5 Things To Do at ComplexCon Hong Kong

As the street culture festival comes to Asia for the first time, here are RADII’s top picks

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Simon Frank
6:01 PM HKT, Fri March 15, 2024 3 mins read

Street culture media empire Complex Networks’ annual festival ComplexCon is touching down in Hong Kong for the first time next week, from Friday, March 22, to Sunday, March 24, at the AsiaWorld-Expo center. While a big part of the draw is definitely the international artists and established brands coming through — from Atlanta trap star 21 Savage and conscious rapper Lupe Fiasco to hip hop’s hatters of choice Kangol and art book legends Taschen — what makes it an even more special event is how musicians, artists, and designers from Hong Kong and around the region are getting a chance to show off their stuff on the same major platform. Here are RADII’s picks for the weekend:

1. Listen to the Past, Present, and Future of Chinese Hip Hop

As mentioned above, 21 Savage and Lupe Fiasco’s sets on the final night of the festival — plus a packed lineup of Korean stars led by Simon Dominic the day before — are definitely a big deal for Hong Kong music fans. But it’s Friday’s show that has really caught our attention, for how it brings together different generations of Chinese-language hip hop. The night sees the return of Hong Kong’s pioneering 3CORNERZ, the trio of actor and CLOT founder Edison Chan, LMF’s MC Yan, and Chef. Repping the younger generation in Hong Kong is Novel Fergus, who’s been building a dedicated fan base over the past few years with dark, moody hip hop that revels in local culture and all the poetic complexities of Cantonese. Rounding out the bill is Lexie Liu, who was widely recognized as one of the most creative artists to emerge from China’s rap show mania a few years back, and whose style has intriguingly been evolving towards futuristic electro-pop since then.

2. Hear the O.G.s Share Their Wisdom

The ComplexCon(versations) section of the festival features creatives talking shop about their practices, and a major highlight is undoubtedly the lecture on Saturday by Hiroshi Fujiwara, “the godfather of contemporary streetwear,” who is said to have brought hip hop to Japan back in the 1980s. And if you need more than one godfather, don’t worry! There’s a chat later the same day featuring “the godfather of Hong Kong street culture” Eric Kot, the radio DJ turned comedian, actor, and more, who introduced his city to A Bathing Ape. Also in the panel is actor/rapper JBS Brian, who founded one of Hong Kong first skate shops, 8FIVE2, back in 1999. All in all, it promises to be a fascinating look at the birth of streetwear in Hong Kong.

Also worth checking out the next day is the talk “Beyond K-Pop: The Rise of K-Culture and Where It’s Taking Us,” which hopefully will break down the secret sauce behind Korean culture’s meteoric rise around the globe.

Eric Kot rose to prominence as part of the comedy rap duo Softhard, and this Rei Kawakubo- and Yohji Yamamoto-referencing jam from 1991 should make it clear he’s been a fashion killer since back in the day.

3. Indulge in Some Retail Therapy

Part of Complex’s M.O. is as a consumer guide, so it’s no surprise that there are going to be some good shopping opportunities at ComplexCon. Brands run by many of the performers and panelists mentioned above have goods for sale in the Complex Marketplace: Edison Chan’s CLOT, Hiroshi Fujiwara’s fragment design, JBS Brian’s 8FIVE2, and Eric Kot’s ASIAACTAGAINSTAIDS. There will also be a handful of up-and-coming brands from the Chinese mainland, such as Randomevent, the king of collabs in Chinese streetwear. Some exclusive merch at the festival that grabbed our eyes comes from Yardbird — which is actually a yakitori restaurant. The Michelin-starred eatery brought a new, hip energy to Hong Kong’s dining scene when it opened in 2011, and it’s still going strong.

4. Feast Your Eyes on Art

Complex Marketplace also features artworks by the who’s who of that indefinable section of the art world that exists between white cube galleries and fashionistas’ sneaker collections. Arguably leading the charge is Daniel Arsham, but he’s joined by Japanese graphic artist Verdy, who is artistic director of this edition of ComplexCon and already made a big splash in China last year with a McDonald’s collab. Other highlights including Chinese-born, London-based designer Feng Chen Wang, comic- and graffiti-inspired Korean artist SAMBYPEN (also featured in the “Beyond K-pop” panel), and Fukuoka’s KYNE, who has smoothly transitioned from graffiti into fine art.

5. Stuff Your Face

Wandering around a convention center for a couple of hours is sure to get you hungry and thirsty, so ComplexCon has you covered. The event’s food vendors showcase flavors from the kitchens of Hong Kong’s minority communities along with the other international flavors that have arrived in the city more recently, from Bengal Brothers’ Kolkata-style kathi rolls, to Italian cocktails from the highly-rated Bar Leone and Singaporean snacks from Uncle Quek. Yardbird even indirectly makes a second appearance through a seafood bar from Flagrant Sauce, a hot sauce brand connected to the restaurant’s team.

Tickets available via Complex Chinese.

Banner image by Haedi Yue.

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