Hua Li’s project has often worked the fruitful tension between opposing forces, whether being mixed-race, bisexual, or overtly political and softly vulnerable. Now the “half-Chinese, half-militant, half-rapper of your heart” is back with ripe fruit falls but not in your mouth, her most ambitious and personal record to date. Playing between hazy R&B, hip-hop, jazz and electronic, Hua Li’s sophomore LP takes the imaginary garden as a proxy for cultivating home. With complex vocal arrangements, lush production by Alex Thibault (aka Gloze), and big, vibrant mixing by TNGHT’s Lunice, ripe fruit is a private confessional on a loud-ass record.

Following 2019’s Dynasty and 2020’s critically acclaimed Yellow Crane EP, ripe fruit is characteristically libertine. Textured and sensual, the Montreal multi hyphenate balances her rich, waveforming tone with danceable, electronic signatures. The rapper is fierce and frequently funny, erupting from gauzy runs to deliver a quick uppercut that stings. With hooky, addictive features by Ambrose Getz and Darkus Millon, ripe fruit is an intimate record of healing, with Montreal’s nightlife at its heart.

An artful collaborator, Hua Li co-wrote and performed on Gayance’s 2023 Polaris short-listed album, Masquerade, and is the touring DJ for Inuk electro-pop throat singer, Riit. Her charismatic stage show has taken her around the world, including tours with Cadence Weapon and Fat Tony (serving as the former’s touring DJ), to Reykjavik’s Secret Solstice Festival, the Montreal International Jazz Festival, and Pride Toronto.

Luminous and compelling, Hua Li shows it takes tenderness to let things ripen, and guts to let things die. In-between is a kind of rapture that begs to be savoured.