October 6, 2008
September 25, 2008
September 7, 2008
August 24, 2008
本周的歌曲来自深圳的说唱家JR Fog和Fredii。JR Fog得了2008中国
August 23, 2008
We’ve mentioned Dumdue before in past posts, we’ve featured their music in our Song’s of the week section, and we’ve used a number of their quotes in our short videos. So while this short video might not be the “first look” you’ve gotten at the Guangzhou based rap group, it’s a chance to get a “closer look.”
Dumdue, made up of A-Long (rapper/producer), Kidgod (rapper), and Edi (DJ), has been making music together since 2003. They make all of their own beats and rap exclusively in Cantonese. Dumdue has also started their own music collective called Chee Productions, which includes a few other local Guangzhou Hip Hop artists, such as DJ Fatkit, DJ DJam and Hip Hop dancer, Ji An. Click here to go to Dumdue’s Myspace page.
With one of the most unique sounds in Chinese Hip Hop today, Dumdue commands considerable recognition and respect within the underground Hip Hop community. They are often featured in local Guangzhou Art and Style magazines as well as national Chinese Hip Hop websites like hiphop.cn. However without the support of being signed to a major record label Dumdue remains virtually unknown to the majority of Chinese youth.
Which is a shame, because they are really good.
See for yourself
August 17, 2008
We know that some of your are looking for Chinese Hip Hop albums to purchase, download and/or review. And unfortunately there is no simple way for you to get an entire album. Amazon and iTunes haven't hit up the Chinese Hip Hop market (yet).
August 16, 2008
In our interviews, we heard a number of today’s Chinese Hip Hop artists say that they first came into contact with Hip Hop through skateboarding. And in certain cities like Beijing, skateboarders have been crucial to the growth of local Hip Hop culture. The founders of Beijing’s Society Skateboard company, Raph Cooper and Li Qiu, have each played their respective roles in Beijing’s Hip Hop scene. Raph, who doubles as a rapper, co-organizes Beijing’s monthly Section 6, the city’s biggest Hip Hop party that features artist’s performances, open mics, and freestyle battles. Li Qiu is a renowned graffiti artist, and he has used his designs to develop the Society Skateboards Skate/Hip Hop-style clothing brand. Skate fashion and Hip Hop fashion tend to overlap, and in addition to selling skate gear and clothing, many Chinese skate shops will also sell CDs of local artists. While in the US, Hip Hop songs that celebrate skate culture, like Lupe Fiasco’s “Kick, push” and The Pack’s “Vans,” have solidified the link between Hip Hop and skateboarding in mainstream music, in China, collaborations like those between Guangzhou rap group Dumdue and Raph and Dan of Society Skateboards have solidified the link in underground Chinese Hip Hop.
Check out what some of China’s Hip Hop artists had to say about the connection between skateboarding and Hip Hop.
August 13, 2008
MC Young Kin
This week’s song comes from Young Kin, of Beijing’s Yin Tsang, featuring Big Dog, formerly of Wuhan’s No Fear Family. In “为什么,” or weishenme, which is Mandarin for “Why,” Young Kin and Big Dog question many of the restrictions and inequalities they find in modern Chinese society. “Why” is a politically charged song that came out right before the beginning of the Beijing Olympics. It touches upon issues that range from freedom of expression, to the One-Child policy, to the right to congregate, to ethnic inequalities. With unique flows and strong lyricism, Young Kin and Big Dog have succeeded in creating a provocative anthem for Chinese youth.
本周的歌来自北京隐藏的Young Kin，feat. 来自武汉No Fear Family前员的大狗.
在“为什么,” Young Kin和Big Dog 说到现代中国社会普遍的限制和不平等的现象.
北京奥运开摸之前发布了，“为什么,” 这个充满政治色彩的一首歌发布了; 它涉及的问题
强烈的歌词,Young Kin和Big Dog成功地证明“为什么”谈到的内容.
Click here to read what Young Kin has to say about his song "Why."
"Why" by Young Kin featuring Big Dog
Here in China, New Jersey is pretty much only known for basketball. 90% of the time when I tell someone I am from New Jersey, they respond with, “Yes I know, the New Jersey Nets. Did you know that Yi Jianlian plays for them now?” Got it, thanks. Chinese rappers don’t usually mention New Jersey rappers among their major inspirations. Young Chinese rappers point to MCs such as Eminem, 50 Cent and Jay Z and older rappers to MCs such as Public Enemy, MC Hammer and Dr. Dre.
But even though Hip Hop fans (in the U.S. and China) often know the hometowns of their favorite individual artists, many do not know the history of Hip Hop in a specific city or region (i.e. Houston or the Bay Area).
August 11, 2008
One Love, One Heart,
Let's get together and feel all right,
As it was in the beginning,
So shall it be in the end,
Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right . . .
