Melbourne rapper and producer Chef Chung, born Nathaniel Shek-Wa Lau, wields his rap prowess gently.
To date, his music plays like the low-octane confessions of a 20-something living in the inner city – told to you while smoking cigarettes on a car park roof in Chinatown, rolling spliffs under backyard fairy lights, or driving along the freeway at 3am.
While this type of rap usually carries the message of a grim and paranoid future for the youth, Chung’s work actually feels more hopeful – like the artistic manifestation of simple city living, he’s grateful for what’s come and looking towards a future filled with liberation and realisation.
“skateboard P (2013)” is the thesis of this mentality. Chung’s lyricism can sometimes be cryptic, but on this track, the message is clear. Over his signature soaring samples and reverberating bass that trembles like the subtle aftermath of a Melbourne earthquake, he fires lyrics about standing his moral ground while navigating the music industry amongst the mess of labels and music-heads wanting to take a piece.
It’s the latest release off Chef Chung’s debut album, WARRIOR POUNDS THE MORTAR, a wandering project of 16 tracks that takes listeners back to the 2000’s when thoughtful lyrics carried songs through nostalgia-inducing samples (think the late, great MF Doom, Earl Sweatshirt, and Shabbazz Palaces).
With elements of electronic, trap, and nostalgic R&B holding the sonics down, collaborations from Melbourne’s Baro Sura (Mac Miller Collaborator), Brooklyn’s SALIMATA, Singapore’s Mary Sue, and Brisbane’s Rei So La fill out the conceptual side of the album.
In the past Chung has used his music to document his life as a second generation Hong Kongese kid growing up in Australia with nuanced storylines that pinpoint the subtle moments that come with intertwining cultures and mentalities. Starting in 2021 with his EP Balance, his projects have been released sparsely over the years yet have gained attention from the likes of VICE, triple J, and ACCLAIM.
It’s all deserved: Chung is a young artist with a mature outlook, whose music is sparks an exciting re-awakening of thoughtful rap to listen to on those long introspective nights alone.
Chef Chung’s WARRIOR POUNDS THE MORTAR is out now.