OZI: THE ALBUM
Forbidden Paradise Music
It has been two decades since the first wave of Mandarin R&B hits with the likes of David Tao's 1997 eponymous album and Wang Leehom's Revolution (1998) leading the charge.
In the 2000s, artists such as Khalil Fong continued to explore the genre by both digging deeper and adding it to a variegated musical brew.
And now, Taiwanese-American OZI brings an urban hip-hop edge to R&B on his debut album.
He flows on tracks like Diamond - switching smoothly between Mandarin and English - bragging one moment, sweetly filial the next: from "Imma fix new rules/Surpass my own rap/Skilled like a soul assassin/All the R&B I write drives you crazy" to "Cuz I promised mother that I'll make it far/Put some extra dollars in the cookie jar".
On second single B.O. - not about body odour - he collaborates with Taiwanese singer 9m88 for a heady meld of R&B and jazz. The title is short for Black Out, supposedly OZI's code for partying with friends in college. (He reportedly dropped out of the Berklee College of Music.)
There's a more frankly sexual vibe here that is unusual for Mandopop, venturing between the sheets on tracks like Paradise Island and Bad Intentions.
OZI is ambitious, no doubt. On the closing track Title, he lays it out: "Man look, I know I'm new to the game/Got nothing but mouth full of visions about making a name out of music/Aint thinking bout money and fame".
Interestingly enough, it's juxtaposed against the opening track Ozymandias, a spoken word number reciting P B Shelley's poem of the same name about hubris and crumbling past glories.
There has been a fair bit of hype over this release by the 21-year-old son of veteran Taiwanese singer Irene Yeh. While some of it feels fresh, parts of it would not be unfamiliar to listeners of Mandarin hip-hop. And it would be good for him to take on a wider range of topics.
Still, with youth and talent on his side, OZI, whose real name is Stefan Chen, is certainly one to watch.
Watch the music video for B.O. at www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHKnSFlDBLQ