An Interview With Hong Kong Rapper Haysen Cheng

An Interview With Hong-Kong Rapper Haysen Cheng

Haysen Cheng is a 21-year-old artist from Hong Kong, who is fresh off the release off of his EP “North Point Demo’s Vol. 1.” We had the opportunity to have a quick little chat with the upcoming artist to learn about his life, musical career and what it’s like trying to come-up in the music industry from China!

Q: What’s up bro, tell everyone a little bit about yourself!

Haysen: What’s good man thank you for your time…my name is Haysen Cheng, and I am a 21 year old artist from Hong Kong.

Q: I’m interested to learn about your musical influences from China. Who are some artists from that inspired you?

Haysen: Looking back now, the artists that left the deepest impression on me are definitely Drake, Rick Ross, Fabolous, Travis Scott, Jay Chou, Higher Brothers and Pop Smoke. There are also artists such as Kevin Gates, Joey Bada$$, Big Sean, Nipsey Hussle, and Sheck Wes where I watch/read more of their interviews than music because they drop so much game on life and not just the industry. I take away something from everyone who is objectively successful and internalise it.

But one thing a lot of people don’t know is that I grew up playing the cello in an orchestra and listening to Cantonese pop from the radio, years before I even knew Hip-Hop/Rap existed. When I moved to Shanghai, most people listened to Jay Chou and Mandarin pop but you could also hear a lot of U.S. hits on the local radio from the YMCMB era…which is how I heard my first Lil Wayne song and then eventually got into Drake, right after ‘So Far Gone’ first dropped. 

From Drake I started listening to The Weeknd, NAV and Tory Lanez, which I felt a much deeper connection to because my mother lived in Toronto for 6 years, way before it had any international recognition from music. Her memory of Toronto is this gray, boring and cold city with nothing but snow…so if Drake and those artists can start from nothing and turn their city into what it is now, I am very convinced that nothing is impossible and I can do the same for Hong Kong with other artists in my city. The Higher Brothers are individuals I look up to as well because they were able to do the same not just for their city Chengdu, but put on for the whole country on an international stage. 


Q. When did you decide to pursue music full-time as a career?

Haysen: I first picked up a cello at the age of 5 when my mother decided I will be a cellist when I grow up…..I used to play everything from Mozart symphonies to J.S Bach solo pieces, I was a solid cello player until I picked up a basketball and decided to pursue my dream of playing college ball in the U.S. and even moved to Spain and trained with a Euroleague Junior team for 3 years…I knew I was meant to be a star at something so I gave that shit my all, but my basketball career just didn’t work out. I watched many of my closest friends get NCAA Division 1 full ride scholarships while I got a couple D3 offers that I couldn’t even afford the tuition for. I had to swallow my pain and look in the mirror to accept that I really tried my hardest and it wasn’t enough. Funny thing is, the first time I ever tried to rap and make a song that I uploaded on SoundCloud….my whole team was completely blown away and the next day at school it felt like everyone knew about it and told me I had sauce, even a couple of coaches….less than 2 years later I’m working with some of the same people that I came up listening to and admiring. In a way, it feels like I’m at a stage now in music where I realize I’m a Division 1 prospect too. So to me the rap game has a lot of parallels to basketball…..some people play ball for fun, some people play for a scholarship to a college education, I got a couple brothers playing to make it to the NBA, and some individuals like my brother Isa Silva play to become a Hall-of-Famer…..when I look in the mirror I’m definitely doing this to see through my full potential and go down as a face on the Mount Rushmore of Asian Hip-Hop. I decided to pursue this as a career the moment I realised I make better music than a lot of successful mainstream artists in Asia. 

Q. Your music is sometimes very dark and aggressive, how would you describe your music? And describe the ethos behind your brand/image.

Haysen: You know that scene in Harry Potter where he extracts the thoughts from his mind on the pensieve and it becomes tangible? I’d describe my music as tangible fragments of whatever I was going through in life. Sometimes even when I listen back to my older tracks I get goosebumps because I captured exactly what I was going through at that moment…this is everything I dreamed of having when I was younger, and I don’t take any of it for granted. Every night I thank God for giving me an outlet to make music and have people outside of my life actually find value in what I make, including people I looked up to for years. 