- Bob Marley
In the video, “What is Hip Hop?”, many Chinese artists said the power of Hip Hop lies in its ability to bring people together. People, who perhaps may not otherwise have reason or opportunity to, can bond over the mutual enjoyment of music, dance and art. For Hip Hop artists, the connection can be even deeper as they also have the shared experience of living a Hip Hop lifestyle in Chinese society. As they face similar struggles and have the same goal - to develop Hip Hop culture - many artists have called for the Hip Hop community to unite. Some have organized local and national UNITY or Da Tuanjie (大团结) parties and performances, while others have established online networks and artistic collectives. While these community-building activities have been successful, there is much criticism of both the UNITY parties and the Da Tuanjie movement. Both are undermined by conflict, in Hip Hop jargon - beef. How the Hip Hop community responds to these concurrent issues will be telling for the future growth of Chinese Hip Hop. Furthermore, the influence of unity and discord are especially relevant to China today.
Unity in Chinese Hip Hop
UNITY or Da Tuanjie parties began in the city of Guangzhou in 2007. They were first organized by Guangzhou crew Dumdue and, later by Hiphop.CN. The March UNITY party was held in Guangzhou and included performances from Beijing’s In3 and Kunming’s Co Op Sol. In May, the party was held in Beijing and included performances from Beijing’s Long Jing (龙井) and Xi An’s Luan Zhan Men (乱战门). Both events were highly attended by Hip Hop fans and artists, and they accomplished their objective of both throwing a great party and also promoting the unification of the Hip Hop community.
On the local level, efforts towards unification include organizing parties, performances and events, collaborating on songs, and forming online communities. In Kunming, Hip Hop artists are just starting to organize da tuanjie events with BBoy Crew KGS, BGirl crew KLT, rappers Co Op Sol and Green Clan, and DJ DSK all performing together. In Guangzhou, several rap crews worked together to produce a Guangzhou anthem titled “Guangzhou Rules”. In Xinjiang, artists share their work and Hip Hop news on the community website www.xjrap.com. These projects all serve to create and strengthen relationships between artists, to encourage them to pursue their artistic path, and to gain recognition of their existence and accomplishments.
On the national level, besides Da Tuanjie parties, artists also use the Internet as a forum to communicate and collaborate on projects. Hiphop.CN is the perfect example, a website and a company dedicated to building the national Chinese Hip Hop community. Hiphop.CN is often also a co-organizer of Da Tuanjie events. Many artists also create nation-wide informal networks or lianmeng (联盟), similar to the Native Tongues Posse or the Quannum Collective. Such networks provide support and strengthen individuals through association with other crews in China.
The vast majority of Hip Hop artists agree that, whether on the local or national level, Hip Hop artists in China should unify. Although, they vastly differ on the best method – focusing on just your city, creating a mainstream Hip Hop star and capitalizing on their popularity, establishing nationwide underground networks, etc. The question then becomes not whether or not unification is something that should happen, but whether or not it can happen.
Ever since the Tupac and Notorious BIG murders, the subject of "beef" has been popular in Hip Hop journalism and academic writing. "Beef" is a grudge between two individuals or a crew of Hip Hop artists. "Beef" is often settled through competition. Rappers "beef" by making dis tracks, criticizing their opponents lack of skills and championing their own talent. Bboys break against their rivals and writers write over their opponents tags. Audiences often decided who made the better track, busted the better move, or threw up the better tag, and that should settle the beef. However, today, "beef" is too often settled by violence. Many critique how beef is exploited by the industry and artists and hyped by the media to the benefit of sales and the detriment of communities and individuals. Though this is a very important critique, it does not relieve the necessity to talk about conflict, competition and violence in Hip Hop. Hip Hop is as competitive as it is creative and promotes as much aggression as love.
Conflicts in Chinese Hip Hop arise from myriad sources – personal, artistic and social. Some artists find it impossible to come together because they simply don’t like one another. Others point to artistic differences, such as artists whose musical style is more pop as opposed to more underground or experimental. Conflicts also arise from people’s (lack of) understanding of Hip Hop, which often, but not always is the result of age differences. Still other conflicts come from different lifestyles and an individual’s reason for becoming a Hip Hop artist. For those who do Hip Hop professionally or live a Hip Hop lifestyle, it may be difficult to unify with those who just do Hip Hop for fun as a hobby. Social restrictions also undermine Hip Hop unity.
How do you really unify all of Chinese Hip Hop? Problems include language, culture, distance, and numbers. While Mandarin is the common language, China has numerous dialects (See the video on Language). Hip Hop artists would perhaps first have to support a common language to really unite. Language inevitably involves culture and the mutual biases and prejudices between the North and the South, the East and the West, and Han Chinese and ethnic minorities. One Hip Hop critic recently told me that an artist from the North could never really be accepted in the South and vice versa. How can Hip Hop artists transcend such deeply embedded cultural biases?
Two very practical obstacles are distance and numbers. China is a huge country and many Hip Hop artists don’t have the means to travel great distances for competitions, shows, or classes. While globalization is shrinking the world through tele-connections, face-to-face communication is still the most powerful. Lastly, the number of Hip Hop artists is always shifting and figuring out how to reach out to them all or who should represent each community is a daunting task. Considering all of the issues, what are the potential costs of beef and a lack of unity?
Consequences of Conflict
In talking with Hip Hop artists about beef, there was a widespread agreement that the time has not yet arrived for artists to beef. Considering that there is not Hip Hop market and beefing cannot bolster sales or media exposure, personal and artistic conflicts can only serve to divide Hip Hop artists and spread negativity at a time when Chinese Hip Hop is most vulnerable. Beef has undoubtedly hindered Hip Hop’s development, as people have been opposed to collaboration. It has also contributed to Hip Hop’s negative image, complicating acceptance by a larger audience.
