Chinese Takeaway to the Mic – Rapper Thomas Lai

 

British born Chinese Thomas Lai from Portsmouth is currently leading a double life. By day he is busy managing a Chinese takeaway, and by night, he is busy penning lyrics to new rap songs as he attempts to be the UK’s answer to MC Jin.

It all started off when Thomas recorded two rap songs for his wife as a fun present, but he was forced to take his rapping more seriously when someone posted his songs on the British Chinese Facebook page, since then he’s had rave reviews. The songs are on its way to going viral amongst the community because of its catchy lyrics and of the love that comes through. Even BBC Radio Manchester Chinatown have picked up on this and are set to give Lai and his songs coverage.

One of  Thomas Lai’s songs, ‘You are my world’. What do you think? Is he the UK’s answer to MC Jin? 

An interview with (MC) Thomas Lai by Shu-Yan Lui

So, tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What was it like growing up?

Well, my parents are both from Hong Kong and moved to the UK when they were young. I was born in Chichester in the UK and lived in a nearby town called Bognor Regis until I was 14. We had a Chinese restaurant there and I started helping out when I was 9. We moved to Portsmouth when I was 14 and that’s where I’ve been ever since. I’ve spent my whole life working in various Chinese Takeaways until finally ending up running one myself! I never imagined that this would be what I’d end up doing. I did a degree in Entertainment Technology at Portsmouth University and at the time, I really thought I’d be a programmer or game developer or something! I dropped out of it in favour of running a takeaway because I’d had enough and wanted to start making money.

It seems like you have a very loving family, with a beautiful wife and kids. Would you say that you are a family man?

Thank you! Yes, I’d say that I’m definitely a family man. To be honest, I actually really like staying at home with the family, playing with the kids etc. I don’t miss the partying/clubbing days of old at all!

What are your musical influences?

I like to listen to all kinds of music but in general, I do tend to stick to Hip Hop and R&B, especially Chinese Hip Hop/R&B. I like artists such as Jay Chou and Will Pan. I also like Edison Chen and MC Jin and have huge respect for what they’ve made of their careers, being Canadian and American born respectively and being successful in Hong Kong.

How would you compare yourself to MC Jin? Would you compare yourself to him?

I’m honoured to be mentioned alongside him but to be honest, he’s in a different league!  For a start, he’s a free-styling icon, be it in English or Cantonese! If you asked me to free-style, I’d struggle to put two sentences together! I think the only thing in common between us would be the fact that we’re not from Hong Kong!

Your songs are proving to be quite popular, what inspired you to write them?

Well, the first song (Happy Birthday) was basically a birthday surprise gift for my wife. I’d been thinking for a while, how hard could rapping in Chinese be? I mean, if Edison and MC Jin could do it, why couldn’t I? So I wrote her that song and ‘gave’ it to her for her birthday. After ‘receiving’ it, her immediate response was, “That’s great! Now where’s my present!?”. Haha

The second song (You Are My World) was written to cheer up my wife because she was feeling really depressed from the pregnancy of our second child. I decided to throw in some Mandarin in the song because she knows I can’t speak a word of it and I knew it would make her laugh, which it did! But she was more like, ‘Why are you singing in Mandarin!? You sound stupid and I can’t understand a word!’. Haha. Well, at least the cheering up worked!

So do you write your own lyrics and music?

I do write my own lyrics and also write my own vocal melodies too. I don’t write the actual music though but leased the tracks from beat creators. I basically find a beat that I like the sound of, listen to it and get a ‘feel’ for it and then a melody would pop into my head. Then I’d start writing the lyrics. It would be great if a good music producer reads this and would like to work with me!

Your Chinese is very good for a BBC, why is that?

Thanks! You think so? I guess it’s because of my wife is from Hong Kong. We’ve been together for 13 years now and only speak Cantonese to each other so yeah, I guess it would’ve helped.

What do you think about the lack of BBC artists?

To be honest, it is quite surprising why BBC artists haven’t managed to make their mark on the UK music industry yet.  I say YET, because I’m sure it’ll only be a matter of time. As for BBCs getting into the HK music industry? I’ll work on it!

What do you do in your spare time?

Spare time? What’s that? Haha. Well, as you know, I have to run my takeaway business and that takes up quite a lot of my time.  Also, having two young kids uses up any remaining time I have! The only real time I have to myself would be after work for about 1 or 2 hours before going to sleep.

What are your plans for the future?

Well, I think I’m going to give being an artist a shot. I’ve had quite a lot of attention these past few weeks with lots of positive feedback from my songs and the support from fellow BBCs has been amazing. I don’t think I’ll be quitting the takeaway any time soon though but if it does go well, who knows? I’m currently in the process of writing a new song though so yeah, watch this space!

Click here for Thomas Lai’s Facebook Page 

 

Here are some of the lyrics from the song ” You Are My World” 

You are my World

No matter what may come my way
You are my World
I love you more than words can say
x2

老婆喺呢個世界
你個地位係最大
冇人可以代替你
唸一唸真係嘥氣

你知我講嘢唔多
所以我選擇唱歌
我唔識點樣表達
我嘅口同心唔夾

其實我想你知道
點解我會咁老套
我知我晿得難聽
邊個想聽我曬命

但係如果我唔晿
你就唔知我私想
所以我再喺呢度
同你講嘢好唔好

其實你知唔知
點解我會咁低B
喺度唱畀人笑
因為你對我重要

而家你有BB
日夜生活辛苦啲
你放心唔使怕
畀我照顧你好嗎

你係我嘅女人
我愛你愛到底
你一定唔會辛苦過下半世
對於呢個世界
你只係我太太
但係對於我嚟講
你係我全世界

You are my World
No matter what may come my way
You are my World
I love you more than words can say
x2

你生我哋個仔
我覺得你好勁
而家由頭再嚟過
你真係到冇得頂

我知你好辛苦
個人冇晒精神
不如聽我唱國語
Baby let’s have some fun

你是我的女人所以我要告訴你
你是我最愛的人老婆你是我的唯一
你沒有見過一個人比我那麼白痴
但是你要知道我對你的愛真心實意
老婆我很愛你
深情厚意
我的唯一
生個BB
不是容易
所以無論如何我都一定在你身邊支持
你不要害怕你可以放心你是最好的你知道嗎
不要害怕
你的 Future
一定好好你有砲砲
和我在這裡
Baby you are
我們的 Star
Now and Forever
我的普通話不好其實你懂不懂

哇! 講返廣東話
我國語太鮓
可能你今本就聽唔明
我發音咁差
但係萬一聽得明
你知道呢樣嗎
我講每一個字都係我心底嘅說話

我知你唔開心
我知你好頭暈
我知你唔舒服到有時唔想做人
但係我哋個BB好快就叫你媽咪
到時呢段辛苦時候係個Distant Memory

你係我嘅女人
我愛你愛到底
你一定唔會辛苦過下半世
對於呢個世界
你只係我太太
但係對於我嚟講
你係我全世界

你係我全世界

You are my World
No matter what may come my way
You are my World
I love you more than words can say
x4

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