Who Is He?
Mr. Wong has been around since the early days of grime, anyone that used to watch Channel U will be familiar with his sound, however, unlike his peers at the time he faded into obscurity alongside Channel U. It’s hard to track down Wong nowadays, as you may have guessed his real name isn’t ‘Mr. Wong’ but his real name is up for discussion, he released an album under the name ‘Wong Williams‘, freestyled as ‘Wong Shinobi‘, he is credited as ‘C. Hua‘ on a grime compilation album and he calls himself ‘David’ in some early tracks (which may be his real name as his Instagram is under the name ‘David Peckham’ – but could just be another nickname as he is from Peckham).
What we do know is that he is from Peckham (duh!) and his parents owned a Chinese newsagent/porn DVD shop on Peckham High Street. The elephant in the room is obviously Wong’s ethnicity, at the peak of his popularity, he was the only Asian representation in grime (which he certainly used to his advantage). Wong didn’t shy away from reminding listeners he was Asian and using stereotypes to do so – with lyrics like “Hello, I can appeal to white folks cos’ I’m yellow”.
Wong didn’t stop there, he really played into Chinese stereotypes throughout his time in the spotlight – which can be seen best in the music video for Whoz Dat Boy in which he refers to himself as a fresh-off-the-boat chink, starts the video selling DVDs on a street corner, green screens himself onto the Great Wall of China, and throws out an awfully rendered CGI Hadoken. It begs the question of it all being a joke in a similar vein to fellow Channel U artists The Boo Kroo – but it probably isn’t. Even outside of music videos Wong kept up the character, the peak of which is his MTV Cribs parody around his family flat in South London where he proudly showcases a stolen Nandos sauce bottle and the ‘£100,000 Leonardo da Vinci’ on the wall all whilst trying to avoid his mom from finding him.
It is hard to talk about Mr. Wong without bringing up where he started, Channel U. The television channel was founded by Darren Platt in February 2003 which aired British music and helped launch the careers of stars such as Skepta, Dizzee Rascal, and Giggs. Most of the content on Channel U was not professionally created and many of the videos shown were shot on handheld camcorders – most notably the Sony The VX1000 which was also the prime choice for skateboarding content at the time. Grime ‘comedy acts’ like Mr. Wong were not out of place on Channel U as it was home to artists like Bearman and the animated sitcom The Booo Krooo.
Despite its arguable importance to the scene, Channel U suffered from the rising popularity of social media like YouTube and at the time MySpace. In March 2009 the channel was renamed to Channel AKA and started to branch out to other non-musical content, likely in an attempt to compete with online services. Despite this, in June of 2012 the parent company of Channel U (now Channel AKA) entered liquidation and Channel AKA was sold to All Around the World Productions the channel ceased to broadcast until November of 2012 when it was aired on Freesat until it was removed in April of 2013. Channel AKA then came back in October 2015 and lasted until May 2017. Channel AKA announced via Twitter in June of 2018 that they are shutting down for good.
ANNOUNCEMENT! That’s it – Channel AKA is no more! We’ve pioneered grime & UK urban with Channel U & AKA giving first play to many homegrown acts. But today our friends Massive R&B take over Sky373 & we say thanks for all YOUR support over the last 15 years! Love always AKA.Channel AKA via Twitter
Unfortunately, Wong never succeeded commercially, his popularity on Channel U didn’t translate into CD sales despite multiple albums being released – ‘Getting Stronger‘ in 2004, ‘I Bet It Will Stay In Ur Car 4 A Year‘ in 2007, and his most recent full-length release ‘The Yellow Michael Jackson‘ in 2015. His success (or lack thereof) doesn’t discredit Wong’s legacy in grime though as he masterminded the track Orchestra Boroughs which brought MCs from different areas of London together and was one of the first all-star tracks to do so. The MC lineup consisted of Mr. Wong, Crazy Titch, Flirta D, and JME with the music video featuring background cameos from countless London MCs (and those with a more keen eye will have spotted that the video was filmed on the same day as the Ghetts & Bashy clash since Crazy T, Bashy and their entourage are wearing the same clothes in both videos.)
Back to Wong, a more overlooked aspect of his career was his productions – that he also promoted the Chinese stereotype through. Instrumental tracks such as Chinkrasta and Potion show that Wong wasn’t all that bad off the mic, you can even see Wong make a beat in 5 minutes on the Risky Roadz 2 DVD, you could say Wong was the first to produce what is now called Sinogrime, due to the prevalence of Asian sounds in his beats.
Where is he now?
Nowadays Wong isn’t around in the grime scene – it’s doubtful the crowd would recognize him if he came on stage at a rave 18 years after his 15 seconds of fame (something which Grime Originals owner Sharky Major said he actually tried to organize but Wong didn’t respond). Wong can still be found on social media though, or at least on Instagram @alwayslitty247. His most recent ventures into music have been under the name David Peckham, with tracks Flaunt It, Nothing Nothing, and Don’t Wanna Die Young which are far from the Mr. Wong or even grime sound.
I did reach out to Wong for his thoughts on his grime legacy and his new musical direction but he didn’t respond – which seems to be a habit.
It’s questionable really to say Wong was a pioneer of Asian grime, or at least Asians in grime. Since Wong’s debut, there have been a fair amount of Asian artists in the scene, both MCs such as Genghis Kong and producers like Rude Kid. Although Wong may not serve as an inspiration for aspiring Asian grime artists he certainly serves as an example of what not to do.