However, conflict can also spur progress and artists can use beefs to grow personally and artistically, hopefully outweighing the negative consequences of their conflicts. The lack of beef also does not imply a dedication to unity, and an artist can be seriously embattled and simultaneously dedicated to developing the Hip Hop community on some level. The consequences of conflict are real and many but they are perhaps unavoidable and certainly will not stop the growth of Hip Hop in China. (See what Chinese Hip Hop artists have to say about UNITY and BEEF.) The concepts of unity and internal conflict are much bigger than Hip Hop and are especially salient in China today.
The Call for Unity in China
2008 has been a momentous year for China and responses to various events have frequently been calls for solidarity and appeals to national pride and civic responsibility. Following the Tibetan protests in March, Chinese people around the world banned together in support of a unified China and continued Chinese authority over Tibet. This sentiment spilled over into the Olympic torch protests and counter-protests. Many Chinese people saw the torch protests in the context of historical grievances with the West for (neo)colonial interference in China’s domestic affairs. Again, many Chinese people rallied against this affront. In the aftermath of the earthquake in Sichuan Province in May, there was an outpouring of sympathy and activism. Benefits and fundraising events frequently called on the civic responsibility of Chinese people to help one another (even though philanthropy is relatively new to China). The 24-hour coverage on local and national television of difficult rescues, emotional reunions, vigils, fundraisers, and dedications reinforced and helped sustain the unity of the people behind the relief effort. And, of course, there are the Olympic Games, already underway in the capital. The Olympics have required a tremendous unification effort, with the Chinese government and Olympic Committee rallying its citizens and for the past seven years. Many see the Games as China’s time to present itself to the world and the people have been asked to fully support every measure to ensure the success of the Olympics. Many Chinese people feel a deep sense of pride in hosting the Olympic Games and feel that it is a recognition of China’s achievements and a substantiation of China’s power. In response to all of these events, while the call has been for unity, the response has been anything but unanimous.
Anatol Lievin wrote that appeals to national solidarity are a part of “the classic modern strategy of and endangered right-wing oligarchy, which is to divert mass discontent into nationalism” (London Review of Books, 3 October 2002). The fervor surrounding the Tibetan protests, the Sichuan Earthquake and the Olympic Games has often overshadowed serious grievances and the varying reactions to all of the events. Every call for unity has been undercut with dissension and opposition. The Tibet protests saw Chinese people on both sides of the picket lines and many Chinese question, not only the West, but China’s colonial ambitions. The earthquake response made many disillusioned with the corruption, graft, and lumbering bureaucracy that undermine all disaster relief efforts. People were also outraged by forced donations. Many companies and schools required people to donate money, often specifying amounts, and ridiculing those who failed to donate as much as others. The sanctioned oppression for the Olympic Games has been well documented by human rights groups, NGOs and the media. From expelling migrants from the city to forcing business to close for weeks without compensation, from the tens of millions of dollars outside cities have sent to Beijing for the Games for which they will have no return to public notices to immediately report Uighurs and Tibetans to the local police (literally on sight), the Olympic Games have effectively given officials carte blanche to discriminate against marginalized groups, devastate communities and businesses, and of course stifle criticism and protest. Many Beijing residents now wish the Olympics would be over already so their lives can get back to normal.
The hope for all of China is that, as in the Hip Hop community, hopefully these conflicts will foster growth. The response to the Sichuan Earthquake especially showed that if galvanized, Chinese citizens will take bold action to improve their community. With the number of NGOs increasing and community activism becoming more popular, perhaps community leaders can capitalize on this sentiment, unifying the Chinese people to make positive change.
August 6, 2008
Wuhan's Special King Crew - Winners of Best Team Routine at Shanghai's OTS
This past weekend we attended the three-day On The Stage (OTS) Hip Hop dance Competition at Dino Beach in Shanghai. OTS was organized by Stanly Wong, the founder and director of Shanghai’s Dragon Dance Studio. Stanly has been dancing for almost twenty years and has been very influential not only in the development of Hip Hop dance, but in the development of Chinese Hip Hop culture in general. To quote Shanghai rapper Tang King of Red Star: “Stanly, he is REAL Hip Hop.” And with students traveling all the way from Xinjiang to study with him (such as Purcat, the leader of Urumqi’s DSP Crew and Ha Shan, the leader of Karamai’s Dancekid Crew), praise for Stanly can still be heard far away from Shanghai.
Which means…when Stanly Wong holds a Hip Hop Dance Competition, Chinese Hip Hop dancers show up. Dancers and dance crews traveled from all over China to compete in OTS’s three main events:
Individual Battle, (click here for Individual Battle video)
Team Battle, (click here for Team Battle video)
and Team Routine Competition. (click here for Team Routine video)
The individual battles were divided into four categories, New Style, Funk Style, Girl’s Freestyle and Breaking, with each winner receiving a prize of 10,000 RMB (approx. $1,500 USD).
