Say “leih hou” to Vinh ‘Triad God’ Ngan: a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.
The Hippos In Tanks signing caught the attention with this year’s breakthrough NXB mixtape, featuring ramshackle beats by London producer Palmistry. Musically, it’s a highly evocative collection of woozy ambient drift and battered hip/trip-hop. Ngan, though, is the unlikely star, mumbling, cooing and crooning in his native Cantonese.
Ngan’s ‘flow’ is too melodious to be called rapping, but too casual to be described as singing; his vocal style might best be described as a sort of bruised recitative. The experience is akin to listening to The Shaggs’ Philosophy Of The World or, more recently, Farrah Abraham’s My Teenage Dream Ended: it’s as if Ngan is speaking an entirely different musical language. For sure, NXB‘s not for everyone, but those that fell for this beautiful outlier fell hard.
With Hippos In Tanks preparing to give NXB a full expanded release, FACT rendezvoused with Ngan in Chinatown for a super-rare freestyle session. In person, the South East Londoner is as inscrutable as his recorded persona. Taciturn to the point of mutism off-camera, he rattled through halting a cappella versions of NXB highlights ‘Sun Hing J’ and ‘Luung’. He also broke into an entirely unexpected freestyle in English (complete with an impromptu cameo appearance from a less-than-amused Chinatown resident).
NXB is due on Hippos In Tanks on November 13, and can be pre-ordered here.