Hong Kong rappers LMF working hard to promote their lazy ideal with Asian tour before their 20th anniversary
The group’s songs rage against social injustice and the music industry. They are often named as influences by China’s top rappers, despite having only played there once and their material being considered too controversial for authorities
The pioneers of Hong Kong hip-hop have found themselves in an ironic situation almost two decades into their career: the members of LMF (Lazy Mutha F***a) are suddenly very busy indeed, with a series of live shows and new releases in the pipeline.
This hard work stems from their ambition to promote the ideal of laziness – an attitude they see as a solution to Hong Kong’s social and political problems.
“We are calling our upcoming shows ‘Still Lazy’ because we want to tell people that we haven’t changed, that we are still lazy,” says LMF’s chief lyricist, Chan Kwong-yan, better known as MC Yan.
“For us, we have to maintain this lazy attitude. Being lazy just means taking care of your own business and that’s it. We won’t die, but we won’t enjoy explosive success either. That’s also exactly where Hong Kong is at these days and we are just reflecting the city’s current state of mind. It’s a passive way to fight against the system.”
One way they are fighting the good fight is by implementing an ambitious one-year plan. Following the “Still Lazy Live” shows in Hong Kong on May 4 and 5, the band’s first concerts in two years, the band hope to go on the road in Southeast Asia, release new music and collaborate with young artists, while launching a range of self-designed lifestyle products, all in the lead-up to LMF’s 20th anniversary next year.
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“This is the year we will be working the hardest – and it’s actually the first time we know what we will be doing in the coming year,” quips vocalist Phat Chan.
One of the main targets of LMF’s ire over the years has been Hong Kong’s commercial music industry. Unlike the pop industry – where record companies and talent managers maintain tight control over the musicians’ styles, appearances and even personal lives – LMF have always been proudly disorganised.
Band members have come and gone, from the original ensemble comprising members of other Hong Kong outfits such as Anodize, Screw and N.T., to the current eight core members. They have always maintained total control over their music – a unique blend of hip-hop, nu metal and hard core rap – and in their lyrics they’ve always tried to challenge their listeners, whether through the use of foul language or by telling uncomfortable truths.
LMF officially disbanded in 2003, but regrouped in 2009 for the Wild Lazy Tour and the outfit have since made only sporadic appearances. The last time they performed was in 2016 as headliners of the Wow and Flutter music festival at West Kowloon Cultural District.
MC Yan says their occasional concerts are another reflection of their lazy attitude. “It’s like quitting a full-time job but coming back to play music on a freelance basis. We only do it because we enjoy it.”
Fans can expect to hear many LMF classics critical of Hong Kong society at the upcoming shows, such as the such as the 2000 track Dai Lan Tong (which deals with the difficulty of living a meaningful life in pressure-cooker Hong Kong), Public Housing Estate Boy from 1999 (which talks about grass roots life), and Evil Century (a bleak description of the city’s turmoil and the feeling of helplessness about the greed of the upper class) from 2014.
Even after all these years, these songs still strike a chord.
“Our songs are just simplified versions of the dark tales of Hong Kong,” says MC Yan. “We are angry about the situation, but we feel helpless and frustrated because there’s nothing much we can do. The only thing we can do is to keep making music. It is our way to pursue the truth.”
Although they plan to take their 20th anniversary tour abroad, one place they are unlikely to be playing is across the border in China. The band have performed in China only once – in Foshan in 2013 – but as authorities continue their crackdown on hip hop and artists seen as decadent, the chances of LMF taking to the stage in China again seem very slim.
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LMF bassist/guitarist Jimmy Mak Man-wai points out that when the Chinese reality show The Rap of China became a huge hit last year, many contestants said they grew up listening to LMF. “But when you search online [in China], you cannot find our music,” says Mak.
Mak says LMF remain popular throughout Southeast Asia, particularly in Malaysia and Singapore. And in order to perform in countries with tight censorship laws, the band prepare two sets of songs: one set of squeaky-clean versions and one set of original versions.
“But if you want to experience the most authentic version of LMF, you have to come and see us in Hong Kong,” says Mak.
LMF Still Lazy Live, May 4-5, 8.15pm, Star Hall, Kitec, 1 Trademart Drive, Kowloon Bay, HK$380-HK$680, HK Ticketing