New Style: Cheng Jie of Hangzhou
Funk Style: Huang Jingxing of Beijing
Girl’s Freestyle: Zhao Qian of Shanghai
Breaking: Wu Yaofeng of Shanghai
Guangzhou’s Speed Crew won the Team Battle Competition, and Wuhan’s Special King Crew won for best Team Routine; each team received a prize of 15,000 RMB, approx. $2,250.
In addition to bringing out Chinese Hip Hop dancers from all over the country, the OTS Competition was judged by a panel of premier International Hip Hop artists, including Ken Swift of the USA’s Rock Steady Crew, break-dancers O-Hashi and ISOPP of Japan, and New Style dancers Meech and Clara of France.
Check out the highlights from the 2008 OTS Hip Hop Dance Competition by clicking the links above.
August 5, 2008
This week’s song is a collaboration between two groups from the city of Urumqi in Xinjiang Province – Free Soul and Soul Clap. It is serendipitous that both of their names have the word “soul”, as soulful is exactly how I would describe this song.
Free Soul is an all-female group that formed a little over one year ago. They sing and rap in English, Uyghur and Mandarin. Their voices are already so strong (the influence of their idol Christina Aguilera can certainly be heard) that people doubt they sing their own songs!
Soul Clap is an all-male group that is also multilingual, rapping in English, Mandarin, Uyghur and Russian. Their self-produced tracks mirror their linguistic diversity ranging from melodic love songs to hardcore rap songs. “Lil Luv” is a perfect example of the former and talks about . . . well . . . young love.
本周的歌曲来自两个乌鲁木齐的团体－Free Soul和Soul Clap。真巧他们俩的名字都含有“soul”这个字。我觉得他们的音乐很有灵魂。Free Soul，一个女生团体，是大概一年前组合的。她们用英文，维语和普通话唱歌。她们的声音已经那么强，有时听众怀疑她们是真的在唱歌。（难怪其中一个影响是Christina Aguilera。）Soul Clap，一个男生团体也用好多语言唱歌，包括英文，普通话，维语和俄语。他们是自己作曲，风格也很丰富。他们有情歌，比较硬核的歌，等等。“Lil Luv”好代表他们的情歌。
July 31, 2008
When Angela and I go to meet an artist for an interview we sometimes joke, “you’ll know it is us because one of us is an African American woman, and one of us has red hair. Don’t worry, you’ll find us.” But it is usually just as easy to recognize our interviewees. They look different from the people around them, mostly just from what they are wearing. But sometimes there is something else, maybe the way they carry themselves or the way they interact with those around them.
Having this identity as “something different” is at odds with many of the values instilled by the Chinese education system. The Chinese education system is one that relies heavily on rote memorization, where success and intelligence is often measured by how well a student can repeat a text or lesson word for word, rather than how well they can express a unique and well-developed thought or opinion. Many of the Hip Hop artists that we interviewed talked about their dissatisfaction and frustration with this type of education where personal expression is often equated with “acting out” or “showing off.”
Hip Hop, both as an art form and a culture, celebrates personal voice. While success in Hip Hop requires innate talent alongside rigorous practice and dedication, it remains a comparatively accessible art form. If you have sneakers you can dance, if you have a notebook you can write lyrics. It is Hip Hop’s accessibility that forces its artists to make sure their “voice” is heard out of the crowd. The battle, a staple of all of Hip Hop’s elements, requires an artist not only to prove their mastery of technique, but also to showcase their individual flair and style. When we asked Chinese Hip Hoppers what attracted them to Hip Hop culture, they often responded by saying, “Hip Hop is free,” “I can express myself through Hip Hop,” and “Hip Hop is way to vent my feelings about the world around me.”
Clearly, the relationship between Chinese education and Chinese Hip Hop is not as simple as “because of China’s approach to education, Chinese youth turned to Hip Hop culture and now they speak out on all pertinent issues.” I think it is more fitting to see the Chinese education system as one of the variables in the setting of Chinese Hip Hop’s development. It is important to know that many of these artists who now stand in front of a crowd of people rapping about their own life, or walk around their city wearing clothes that set them apart from the rest of the population, were taught in school that it would be better if they were more like everybody else. It is important to know that the Chinese education system is something that these young artists refer to in their music, something that they use Hip Hop to express.
Check out what some of China's Hip Hop artists had to say on the topic.
July 22, 2008
Shanghai is the place to be for China’s big, summertime Hip Hop competitions. The day after the China DMC DJ Competition, I attended China’s 2008 Battle of the Year (BOTY) Competition, organized by Shanghai’s Caster Dance Studio. Ten different crews from around the country competed. The BOTY is an international breakdancing tournament for B-boy crews, as opposed to individual breakdancers. There are national qualifying rounds, followed by regional qualifying rounds, followed by the Battle of the Year World Finals, held this year on October 18 in Braunschweig, Germany.
