Known for his critically acclaimed work as an experimental hip-hop producer and a drummer for iconic Filipino bands Kjwan and Kapatid, Hong Kong-based beatsmith and rapper J-Hoon stages a comeback with the release of his sophomore album, Noodles II.
In his 14-track release, J-Hoon documents a decade of witnessing social instability, chaos, and fear in his hometown, Hong Kong—a city that has struggled to retain its degree of independence up until now. The eclectic, hip-hop-driven album also sees the multi-hyphenate share his personal observations on life and culture in general with no filter, as he goes back and forth between Hong Kong and several places/cities miles away from his home.
“Lyrically, it’s a collection of stories, commentaries, and musings about my experiences living in Hong Kong,” said J-Hoon. “You could say that it’s my love letter to the bustling city, a poetic unravelling of its beautiful and ugly side amidst the crumbling terror of political conflict. It’s also diarist in tone and very much contemplative; I didn’t know that I would be this brave to open up about my encounters in life, where stories and emotions sometimes get the best of me. Writing, for the most part, is cleansing and healing, and I really had a great time doing this exercise in my convenient time.”
Noodles II shows J-Hoon’s more collected take on hip-hop, boom bap, jazz, trap, neo-soul, IDM, and electronic music. There’s a looser feel to his musicality, and the songs are palpably more unhinged as compared to his debut offering. But what makes Noodles II a compelling record is its knack for intimacy and free-spirited energy, exploring music across genres, eras, and places with a more playful direction.
“This time around, I moved on to Ableton and MPD from AKAI,” shares the multi-cultural hip-hop head. “The approach is very much different from my debut as I’m more inclined to embrace less complex structures, and more of that classic hip-hop format. Also, I am playing real keys in some songs in this album, so that’s new. The overall vibe is reminiscent of the kind of analog and lo-fi hip-hop that I grew up with. But instead of making something more polished, I’ve tried to retain that raw, carefree attitude in this album.”
Noodles II follows the format of Noodles I, J-Hoon’s debut album released more than a decade ago. His sophomore outing features collaborations with several Asian producers, including Manila’s very own Chi Capulong and Justin De Guzman (JDG), Guangzhou’s Pete Chen, and Seoul’s Noden and Chillingcat. J-Hoon also collaborated with rappers and MCs from different parts of the region, like Guangzhou’s Rebelman, Kuala Lumpur’s Noyz134 and Hour Tan, Tokyo’s So Wada, Hong Kong’s Mattforce, YoungQueenz, and MouseFx from SensiLion.
As J-Hoon describes the collaborative nature of Noodles II, “in a way, all these experiences and characters constitute a bowl of Noodles where you have the broth and noodles, but it also has various ingredients, cultures, and sauces coming together to bring in a new but familiar flavor.”
Last month, J-Hoon released the soulful jam “Lei Ho Leng,” where he raps about chasing perfection at the expense of tarnishing the light in one’s heart or what is known as “real” beauty. Over soulful keys and dusty, vintage grooves, the Hong Kong-based rapper-producer delivers a bop of sumptuous subtlety and class. Other highlights in the album include “Paradise,” a song written during a tumultuous period in his life living in a troubled city while moving places; the Yehaiyahan-featured track “Reality,” which serves as a reflection of our realities across different places and continents; and the jazzy “Modern Li Bai,” which is a homage to the legendary poet of the same name.