Making music is liberating for Frank Cabezas, 20, a rapper who goes by the stage name The Mailman.
“When I started writing music, that was the only time that I felt free,” he said.
Cabezas, who was born in Colombia, in South America, moved to Hong Kong aged 16, and founded local hip hop act 7on7 with Danny Kong, aka DJDK, also 20, in January. The group has a weekly residency at Tsim Sha Tsui venue Nathan Left every Wednesday, and they're currently putting the finishing touches to their debut album.
The pair sat down alongside their video collaborator Adrian Ramos to speak to Young Post about their musical journey.
The group boasts 10 members from around the world: from India (like King$aral, above) and Tanzania, to the Philippines (Edrian De Leon, right). Some people might find this a case of “too many cooks”, but Cabezas says their creative process leads to a natural chemistry.
“We just hang out and play video games. After a while just chilling, we’ll feel like we have a real connection with each other, and we sit down and start writing,” he said.
The pair both feel songwriting has helped them on a personal level.
“For me, it’s a good way to show where I come from, and to let people here understand that life outside of Hong Kong is hard,” said Kong, who is originally from Togo.
“You pour out what you’ve got – where you’re from, your good side, your dark side,” added Cabezas. “You just share it with people, and if they see what you see, then that’s a great thing.”
It’s clear that music has brought solace to the pair.
“Music has definitely brought us together, and we see each other as family,” said Kong. “What makes us unique is each one of us is from a different country. ”
Cabezas is particularly grateful to Matt Snelgrove, the Hong Kong-based founder of The Living Room music school, for giving him a sense of direction not long after he moved to Asia. “Matt was one of the reasons why I [became] more involved in music. He taught me bass, guitar, drums, and he has a great music sense. He’s been a big help to me personally, and I see him as an uncle. He’s doing good things for people. What he’s doing with The Living Room, it’s great."
The hip hop scene is very small in Hong Kong - something 7on7 would like to see change.
“We want to make a difference in Hong Kong,” said Frank. “We want to make sure that everybody understands that we as minorities can contribute to this city. We don’t want to represent ourselves, we want to represent where we’re at. And where we’re at is Hong Kong, so each one of us really wants to make a difference for the minorities here.”
It's not just about raising hip hop's profile in Hong Kong, though: Danny aspires to elevate and promote the local scene on to the global stage and inspire future rappers.
“Here we can be the next generation. It’s an opportunity for us to come and do something – maybe for the young, and the future. We do what we can, we do our best, and hopefully one day, Hong Kong hip hop will be known around the world."