Hip Hop dance, or jiewu (“street dance”) as it is commonly called in Chinese, has had considerable success in China compared to the development of the other Hip Hop elements. Jiewu competitions are broadcast on national television, and many advertisements, promotional events, and other forms of pop media will often feature a Hip Hop dance crew. These opportunities come much less frequently for Chinese rappers, graffiti artists and DJs. However, China’s b-boys have yet to succeed on an international level. Common criticisms of Chinese breakdancing are that many b-boys are still in the imitation phase, and that an over-emphasis of power moves combined with a lack of creativity has made Chinese breakdance more acrobatic than artistic. The day before the 2008 China BOTY, we had the chance to talk with the three judges, all of them b-boys themselves (Lamie from France, Amjad from Switzerland, and Drunk from Hong Kong), and each one of them said that they would be looking for personal style, something besides “just copying moves they’ve seen on YouTube.”
In my opinion, the 2008 China BOTY was a success. The venue was packed with a diverse audience including fellow dancers, families, media representatives, and what seemed to be curious onlookers. The shouts and cheers from the audience were persistent throughout the event, reaching their high point whenever the crowd-favored Shanghai crew took the stage. Each of the crews had six minutes to perform a choreographed number, after which the judges decided which four of the ten crews would move on to the semi-final battle round. At least half of the choreographed numbers incorporated elements from Chinese traditional culture, from Tai Chi to fan dancing, all very well received by the crowd. Despite the occasional stumble, most of the crews’ performances were high-energy and included a number of impressive moves.
This year’s semi-finals featured Fujian’s Jingwumen vs. Guangzhou’s Energy, and Beijing’s X-Power vs. Shanghai’s Dust. Energy and Dust made it to the final round, where, after a close battle, Guangzhou’s Energy was pronounced the winner. Energy first place victory at China’s BOTY means that they will be flown to Thailand to compete in the regional BOTY Asia on August 7th. I wish Energy the best of luck.
Take a look at the highlights from the 2008 China BOTY.
Mason and GEM of Xi'an's X.A.E.R.
This week’s song comes from Xi’an group, X.A.E.R., featuring XIV of Beijing’s Yin Tsang and Shenzhen R&B singer Lacedoll. In “爱够,” or “Enough Love,” X.A.E.R.’s MC Mason and MC Bo Shi rap about the obstacles facing Chinese rappers as they ask themselves: “do we have enough love for Hip Hop to keep doing it?”
本周的哥来自西安的X.A.E.R.团体跟北京隐藏的XIV还有来自深圳的R&B歌手Lacedoll一起合作的. 在“爱够”X.A.E.R.的MC Mason和MC GEM说道中国说唱家面对的问题,还有他们问自己：“我们对Hip Hop有没有足够爱坚持下去？”
July 21, 2008
Last Friday Shanghai was host to the 2008 China DMC Championship. The DMC is the Olympics of turntablism and can launch a DJ into international stardom. China's first DMC Champion was DJ VNutz from Shanghai who took the title in 2002. DJ VNutz now organizes the DMC competition and is one of the founders of The Lab, a non-profit organization that promotes music education and DJ training. Previous China DMC Champions include DJ Shorty S (2003-2004) and DJ Wordy (2005-2007). This year's event showcased 15 DJs from across the country, many of whom were competing for the first time. DJing and turntablism have been slow to develop in China for numerous reasons, including lack of funds to purchase equipment, lack of access to vinyls, and lack of practice and performance spaces. But, as attendance at the DMC shows, the DJ community is growing and Chinese DJs are improving their skills. The competition was close this year and the final results were:
3rd Place - DJ Dragon V from Beijing
2nd Place - DJ LJ from Guiyang
1st PLace - DJ Cavia from Anhui
Check out the video for clips of each set and the guest performance from DJ Shortkut and DJ Swift Rock.
July 15, 2008
Language and Lyricism
The adjective “Chinese” is a highly contested term and, perhaps, no more so than when it comes to language. The term “Chinese language” specifies more of a language family than one specific language. The common language in Mainland China is Standard Mandarin or Putonghua. While 700 million Chinese citizens speak Standard Mandarin and it is also the official language, it is by no means a “native” language. Standard Mandarin is a language that was created in the early 20th century and is based on Beijing and Mandarin dialects. Standard Mandarin is a tool that enables all Chinese people to communicate. But for many, Standard Mandarin is not their native or mother tongue. Chinese language has about twelve regional language groups, the most recognizable abroad being Cantonese. There are also numerous spoken dialects, with people from different provinces, cities, and even towns speaking completely unintelligible languages. This presents a unique challenge for Chinese rappers who must consider how language will impact their style, technique, potential audience and expression.
Since Chinese rappers first picked up the microphone, critics have claimed that Chinese language isn’t suited to rap music. Standard Mandarin is actually quite easy to rhyme but problems arise with tones and syllables. Standard Mandarin is a tonal language and has four strict tones. Changing the tone of a word can completely change its meaning. This is how Chinese rappers engage in really provocative wordplay, with one word taking on double meanings. However it also means that rappers must pay attention to their tones, particularly when determining their cadence and speed. Standard Mandarin is also monosyllabic. Whereas in English, rappers can rhyme multi-syllabic words like “fantastic” and “reality”, Chinese rappers (using Standard Mandarin) must use words like “ban” and “ting”. Consequently, it takes much creativity, patience and a lot of practice to develop a signature flow and interesting rhymes. For rappers whose native language is a dialect, technically speaking, rapping in Standard Mandarin can be a relief or a burden.
