Cover Unafraid to sing his soul out, the emerging Hong Kong singer Tyson Yoshi is one to watch (Photo: Cristen Tsoi/Tatler Hong Kong)

The rising indie star is gaining traction as a young talent to watch, and is already making his mark with overseas tours. He tells Tatler about his journey as an independent artist, the message behind his brand new release, ‘i don’t smoke & i don’t drink’—and why maintaining creative autonomy matters to him

Tyson Yoshi is in the midst of his sold-out “Hi I’m Back” solo tour in the UK—no mean feat for a young independent artist who only made his debut in Hong Kong in September 2018.

This wasn’t the first overseas gig for the rapper and singer-songwriter. Last year, he toured Taiwan, on top of holding a mini solo concert in Hong Kong. This year, he also released a new single i don’t smoke & i don’t drink. 

Part of a new generation of celebrated homegrown musical talents to have emerged in recent years, Tyson Yoshi—whose real name is Cheng Tsun-yin—has become known for his candid lyrics that explore topics such as love and loss, individualism and the struggles of growing up. Offering a mix of English and Cantonese material, the artist’s music span the genres of hip-hop, R&B and soul. 

“I’m always clear about what I want to convey through my artistry,” Tyson Yoshi tells Tatler. “I might be a deviant to some, but I don’t want to produce things just to cater to the taste of the public and gain more popularity.”

“After all, an artist’s success shouldn’t be measured in terms of industry awards he receives."

Read more: Introducing The Rising Hong Kong Boy Band: Mirror

What is the story behind your UK tour?

My concert was postponed multiple times in Hong Kong due to the pandemic. I didn’t have any big plans while waiting for restrictions to ease, so I decided to host the concert somewhere overseas instead.

We ended up choosing the UK as the concert location, which is perfect because it is where I spent my childhood years. I feel like I’m going back home. The name of the concert, “Hi I’m Back”, matches my idea too.  

I knew TIAB [Hong Kong indie artist who Tyson Yoshi is touring with] had always wanted to travel and explore new places, and I thought about how fun it would be if I could perform and travel with my friend at the same time.

Tell us about your latest track, i don't smoke & i don't drink.

It is a song without lies. I wrote the lyrics with the idea of expressing the feelings that I’ve been coping with since a very young age: I’m not that kind of person you think I’m. People judge me without fully understanding my personality, and I hate it when people tell me they feel surprised because I don’t smoke or drink.

My musical style is unconventional and bold, but that doesn’t mean you have to look at me differently. I'm so tired of explaining it, which is why the track contains a lot of personal confessions. 

How would you describe your musical style?

My musical style is always changing, depending on what I like at the moment. It’s a diverse mix of genres such as R&B, hip-hop and rap, [and is] something that truly speaks to my personality and emotions.

It wasn’t until recent years that I started to work with more mainstream artists. There are people who appreciate my songs a lot, while some may think I no longer appeal to the indie crowd because of my recent introduction to the mainstream scene.

But I don’t regret any of the decisions I’ve made throughout the years. I’m always creating music that I enjoy and would like to pursue.

What inspires you? 

My work is always straightforward and created based on my feelings. Everything starts with a word or a sentence that touches me. I only make music when I’m feeling it. When bad things happen, I usually write out one sentence to describe the incident and my sad emotions. 

I would then listen to some freestyle-type beats on YouTube to get some inspiration and develop the melodies. After having the theme and beats decided, I would share my work with the producer and finesse it. 

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Any great memories of collaborations?

Music brings people together and I love working with musicians across the world. I collaborated with Marz23 [rapper and founding member of Taiwanese rap group Trash]—we had been in touch online before we finally met in real life at my concert. It was funny that the first time we saw each other, we were already on stage. We felt awkward when performing, but we actually became friends afterwards. 

Can we look forward to more collaborations?

I’m not going to do a collaboration for the sake of doing it. I’ve always been kind of against the idea of forcing creativity to produce songs. The best work always comes naturally. I’d rather spend time talking to the artist and see if there are any common beliefs between us or messages that we both want to express in a song before deciding on a partnership. 

What are your thoughts on the new wave of young artists hitting the local music scene today?

It’s been great to see the Canto-pop scene evolve over the years, with a new generation of Hong Kong singers, such as Terence Lam and Serrini, bringing fresh sounds to the industry. People these days are more open-minded about new styles and music trends, and I can tell things are changing in a positive way.

Speaking of Canto-pop, there’s no point in emphasising how we’re going to protect Cantonese culture; it’s our mother tongue and we’re already speaking it every day. If we [Hong Kong singers] are doing our best to produce music, our Cantonese heritage and efforts will eventually be recognised by a wider audience across the world—[it will be] just like how K-pop works.

Instead of thinking about the changes I want to bring to the industry, I want to focus on myself and what I can do to improve and grow.

What’s next for Tyson Yoshi?

I’m aiming to produce more high-quality music videos that can perfectly capture the messages that I want to deliver through my own music. Launching a full-length album is also something I want to do in the future, but I feel like the timing isn’t right yet. It’s difficult to come up with a unified theme that’s carried throughout the album, because my musical style is diverse and always changing.

The planning process can be challenging and I don’t want to think about it yet, so I’ll now just go with the flow and keep creating music that I like.  

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