A MEETING WITH KRIS WU - CRASH Magazine
FASHION

Louis Vuitton - Cropped Top in cotton and technical materials, cotton Pilot Pocket Shirt, mohair trousers, LV Runner Sneaker in mix materials, Steamer PM in Taurillon Monogram leather

A MEETING WITH KRIS WU

By Alice Butterlin

After a brief stint in K-pop, Chinese vocalist Kris Wu decided to set out on his own and launch a solo career. Shedding the politically correct lyrics and group choreography of his former genre, Kris is now a rapper in the style of Travis Scott (with whom he has collaborated) and A$AP Rocky. It’s no secret that fashion has a lot of love for rappers nowadays, and the feeling is certainly mutual. In fact, with the support of his friend Virgil Abloh, Kris Wu was also chosen as a brand ambassador for Louis Vuitton. Aiming to put Chinese rap on the map, he has shown himself to be an eloquent spokesman for hip hop culture in Asia. His first album, Antares, released in November, may well mark the beginning of a new era dominated by Chinese rap.

You grew up in China and moved to Canada when you were ten years old. Did you experience a sort of culture shock back then?

Not really, because I was so young. I didn’t have any idea of what was really my country’s culture. Moving to Canada felt very natural for me. The only thing I was sad about was losing all my friends. Obviously I didn’t have a phone or emails back then. So I just lost touch with them. Besides that, it was pretty easy. If I had moved while I was a teenager it would have been a lot harder to adapt to a new culture and environment.

So you feel you’ve really blossomed in Canada?

Yes and no. I feel like I grew up in a lot of places. Even when I moved to Canada, I still went back and forth to China. At the age of thirteen I went back to China for a year or two. I was playing basketball and attended school over there. I’ve always adapted to the two cultures and they both influenced me a lot.

When did you start getting into hip-hop culture?

It happened when I first moved to Vancouver. When I was growing up in China, I mostly listened to ballet music. They love ballet music there. My mom would always play that in the car or at home. My friends in Canada were listening to hip-hop and it was a real discovery for me. I was interested in exploring that genre. I also loved playing basketball and looked up to players like Allen Iverson. He’s really iconic and brought the whole hip-hop and street culture to basketball. With his tattoos and the way he dressed, he wasn’t like any other player at that time. He had a big influence on me. I started making my own hip-hop playlists and downloading music.

Were you writing lyrics at that time?

No, I was too young for that. At that time, I was more trying to emulate the flows of my favorite rappers. I didn’t even know what I was going to become at that age. So I was mostly listening and taking it all in, trying to imitate exciting artists.

What were the first lyrics that you wrote?

It was a song about my mom, it’s called “Lullaby”. I did that when I was about eighteen or nineteen.

China is known for being quite a conservative country. Have you seen its interest in hip-hop evolve through the years?

Yes, definitely. It’s been around for almost twenty years over there. In the late 90s and beginning of the 2000s a lot more people started listening to rap in China. There were some crews but it stayed super underground. It never got very mainstream until last year and the year before that. There’s a TV show called Rap in China where I am one of the judges. That show really put hip-hop in the spotlight and more people got to understand what it was. It’s still growing and it will take a long time before it becomes mainstream.

What is mainstream in China?

People really love ballet music, slow jams and overall pop music. There’s a love for words and lyrics. Chinese people love listening to beautiful lyrics and love songs. People relate to that sort of music. That’s what my generation grew up on.

Hip-hop is starting to step out of the shadow though.

A little bit, but it’s going to take at least another ten years before it gets really popular. China is such a big country with so many people, and for hip-hop to reach everyone, it is going to take a long time. Even if you think about hip-hop culture in the States, it has been around for about forty years. Nothing builds itself instantly. We still need twenty years to catch up.

You came out with your debut album Antares in November. How was the production process?

It took me about two years to finish the project. I changed my mind quite a lot. There are some songs that I thought would make the cut, but in the end I thought they didn’t have their place. I was also really busy. I’m very proud of it, and I worked really hard. I feel like it’s a body of work that represents me well. Something I’ll be proud to look back on when I get old.

Did you write all the lyrics?

Yeah, I wrote most of them. Some songs have an English and a Chinese version, and one is exclusively in Mandarin. I always try to write my songs myself. I enjoy the process a lot.

You also produce some songs yourself.

Yes. A couple of my very close friends are producers and I always collaborate with them. We all share the workload. Everyone does a little bit of the final product. But I still like to make sure I keep my hands on every aspect of the project.

There are three featuring artists on the album: Jhené Aiko, Travis Scott and Rich the Kid. How did you meet them?