For Cantonese speakers, the comparative simplicity of Standard Mandarin might be appealing. Cantonese has about nine tones and that cannot be altered or inflected as much as Standard Mandarin. The enunciation of individual monosyllabic words is also critical to the rhythm of the language. For speakers of Guilin dialect, rapping in Standard Mandarin might be awkward. Guilin dialect is spoken at a faster speed than Standard Mandarin. It also allows speakers to string together syllables. This means that rappers can both rhyme multi-syllabic words and speak more syllables per second. It is not a coincidence that Beijing rapper Brass Face has been compared to Twista. When interviewed he revealed that he did not purposefully rap fast but simply rapped in the speed of Guilin dialect, his native language. Rapping in a dialect or Standard Mandarin reduces or increases a rapper’s technical constraints and potential audience.
Language and Longevity
One of the major complaints about record companies that have approached rap artists in China is that they force rappers to use Standard Mandarin. All of Mainland China’s music celebrities sing in Mandarin and it is the only language that will enable a rapper to create a nation-wide fan base. Rappers primarily concerned with or practically limited to performing and distributing music in their hometowns, using their local dialect makes their music more meaningful and poignant their community. However, it is very difficult for rappers to maintain only working clubs and promotional events in their city. Some joke that the shelf life of the average rap group is two years, two years before they discover they won’t be able to make a lot of money or have legions of fans and give up. Resources, opportunity and language all factor into reaching that conclusion.
Guangzhou MC Along from jazz-rap crew Dumdue basically summed up the language debate when he said, “Standard Mandarin is a tool for communication. Cantonese is the language of my life. If I want to talk about my life, I have to rap in Cantonese.” For crews like Dumdue, the need to use the language that expresses and helps define their life experience trumps all other concerns about language. The Mandarin vocabulary has thousands of characters, but the nature of spoken dialects ensures that not all of the words and phrases used in Chinese dialects can be expressed in Mandarin. Consequently a commitment to only rapping in Mandarin can potentially limit a rapper’s creative expression.
Every musician must negotiate their relationships with their music and their audience. For Chinese rappers, language crucially influences the dynamics of those relationships. Choosing not only what they want to say but also in what language they want to say it in will determine, in large part, their ability to perfect their skills, make their music meaningful to an audience, and establish a lasting career.
See what some rappers in China have to say about language.
July 12, 2008
This week’s song comes from Urumqi group Jin-Qirah. Jin-Qirah’s group members are Uyghur, one of the ethnic minority groups in China, the majority of whom live in the northwestern province of Xinjiang. Rapped in Uyghur language over beats inspired by traditional Uyghur music, Jin-Qirah’s “Arman” is a song that confirms the often over-looked diversity of “Chinese” music.
本周的哥来自乌鲁木齐的Jin-Qirah团体. Jin-Qirah的团员都是维吾尔族,中国的少数民族之一，大多数在西北的新疆省住. 用维语说唱还有用被传统维族乐器影响的一个伴奏，Jin-Qirah的 “Arman”是一首哥能确定 “中国” 音乐平常忽略的多样性.
Jin-Qirah - "Arman"
July 6, 2008
B-boy Baby, leader of Kunming's KGS breakdance crew
Kunming’s Hip Hop community is best described as a collection of parts rather than a cohesive whole. While there are artists from each of Hip Hop’s major elements, there is a lack of commonality amongst Kunming’s Hip Hoppers. There are stylistic differences between rap groups, and competition for students between dance crews. Hip Hop DJ’s are forced to compromise their personal music preference to please the unsupportive club owners they work for, and graffiti artists have to look for ways to commercialize their art in order to make a living. It is not that these struggles are singular to Kunming. Competition and financial pressures are issues faced by Hip Hop artists throughout the country, if not the world. But for Kunming, these struggles come without the different benefits that bigger and smaller cities can each offer. In Beijing and Shanghai, competition can often lead to recognition and already existing clubs, events and networks offer artists reliable opportunities. And in smaller cities like Shantou, the stresses of trying to make it as Hip Hop artist are shared, and thus somewhat assuaged, within the supportive, close-knit Hip Hop community.
However, the city is home a number of talented and unique artists, and these artists continue to stick with it in order to make a name for Hip Hop in Kunming. Recently there have been some positive steps forward. Uprock is a new club that opened up in March of 2008, with the goal of creating a space for good DJs and good music. Kunming-based DJ DSK, a former “battle DJ” in England who has been behind the decks in Asia for the past twelve years, is a manager at Uprock, which means that Hip Hop and Hip Hoppers will be welcomed with open arms. In addition, rap groups Co Op Sol and Green Clan have started to perform together and are testing the waters of a rap collective. As the Hip Hop scene grows, I believe that there will only be more interaction and collaboration between Kunming’s Hip Hoppers.
Click here to take a closer look at Kunming’s Hip Hop Community.
July 5, 2008
Over the past three weeks, we have been on the road in Shaanxi and Xinjiang Provinces and have gotten a little behind on the song of week. So this week you get a double dose and a little competition.
Many rappers in China lack the equipment, training and/or knowledge needed to make their own music. Some set up small studios in their homes or offices, but most work from personal computers. Consequently many rappers download beats off of the internet or rap over instrumentals. We have come across several songs that use the same instrumental but to different effect. So who flipped it best?
