Every Dog has his day.
After more than a decade in music, Taiwanese rapper MC HotDog finally held his first solo ticketed concerts at vaunted venues Taipei Arena and Hong Kong Coliseum last year.
"In a way, it's to stretch myself and give back to the fans, who might be tired of smaller-scale performances," says MC HotDog, 36, whose real name is Yao Chung-jen.
In town for industry event Music Matters last week, the hip-hop artist spoke about the genre's growing visibility in Taiwan.
This year, his peer Dog-G is nominated at the Golden Melody Awards for Best Lyricist for his song 100 Points. Another hip-hop act, Soft Lipa, is up for Best Mandarin Album, Best Male Singer and Best Album Producer for the album Renovate - signalling that hip-hop is finally gaining widespread acceptance.
On starting out in the early noughties with Dog-G, MC HotDog recalls: "Back then, just to get a recording studio to make a demo was a lot more difficult."
The scene was small and comprised the same few diehards plugging away. Most thought hip-hop did not have much of a future.
"Nowadays, anyone can do it with a computer, a storage device and a crappy microphone," says MC HotDog.
The advent of the digital age has made it easier for new Taiwanese hip-hop artists to put out music too. Pointing to newer acts such as Soft Lipa and Miss Ko, he adds: "They bring out different dishes because they all have different styles and different things to say. And everyone's doing it under the banner of hip-hop, giving audiences a greater variety of choices and styles."
MC HotDog himself has helped to bring hip-hop into the mainstream by collaborating with a wide range of musicians, from Taiwanese singer-songwriter Chang Chen-yue to Singapore's Tanya Chua.
The collaboration most special to him is the one with Hong Kong's Edison Chen, says the producer of the singer-actor's Confusion (2010). For that, he had to translate Chen's English lyrics into Chinese while making sure they flowed and rhymed - a little tricky. But he adds: "He's someone with a lot of ideas and he comes up with things you've never thought of before. And the process is both challenging and very fun."
MC HotDog has also had hits in his own right, including My Life, The Korean Invasion and I Love Taiwanese Girls. Girls was on Wake Up, which won the Golden Melody Award for Best Mandarin Album in 2007.
He followed that up with Mr Almost (2008) and Ghetto Superstar (2012). On the latter's title track, he took aim at hip-hop boastfulness. He said: "A lot of rap singers like to boast about themselves as if they're leading such fabulous lives, from the women they have to the fancy cars they drive. But my song questions whether this is indeed the reality, so mine was a dadiaoge (boastful swagger of a song) criticising dadiaoge."
Now working on a new album slated for the year's end, MC HotDog hopes to come up with a new record every two years or so. He admits that, in the past, "I've been kind of lazy and taking my time to write songs".
"I think I need to step it up a notch, to be responsible to myself as well as my fans," he resolves.
On the direction of his upcoming work, he says: "The songs I've written recently tend to be more critical. In the past year, things have been kind of messy in Taiwan and I've tapped this dissatisfaction of the people in the song Change."
Lyrics for Change include: "Eating black-hearted foods, drinking black-hearted oil, the black-gold incidents (referring to the politics of intimidation and bribery) pierce us to the bone."
And what does MC HotDog himself do for a change of environment when he is feeling bored or down?
The single parent of a six-year-old son says: "I'll head out for a couple of drinks. Besides relaxing, it's also about checking out what's popular at nightspots at the moment. But, as much as possible, I'll keep the weekends for family."
This article was first published on May 29, 2014.
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