I met them all differently. The song with Jhené Aiko is called “Freedom” and we didn’t know if we wanted to feature a guest artist on it at first. I cut the song and later we thought about making it a duet. We needed to find a great female RnB vocalist. Jhené just kind of popped up so we thought we’d give it a shot. We sent her the track hoping that she’d like it. We knew that she’s very picky with her tracks but the response was really positive. She loved it and was down to collaborate. I met Travis two years ago, when I first started the project. He wasn’t that big at the time. But I was a big fan of his music, I loved his stuff with Kanye and all his mixtapes before Rodeo. Someone from my camp happened to know someone from his camp so he linked us up. He was in New York but flew in the next day so we could meet in the studio and cut the track. It was kind of crazy. It’s hard to lock down Travis now because he’s so busy. Shout out to him for making it happen!

Did you feel an artistic connection between you two?

Yeah, definitely. I love the whole ambient side to his music, that’s something I like to incorporate in mine. My tracks are sometimes moody, sometimes dark and they mesh well with his universe. When I played Travis the song, he instantly loved it. It worked out really well.

You’ve released a bunch of music videos. What storyline or aesthetic do you want to convey through them?

For this album, I think we shot five music videos. It’s a lot! At first, I wanted all these videos to connect to form a story but it turns out to be very hard. So that didn’t really work out, every video has its separate story. The visuals in every video are very different, depending on what the track is saying and what the mood is. I’m a fan of music videos, it makes people feel more connected. Right now, we’re living in a world where everyone watches YouTube and fans wait for that type of content. Not a lot of people listen to a whole album anymore, and there’s definitely a new way of consuming music. People pick and chose what they want to listen to, without conforming to a specific pattern. In any case, video content is very important.

Do you remember a music video that marked you in your life?

There are quite a lot. I loved watching Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent’s videos. Pharell also. I started listening to hip-hop in the early 2000s and those guys were really popping back then. I’m thinking about Fat Joe, Lloyd Banks… There are so many!

You’re in Paris for Fashion Week and specifically for the Louis Vuitton men’s show. When did you become an ambassador for the house?

I’m friends with Virgil Abloh, we’ve known each other for a long time. When he started his brand Off-White, I was one of the first supporters in Asia to wear his stuff. We met on Instagram and rapidly established a strong bond. When I heard he was recruited by Louis Vuitton, I was very excited and thought it was a great match. Way after that, Louis Vuitton asked me if I wanted to be an ambassador and of course I said yes! Now we’re family.

What did you think of the show yesterday?

I thought it was brilliant, it looked like a Broadway set more than a classic runway show. There were so many interesting elements and it was clever to bring the New York streets. The band that was playing was really great. One model was doing some sort of choreography while he was walking, it was crazy. I know Virgil never disappoints. I love the urban style he brings to a luxury house. It opens up a new demographic for Louis Vuitton.

Have you been interested in fashion for a long time?

Yes. When I first started working in this industry, I got really into fashion. Before that, I was just playing basketball so I didn’t really care. But now, since I’m working in this industry, I might as well dress to impress. I used to really look into fashion and trends, reading magazines… Now I’m just too busy, but the passion for fashion is always there.

You change your style quite a lot, whether it be your clothes or your hair. Are you a bit of a chameleon?

Yes, definitely! I think having fun is the most important thing. There are no rules or boundaries in fashion: you can wear whatever you want. The most important thing is to be yourself. I always wear whatever I feel is cool.

In China, are there any young designers you like?

Yeah, there are more and more talented young designers in China. I’m friends with Xander Zhou, he’s great! I can definitely see more and more influential designers coming from China.

What are your future projects?

I’m planning a world tour that will start from China and then go to East Asia, maybe Paris, London, L.A, New York… That’s the big project right now! And releasing more music of course. Never stop!

Louis Vuitton – Leather Tie and Dye Coach Shirt, leather Tie and Dye T- Shirt, leather Tie and Dye Shorts, LV Creeper Ankle Boot in suede calf leather

Left: Louis Vuitton – Mohair and wool Intarsia crewneck, leather Tie and Dye trousers
Right: Louis Vuitton – Patch Graphic Windbreaker in cotton and technical materials

Left: Louis Vuitton – Silk Shirt with Drewstring in viscose, leather Tie and Dye Trousers, Keepall bag 50B Iridescent RGB, Skeptical Sunglasses, RGB Gloves
Right: Louis Vuitton – Cotton Flared Jeans, Cotton T-shirt, Utility Side Bag in Taurillon Monogram Leather, Run Away Pulse Sneaker in Monogram Glaze

Photographer : Boris Camaca
Stylist : Armelle Leturcq
Hair & Make up : Hong young min, Park se mi, Ryu hyeji
Stylist assistant : Pauline Grosjean
Photographer assistant : Constantin Kyriakopoulos

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