These two songs use the instrumentals from Tupac "Hit'em Up".
Chen Hao Ran "Hello Teacher" / "老师好"
Six City "6 Dolkun"
These two songs use the instrumentals from Scarface "My Block".
Chen Hao Ran "No Moni, No Friend"
No Fear "What Are You Doing?" / "你在干吗?"
June 26, 2008
Over the past few weeks I have been working with Ben Herson of Nomadic Wax to produce a Chinese Hip-Hop radio show. The show aired on June 17 and Ben reports it was a big hit at KEXP/WNYE. The show is still available online. Click here to go the imeem Music page. I think the show was a success and a huge step in the right direction. This kind of exposure is invaluable to helping Chinese artists promote their work. Many thanks to Ben for taking on this project and to all of the artists who participated.
June 19, 2008
Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Sue Williams a new documentary film about China has been released. The film is an intimate portrait of the new generation that is transforming the country. Shot over four years, the film follows a group of nine young Chinese from across the country as they scramble to keep pace with a society changing as fast as any in history. One of the individuals profiled is rapper Wang Xiaolei AKA MC Sir. Their stories of ambition and desire, exuberance, crime and corruption are interwoven with moments of heartache and despair—from a successful entrepreneur opening his first Internet cafe to a migrant worker torn between romantic love and duty to her family, from an up-and-coming rap artist trying to make it big to a public interest lawyer suing over a power line built for the Olympic games.
- Jessica Smith, Publicist, Interactive Media
As for documentaries about life in China today, Young & Restless in China is undoubtedly one of the most ambitious and comprehensive. The dreams of prosperity, stability and happiness created by economic development remain elusive for most people in China. The individuals in this film not only reveal that disparity, but also the common struggle to find meaning in an ever-changing society. The film aired on PBS on June 17 and you can also watch it online. Check out the Young & Restless in China website.
June 13, 2008
In introducing the Kunming based rappers Hu Xuan a.k.a MC Tang Ren Ti and Mike Medcalf a.k.a Mike Wind or The Medic, I think taking a look at their group’s name, or names, is a good start. They go by two names. In Chinese, they call themselves 邪作社, or “Xie Zuo She.” In English, they are Co Op Sol. In both languages the names highlight the idea of cooperation. Hu Xuan is from Kunming and Mike is from Cincinnati and the two have come together to create music that highlights their unique approach to rapping in different languages and also manages to showcase their stylistic similarities. The fact that all of their music is produced by Hu Xuan only adds to their originality.
Co Op Sol is at the forefront of Kunming’s Hip Hop scene, and with recent performances in both Guangzhou and Beijing, they are gaining popularity on a national scale. The fact that they are a multinational, multilingual group touches upon the somewhat complex questions about who is considered a “Chinese” Hip Hop artist, and also the importance of which languages are used in making Chinese Hip Hop. Through their unique personal voices, both Hu Xuan and Mike use their lyrics to touch upon some of these issues, as well as a variety of other interests and topics that run the gamut from the alien network, to Sacagawea, to both of them being kind of skinny. Take a closer look at 邪作社/Co Op Sol.
June 12, 2008
“One of the major obstacles to the growth of Chinese Hip Hop right now is too much beef, too much criticism and disrespect between people from different cities and even groups within cities.”
- African-American Hip Hop producer V, Xi’An
“I’m happy to see Hip Hop growing but I miss the early days when everyone would hang out together, rappers, Bboys, writers. There were only a few of us then but we were really close. Now the scene is so scattered.”
- Rapper and Visual Artists Song Wei, Kunming
“In Shantou all of the Hip Hoppers have good relationships. The rappers, writers, dancers, we’re all good friends.”
- Rapper Big Snake, Shantou
Part of Hip Hop’s power is its ability to build communities, to bring people together for a few hours or for a lifetime to appreciate and create art, music and dance. However, this potential to build also has the potential to break down. A culture as creative, ambitious and competitive as Hip Hop will also produce divisiveness. There are many ways to evaluate Hip Hop communities in China and we have often chosen to compare the dynamics of different cities. In large cities, like Shanghai and Beijing, the Hip Hop communities are the most vibrant and the most at odds. Artists clash over personal and artistic differences and form alliances in opposition to ohttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifther groups. In medium-sized cities with growing Hip Hop communities, like Kunming and Xi’An, close-knit groups are beginning to splinter as they compete with one another and struggle to maintain. However, in small cities like Shantou, the Hip Hop community remains cohesive and supportive. The idea remains that Hip Hop artists from all of the elements can work together and improve the collective lot. Shantou artists can hold onto this, perhaps idealistic, vision because their numbers are still very small. However, this sentiment is also underscored by the strong friendships between Shantou rappers, dancers, DJs and artists. Meet some of Shantou's Hip Hop artists. Only time will tell how the growth of Hip Hop in Shantou will affect the character of the community, but I believe that the cooperative spirit alive today is something all Hip Hop artists can learn from.
