Why He’s A Top 40: He’s a musical sensation abroad and a humble helper at home, giving at-risk youth a microphone with which to express themselves.
Key To His Success: “I’m confident enough to ask more questions than a precocious four-year-old, yet proud and self-assured. I wholeheartedly and passionately pursue opportunities where I can be a part of something bigger than the regular nine-to-five grind.”
In E-Town, rapper and musician Richard “R.J.” Cui never gets fan-stalked or paparazzied, but you’d think he would, having toured the globe performing for herds of screaming fans.
As producer and MC, Cui (a.k.a. Jing) and his former crew, Darkson Tribe, have twice toured Asia performing for the X Games. Their last tour, in 2008, had them traipsing through Shanghai, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand, where crowds of up to 25,000 people sang along with a Tribe chorus – memorized from X Game radio and TV ads.
After signing autographs for adoring fans, Cui came back home to “do a show for 300 people for 500 bucks.” He adds, “Some of the most intimate shows with a hundred people, I remember the most.”
With his stage days behind him, Cui now heads PlanIt Sound, an advertising and music-branding agency. With 35 past and present clients since 2008 and branding packages starting at $4,500 a pop, PlanIt Sound has been a great success. It has worked with West Edmonton Mall and produced a theme song for NBA Hoop Party, a basketball lifestyle series that aired on over 50 mostly Asian TV networks between 2008 and 2009.
The son of an entrepreneurial Filipino couple, Cui was born in Edmonton but lived in Ghana for three years. When he was four, his family returned to Edmonton, where they owned the now-closed Red Rooster convenience store chain. He trained in piano and learned to love music of every genre, including country. Cui admits to a childhood spent obsessively rewatching The Sound of Music, which still makes him cry.
At 18, while studying sociology with a minor in music at the University of Alberta, Cui started working with at-risk teens. “You get spit in the face, you get stomped on by them – literally sometimes,” he says. “Those things are hard to deal with.”
In 2000, Cui launched the Soundz of Youth program and ran it for four years bringing together his two career paths. The recording project let troubled teens enter the studio to exercise their lungs and exercise their devils. Cui has since merged the program with PlanIt Sound, through which he’s producing a collaborative album with at-risk youth called Young Touchables.
“It’s really cool to see some of the changes you make in their lives,” Cui says of his work with youth. “It keeps you in the business of doing [what you’re doing] and wanting to give back.”