Culture

How Hong Kong rapper Dough-Boy found his way back to fame through mainland China

Oct 31, 2019

Dough-Boy is one of Hong Kong’s rising hip-hop stars. But an award several years ago nearly derailed his career.

For most people, winning Hong Kong’s Oscars would be a dream come true. But for one unknown rapper, it nearly derailed his career.

In 2014, Dough-Boy was a 24-year-old producer just two years out of school when he won the award for Best Original Song at the Hong Kong Film Awards. He wrote the song for a small indie production called The Way We Dance on a miniscule budget of $200.

“I didn’t even have anyone to thank,” recalls the rapper, whose real name is Galaxy Ho. “I didn’t even know what I was doing there.”

The award turned out to be a curse rather than a blessing.

For most people, winning Hong Kong’s Oscars would be a dream come true, but for Galaxy Ho, better known as Dough-Boy, it nearly derailed his career.
For most people, winning Hong Kong’s Oscars would be a dream come true, but for Galaxy Ho, better known as Dough-Boy, it nearly derailed his career. / Photo: Hanley Chu

For a young musician fresh out of school, Ho needed all the experience he could get. But Hong Kong’s cutthroat film industry thought the high praise also meant his rates would be high, too. An award-winning rapper and producer? No one could afford that.

An award-winning rapper and producer? No one could afford that.

“So I wasn’t getting any money off of making music,” Ho says, “so I had to teach.”

Nowadays, Ho, better known as Dough-Boy, is one of the most recognizable names in Hong Kong’s small but growing hip-hop scene. He’s released two albums and produced for the likes of MC Jin, Jackson Wang, and MaSiWei of trap juggernauts Higher Brothers.

But he had to claw his way back to the local scene after the award nearly sunk his career.

Third-culture kid

Ho was born in Hong Kong but moved around as a child because of his father’s work. He grew up in Toronto and went to high school in Singapore before returning to Hong Kong at age 17.

In college, he studied film, but his passion always lied in music. He would write songs on his own as an outlet for release. “I never thought about it as a real product,” he says.

A chance encounter in Hong Kong with MC Jin landed him his first major paycheck.

“He's like...‘Bring all your equipment. We’re going to do the album in the hotel.’”

Dough-Boy

The Chinese-American rapper was in town en route to Shanghai for a role in RZA’s The Man with the Iron Fists, and Ho happened to catch him at a party.

“And then he's like, ‘Umm I have like a week off from the movie in Shanghai,’” Ho recalls. “‘You want to fly over here? Bring all your equipment. We’re going to do the album in the hotel.’”

Ho was taken aback. He had doubts about whether they could pull it all off in one week. But Jin ended up recording the whole album in two days. It would end up being his last Cantonese album.

“Just meeting Jin, seeing how he does his thing really changed my entire mentality of making music.”

Dough-Boy

“Just meeting Jin, seeing how he does his thing really changed my entire mentality of making music,” Ho says.

From then on, Ho poured himself into making music his work. He took on the stage name Dough-Boy because “it sounded like a rapper name, you know, kind of cute.” He started producing for local artists and making beats in his spare time.

The turning point came in 2012, when he landed a gig writing a song for a small movie about a local Hong Kong dance crew.

It was the one that would win him that fateful award.

Finding his way back to fame

After he won the Hong Kong Film Award in 2014, the gigs dried up. No one wanted to hire a man with the industry’s top accolade.

Desperate for work, Ho went across the border to mainland China to see if he could land opportunities there. “I’m like, ‘Hey, any singers in Guangzhou that need production?’ And then, you know, one thing led to another.”

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Slowly, Ho began building up his repertoire again, producing music for commercial and artistic clients in Guangzhou and later Taiwan. “Pop songs, kids’ songs, songs for ads, whatever,” he says.

Around the same time, Ho realized that he had a collection of beats that went unused by his clients, and he started rapping over them. The tracks would become the genesis of his debut album Chinglish, which he released in 2017.

The album became a hit in mainland China, and when he dropped his second album Good, Bad & Ugly earlier this year, he had built up a large enough fan base to do an 11-city tour.

The Hong Kong Film Award almost ruined his career in Hong Kong, but Ho managed to become big in the mainland, and now, he’s making his way back home.

“I’m just like any other kid,” he says. “Every kid has their own little world inside of them that they don’t express in real life. That’s why I tell my story in my songs.”

Hong KongHip hop in ChinaStreet culture

Credit

Producer: Hanley Chu

Videographers: Hanley Chu and Nicholas Ko

Animation: Ray Ngan and Carol Ng

Editors: Hanley Chu and Caron Che

Mastering: Victor Peña