick­est view in­side the good life since Iggy Aza­lea told us she’s fancy.

Li says it’s thanks to rap­pers like Ca­dence Weapon that she let her­self up­grade from hook girl to full-on MC (she’s also his DJ on this tour—and will be helm­ing the decks dur­ing his Pop Ex­plo­sion set Satur­day) and says their Mar­quee show takes the au­di­ence on an im­por­tant rep­re­sen­ta­tive jour­ney: “I think it’s re­ally quite sig­nif­i­cant that I get to open up the show as a woman and we see these two in­cred­i­bly unique and sen­si­tive men hit the stage, and kind of con­tinue on the threads of what I es­tab­lish at the be­gin­ning of the show.”


I re­ally wanted to do some­thing mu­si­cally that re­flected these other sides of my­self,” says Li.

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