A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting J. Cheung, aka “Cryptik Soul” through a mutual friend, Film Combat Syndicate blogger Lee Golden. We hit it off quite well and we thought it would be a good idea to introduce J. with this interview. J. Cheung is not immersed in the world of cinema via martial arts, acting, and stunts, but he is also a hip hop artist living in Hong Kong. This interview was done via Facebook during the Thanksgiving holiday! Enjoy!
First of all, thank you for allowing World Film Geek to do this interview with you. For those who are unfamiliar with you, can you introduce yourself?
Hi there! My name is J. Cheung, born and raised in London UK, now living and working out in Hong Kong. I’m a rapper/songwriter in the music world and actor/screen fighter in the movie world.
How did you get started in martial arts and music?
I studied Martial Arts at an early age, taking up Taekwondo first, then moving on to other styles like Muay Thai, Kickboxing, Jeet Kune Do, Boxing & Weaponry. I was always amazed at how people looked in Martial Arts films, so my parents decided to sign me up to a Martial Arts class so I could one day be like my on screen heroes.
With Hip Hop music, as a kid, I always loved the way Rappers can tell a story & send a message to the audience in a poetic form. I enjoyed the rhythm, the flow, & art behind Rap. So growing up listening to Hip Hop music, & having friends that were doing Battle Rapping & Freestyles around my neighbourhood, I was hooked. From there, I was writing Raps everyday & joining all sorts of cyphers (Freestyling & Battling) to gain experience & to perfect my skills in the art of rhyming.
Who would you consider to be your influences in martial arts and filmmaking?
My biggest influence has to be Bruce Lee. His work, fighting style & vision is simply amazing, even to this day, his work & words still continue to inspire me & the rest of the world. My other influences are Donnie Yen, Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Brandon Lee, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Fan Siu-Wong, Gary Daniels, Johnny Tri Nguyen, Tony Jaa, Jet Li… There’s so many to name, we can be here for weeks! Haha
How did you get immersed in hip hop music and who influenced you?
I started to rap around 1996-97, doing local battle rapping & freestyles in London’s clubs & bars. Then after winning the Jump-Off Rap Battles, I went to Los Angeles & joined a rap group called The Chosen Onez. When the group disbanded, I went solo and started working with artists like MC Jin, Flowsik (of Aziatix), Thai VG (of 454 Entertainment), Far*East Movement, 24Herbs, Wu-Tang Clan’s Killarmy, Smilez & Southstar, A+ & Damon Dash. My major influences in Hip Hop music are Big Pun, Big L, Notorious B.I.G, 2Pac, Wu-Tang Clan, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony & Eminem.
Have you considered actually doing music for a film, whether it’s composing a score or creating a song for a movie?
I have made music for short films & feature films. I don’t really do scores for movies, but I would love to give it a try though. I usually make songs for films.
You worked on the 2013 martial arts action film Fist of the Dragon, a China-set reboot of a Don “The Dragon” Wilson film, Moving Target, which starred MMA fighter Josh Thomson. How were you approached to work on the film?
I was working for an indie film company in Hong Kong, who was connected to Antony Szeto. Antony was looking for martial artists for his film, so he approached me about the project. After working with him, he later found out that I make music so then he asked if I could make a track for Fist of the Dragon, which became the main song of the movie
What was it like working for director Anthony Szeto and what was the cast like on the set?
I had a blast working with Antony. He’s very relaxed, flexible & loves to listen to others opinions. The cast & crew were awesome too, we learned alot from each other. So much laughs & jokes going on each day on the set in Nanhai, China. There were some stressful times as well while filming Fist of the Dragon, but we always seem to rise above that & learn to laugh it off. It was a good experience indeed.
Now, I’ve recently learned from you that martial arts film veteran John Cheung, who many will know for his work in many kung fu films and for his role as Johnny Sun in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, is your godfather. How did this come about?
John and I first met on a movie we did together in April. We were introduced by Carter Wong. We worked well with each other & he felt really connected with me, so after filming was done he took me in under his wing as his godson.
Tell him I am a big fan of his work. My son’s first kung fu film was actually one of John’s films, Snake in the Monkey’s Shadow.
Haha, niiiiice… I definitely tell him that. He’ll be happy to know this!!!
Finally, what is next for you in terms of both films and music?
I have a couple of movie projects lined up, but I don’t wanna say too much now. I’d rather show the finished product when it’s done.
As for my music, I’m currently working on a lot of projects at the moment. From collaborating with artists in Asia, U.S., & Europe, whilst making songs for movies & recording my EP. There’s a lot happening. Do watch this space!
Thanks to the awesome J. Cheung for allowing me to conduct this interview for World Film Geek and for the photos seen here. Check out the latest video from J. “Cryptik Soul” Cheung below. For more of his videos, both involving his music and films, go to his official Youtube channel.
Thanks Albert Valentin for a great interview and insight into Cryptik Soul Cheung Awsome!