Home > Culture > Music > Tuning In: Luna Is A Bep on the origins of her name and rapping in Cantonese
Tuning In: Luna Is A Bep on the origins of her name and rapping in Cantonese

Bep bep! Make way for homegrown artist Luna Is A Bep. Debuting in 2018, the Hong Kong-born and raised rapper is known for her Cantonese-language tracks addressing local issues and cultural phenomenons specific to the city. Four years later, she is fast on her way to becoming a household name — if she isn’t one already. She talks to Lifestyle Asia about the origins of her moniker, her creative process and what music means for her.

Growing up without musical parents, and then studying Chinese Literature at university, Luna Is A Bep never thought she’d one day make a living as a rapper. But somehow, along the way, she began writing music and has now found herself as an established artist in the Hong Kong independent music scene.

A quick scroll through Luna’s profile reveals her bubbly personality, expressed through her brightly coloured, Y2K-inspired fashion sense and graphic designs. With more than 40k monthly listeners on Spotify and over 20k followers on Instagram, as well as popular tunes like “overthinking”, “25” and “麻系甩”, Luna Is A Bep is a celebrity in her own right.

Tuning In: Luna Is A Bep

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A post shared by Luna Is A Bep (@lulubepbep)

What’s the meaning behind the name Luna Is A Bep?

Well, I’m Luna. As for the latter part, when I first started out, my ex encouraged me to write music and told me I needed a stage name. He suggested “Luna is a Bitch”, but I felt it was too vulgar and not really me. So I said, “let’s just make it Luna is a Beep”. Except I spelt “Beep” wrong, as “Bep”, and it’s just been like that since. It really has no meaning.

When and how did your interest in music begin?

I actually have no background in music. I studied Chinese Literature at university so even that is completely unrelated to what I do now. But I did dance a lot, which exposed me to different types of rhythms and grooves. And when I graduated, I met my ex, who was into hip-hop and knew I liked writing, so he suggested I start experimenting with writing rap.

I began searching “type beats” on Youtube, writing whatever came to mind, and eventually met some local producers and even started producing my own beats.

Did you grow up around music? Does it run in your family?

No, not really — I would even say my family has terrible music taste. My dad listens to music from the Mainland and my mum plays the same two CDs over and over again, usually this ’80s singer called Sandy Lam. No — what really got me into music was the internet. Back in the day, I had no idea that there were music genres and I would just ask my friends to send me whatever English songs they listened to. I remember bobbing along to a lot of Usher.

When did you realise you were musical? Can you pinpoint a formative moment when you realised you were good?

I don’t think there was ever a moment where I went “ding!” in my head. Actually, I still don’t think I’m particularly talented. But maybe because I studied Chinese Literature, I’ve always felt like I had a connection with Cantonese characters. Sometimes a melody pops into my head and immediately, I’m able to match it with certain Cantonese words. It’s something that not many people can do.

How have different cultural influences in your life shaped you as a musician?

I’ve only lived in Hong Kong, but thanks to the internet, I got to listen to a lot of music genres growing up. I’m also a dancer, so naturally I’m drawn to twerk, reggae, dance hall — you name it. When I make music, these influences all come out subconsciously.

What’s the first song you each ever learned by heart?

If it’s not “有隻雀仔跌落水” (a popular children’s song in Hong Kong) then I guess it would be “明愛暗戀補習社” by Twins. I first heard it when I was a teenager — this was before the internet became common in households — and I remember it was being played on TV day and night, brainwashing all of us.

What’s the first track we should listen to that best defines your sound?

Each of my songs has a different vibe, but my current favourite is my newest, “overthinking”.

What song, album or performance had a really important, lasting impact on you, both personally and as an artist?

“What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes. It talks about the singers who feel like they should have it all figured out at 25 years old, but they don’t. Being lost is something a lot of us can resonate with. When I’m frustrated I listen to this song and it immediately calms me down.

Who’s your favourite musician/artist and why?

My favourite artist is always changing, but recently I’ve been really into Doja Cat. She’s not just a pretty face, she actually knows how to produce. Before she got her big break, she was constantly developing her own skills and would put out one or two songs per month on Soundcloud. Her creativity really stands out in her album Planet Her, where all her tracks have different sounds and styles.

What does music, or being a musician, mean to you?

Music is my redemption. I didn’t have a happy childhood and my teenage years weren’t really memorable, so when I turned 22 and started making music, it really helped me find myself. At the time, all my classmates at university wanted to become teachers after graduating, but I knew it wasn’t for me. When I found music, everything became clear. I might not be super skillful and my music might not be showstopping, but I love what I do and I feel passionate about it. To put it simply — even if one day I can’t make music anymore, I still cannot not listen to music.

What’s your creative process?

I make sure to jot down notes when I encounter anything interesting. Sometimes a melody will pop into my head and I’ll record it down. Or maybe I’ll have an experience, like meeting a cute guy and it will inspire me. The biggest no-no is sitting down and trying to create — it’s not something you can force.

After I have an idea, I go online, find a suitable type beat and start writing. When the writing’s done, I rearrange my own type beat. Some of my musician friends can write with no background music, but it’s not something I can do. I need some sort of rhythm to get me going.

Do you have any pre- or post-show rituals?

I take deep breaths before a show to calm my nerves. So, breathing is my ritual? Post-show I go for a good smoke.

What’s the toughest challenge you’ve had to overcome in your career?

The eternal artist’s struggle is to find a balance between artistry, audience and life. I don’t think I’ve overcome it yet; I’m still struggling with it. I want to make music for a living, but I know I can’t rely on it because it doesn’t provide a stable income — at least not right now. I have to find a way to get by while doing what I love.

How has your music changed and evolved over the years since you started?

I grew up very shy with a lot of self-esteem issues and absolutely hated mirrors ’cause I had acne. When I first started singing, you can sort of hear this reservedness in my music. Even if I was alone in the room, I would sing very quietly into the mic, scared that somehow, someone would be able to hear me. I just couldn’t let go.

But over the years, I’ve grown more confident. Now I experiment with different genres and if something I make doesn’t sound good, then I will think of ways to improve it rather than give up. Music is a learning curve for me.

What’s next? What are you working on?

Later on this year, I’ll be releasing my album with 13 tracks in total. But before that, in July, I’ll be teasing another single with lo-fi, r&b vibes. Stay tuned.

(Lead and featured photos courtesy of Luna Is A Bep)

Charmaine Ng
Charmaine enjoys eating steamed broccoli and knocking back cups of spearmint tea, all in the name of health. Covering art, beauty and music :)
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