I was naturally a cheerful and positive person. But when you understand the years of rejection and financial/mental situations that I lived through, and how my optimism was repeatedly met with things not working out over and over again, I feel like even the happiest person would start to feel some sort of growing resentment and pain. It comes off as dark and aggressive because that is exactly who I am deep down…the negativity fuels me and makes me hungrier to win.

My brand/image is simply who I am: a product of my environment. I am a Chinese man from Hong Kong/Shanghai who developed a love and respect for black culture, and I make music that is an extension of Hip-Hop/Rap. My rap name is the same English name my mother gave me at birth. I don’t know what it’s like to have a separate identity the way a lot of rappers have made up names or characters which I can respect, but that’s not who I am. From day one I have been who I am authentically and just telling my story in a way that sounds fire. I can stand behind everything I say in a song or post on Instagram in real life, and that’s how I sleep well at night knowing I am everything I say I am. 


Q: It appears you are really focused on building your North American audience currently. What is the reason behind this?

Haysen: As I said earlier, making music is very similar to playing ball. It’s cool to be the man in your hometown, but eventually I want to take my talents to the next level and prove to myself that I can really ball in the big leagues. The same way a few of my brothers who are from China or Taiwan and ended up getting full scholarships to play Division 1 basketball in the U.S…that’s what I am motivated to do in music. I have a lot of respect for Asian artists that are absolutely killing it in North America and around the world…I genuinely believe that level of success is where I can thrive, and I’m not scared of putting in the work to get there. 


Q: What’s the music scene in Hong Kong like?

Haysen: Bubbling and on the rise. We had A$AP Ferg, even The Weeknd come and perform here…Rolling Loud HK was supposed to happen back in 2019. That just shows there is a lot of potential for Hong Kong to become a Hip-Hop powerhouse in Asia…look at what Rich Brian and 88Rising have done for Indonesia over the past few years. I am optimistic about Hong Kong’s future and I can’t wait to manifest the visions that I have.


Q: You have new music on the way with Max Winds correct? Elaborate on how you 2 linked up from across the world!

Haysen: Max Winds is someone whose grind I respect a lot, I have nothing but love for Canadian artists to begin with because of my mother’s ties with Toronto and the fact that nothing was handed to the Canadian scene…I had a song with Skip Waiters that was featured on Montreality back in 2020 so it’s only right that I come through with another Canada X Hong Kong banger. Max sent me the open verse and it was so fire that I finished writing and recording my part in 2 hours….that’s what a track like that does.

Q: Describe your creative process.

Haysen: Sometimes stars align, most songs write themselves especially if the beat is right, or when I link with someone I respect. It can take anywhere from half an hour to 4 months to finish a song, but lately I’ve definitely been sharpening my pen game. Years before I even knew about Hip-Hop/Rap I already loved writing and reading both Chinese and English poetry/limericks as a kid, so writing and rhythm is really second nature to me.

Q: What can we expect from Haysen for the rest of 2021!

Haysen: Looking forward to go back to Shanghai in a couple months and tap in the Mainland China scene…I’m excited to step up my game and be around different artists and producers who have actually made a successful career off music…I like feeling intimidated because it pushes me to evolve and make myself better. All I can say is it’s gonna be a whole lot of full circle moments this year and every year after that…I’m in this to make history.


Check out “North Point Demos, Vol. 1” Here:

Watch “North Point Demos 005 “GREY CLOUDS 灰雲” (feat. DIZIWASTRIPPY)” Here:

Written by: Colton Kopacz!

Follow Haysen Cheng on Social Media:

https://www.instagram.com/chenghaysen/?hl=en
https://twitter.com/chenghaysen?lang=en
https://open.spotify.com/artist/0nh7l4AluXpKHvqx1f3biK
https://soundcloud.com/haysencheng

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