One of the hottest emerging artists on the music scene
Sitting across from us in his swivel chair is a young man named Lee Yinghong, also known as DJ Didilong. With a head full of wavy hair that falls just shy of his shoulders, Lee Yinghong wears a black sweater-and-pants combo that reminds us of the 90’s, when sporty tracksuits were all the rage in Taiwan. Yet, the outfit is still decidedly tame compared to his typical unusual style. Lee Yinghong’s voice is gentle and honest, and he speaks with a calm, quiet confidence, a reflection of his humble nature. One would hardly have guessed he was once a member of a popular hip hop group, Da Xi Men (大囍門).
It was only in the early 1990s that rap and hip hop emerged on the scene in Taiwan, popularized by the trailblazing singing-and-dancing trio, L.A. Boyz. They were one of the few pioneers to introduce a new, American sound known as hip hop to the Formosan island. Local artists who identified with and appreciated this new sound quickly began creating their own versions, and soon after, ‘Taiwanese Hip Hop’ was born. This distinctive genre is characterized by using the Taiwanese dialect as opposed to the Mandarin Chinese language used in pop music. Rappers like MC Hot Dog, Dog G (Dwagie), and the Machi crew were all key influencers that helped shape and set the tone of Taiwanese hip hop today. From rapping about girls, life struggles, to social issues, Taiwanese hip hop has very much been about sharing stories of the Taiwanese way of life and the problems they face. This music thus became many things: a medium, a sense of purpose, and way to represent often times underreported aspects of Taiwanese culture.
Today, Didilong talks to us about the hardships he faced when he first devoted himself to the music and entertainment industry. Lee came from a family with humble beginnings, and growing up, his parents instilled in him the need to secure a job that could provide a stable income. Gradually, his interest and talent in music were never truly encouraged, not by his family nor by the society in which they were surrounded by. He viewed music as a luxury, and he felt immense guilt for wanting to pursue something that couldn’t guarantee everyone’s mouths fed. Nonetheless, his passion was his fuel. Yinghong would play around with music recordings and tapes on his computer during his free time, all the while working a nine to five. “I was really unhappy at the time, but I didn’t understand why,” he says of his young and naive self, with his dreams waiting on the back burner to be realized. “In the end I always found solace in creating music to express and relieve my feelings.”
In 2015, after 12 years of putting his musical career on hold, Lee Yinghong decided it was time to pursue his dream head on. Unemployed at the time, he decided to participate in a Finger Drumming competition in hopes of winning the prize money, thinking it would be enough to tide him over the next couple of months. “I was quite confident I would win the competition[...] but then I lost [...], and to a younger artist too”. “That night, I went home feeling quite shocked, like my self-image was shattered, and that I wasn’t some musical genius [...] I realized there was much to be learned.” He then became more open minded, exploring and playing with different instruments, styles and sounds.
Today, Didilong’s name has created a lot of buzz around town. He is one of the hottest emerging artists on the music scene to watch. On the subject of the music styles that have influenced him, Lee Yinghong says he fell in love with rap in his early days, mainly because he thought it made him look cool and rebellious. He educated himself on the evolution of hip hop, and found he especially preferred soul, funk, and G Funk, sounds from days past. But he felt there was much more to explore, and he didn’t want to limit himself to one genre. He jumped from rap to rock to psychedelic to trap, etc. and from there, the world of music opened up to him.
Coming from a local background, he remembered how he often listened to old school Taiwanese songs as a child, and how people seemed to poke fun at him whenever he would play it. “It saddens me that Hokkien seems to be a dying language, less and less people are speaking it ….so I just want to bring more Taiwanese music to the world”.
In order to bring said style of music back into fashion, he had to find a way to elevate songs sung in the Taiwanese Hokkien dialect, so he began by reinventing the image of Taiwanese music. Lyric wise, striking a balance between using Mandarin and Taiwanese Hokkien isn’t easy, especially when it comes to making the lyrics flow. Didilong stresses that the melody itself can’t sound too western either, because it won’t accurately reflect the message and Taiwanese dialect: ‘The music has to include just the right amount of Taiwanese flavor’.
With 3 nominations for his new album, including best new artist, best hip hop album, and best hip hop single, Didilong’s sound is fresh, it’s relevant, and it perfectly encapsulates the contemporary Taiwanese culture and spirit of many Taiwanese youth. In a way, his music connects the different generations of Taiwanese society. We offer him nothing but good fortune and success on his current mission to rattle the conventions of hip hop, Taiwanese Hokkien music and bring the spotlight to shine on his homeland, Taiwan.