June 11, 2008
I have recently been engaged in a project to help an American DJ produce a Chinese Hip Hop program that will be broadcast in the coming weeks in New York and Seattle. I have been selecting songs that I think will well represent the current state of Hip Hop in China. Going through my catalogue made me think about what songs I would qualify as “classics” and why. Since most songs were released in the past ten years, I use the word “classic” to mean a very influential song, both aesthetically and for what it contributed to the growth of Hip Hop in China. This week I will share my first five selections.
#1 “Yellow Road” – by MC Webber
From Yin Tsang’s debut album “Serve the People” (2003), “Yellow Road” inspired many of China’s earliest Hip Hoppers to pursue rap. For many listeners this was the first time they would hear a Chinese rapper proudly claim, “I, too, am Hip Hop.”
#2 “I Feel Good” – by Sbazzo & Young Kin
Two of the hardest working MCs in China, Sbazzo and Young Kin helped introduce the mixtape. This was crucial for showing aspiring artists how to put out their work and make a name without institutional or financial support. This song comes from the “King of Beijing Mixtape” (2005).
#3 “No 1” – Hi Bomb
This song is arguably the most recognized Hip Hop song in China. Shanghai crew Hi-Bomb were the first Hip Hop crew to land a record deal with a multinational label (EMI). Released in 2004, their album was the first to bring Hip Hop to a mainstream audience.
#4 “Who Moved My Zhajiang Noodle?” – CMCB
The title track off of their 2003 album, this song is a CMCB favorite. Chinese MC Brothers (CMCB) is a Beijing rap-rock group that pushed the boundaries of Hip Hop and Rock & Roll with the creation of their unique sound.
#5 “460” – Dumdue
Exploding with pure creativity and originality, this song is from Guangzhou crew Dumdue’s 2006 album. This self-produced track showcases their lyrical and musical talents. Dumdue is at the fore of the alternative Hip Hop scene in China.
June 10, 2008
The word dakou (打口) will be mentioned several times in the upcoming video on the Shantou Hip Hop community. Shantou rapper Big Snake even claims that Shantou was home to China’s first dakou record store. Shantou does, in fact, have a reputation for being the best city for purchasing dakou albums. But what is a dakou record and what is its importance to the independent music scene in China?
During the 1990s, dakou records were the primary way in which Chinese youth learned about new music. One Chinese blogger claims that every Chinese person in pursuit of musical freedom listened to dakou records. Dakou records were surplus albums, produced mostly in the United States, that were supposed to be destroyed. The majority were burned or otherwise destroyed with chemicals. However, some were simply damaged by punching a hole in the corner of the CD. This prevented the entire album from being played and usually the last few songs were lost. The term dakou or “打口” means to make a hole. These CDs were transported to China, sometimes first passing through Japan or HK, and sold in dakou CD stores and black markets. (The question of whether or not selling dakou CDs is illegal is up for debate since the albums are garbage plastics and artists and companies would not have received revenues anyway.) From classical to Rock & Roll to folk to Hip Hop, dakou albums encompassed all genres of music and introduced Chinese listeners to new musical possibilities.
The first Chinese musicians to claim the word dakou were Rock & Roll artists in Beijing who were part of the Beijing New Sound Movement in the late 1980s. They used the term "dakou generation" to define the generation of musicians born between 1970 and 1985. The term "dakou youth" would later be used to characterize a type of lifestyle assumed by idle and disaffected urban youth also labeled “urban fringe”.
The sale of dakou albums in cities through China still abounds, though most CDs are no longer damaged. Besides the previously mentioned uses of the term, today dakou basically just means surplus CDs that are reintroduced to the Chinese market. You can even purchase dakou albums in bulk on websites like www.dakoumusic.com. While the Internet has supplanted dakou CDs as the most important means of accessing new music, dakou albums continue to influence Chinese youth in pursuit of musical freedom.
Click here for more information on the dakou generation and dakou records and Beijing Rock & Roll.
June 3, 2008
Brass Face "Forever Young"
This week’s song comes from Beijing MC Brass Face, the other half of hardcore rap duo Phoenix Cry. Easily recognized for his Twista-like flow and gritty voice, Brass Face is also a talented producer. His influences range from DMX to MC Solaar to Mongolian rap crew Vanquish. This self-produced track showcases both is lyrical prowess and production skills.
本周的歌来自北京说唱家Brass Face。他是另外 凤凰鸣 的团员。虽然
影响包括DMX, MC Solaar和蒙古的Vanquish。这首歌展示了他的说唱
May 25, 2008
Big Zoo & Green Clan: "Good Love"| "好爱"
This week’s song is a collaboration between Green Clan and Big Zoo. Green Clan is an up-and-coming Hip Hop collective in Kunming. Their crew has a dozen MCs, producers and beatboxers who are all passionate about making quality Hip Hop music. Formed by an original member of GUMBO, Kunming’s first rap group, Big Zoo is a Hip Hop crew in Chengdu. The two crews came together on “好爱” or “Good Love”, a cheerful, endearing love song.
本周的歌来自Green Clan和Big Zoo。Green Clan是个新出现的昆明
Hip Hop团体。他们有12多个说唱家, 制作家和口技家。他们都热爱Hip
原来的团员建立了成都的Big Zoo. 这两个团体合作这首个叫 “好爱”,
May 21, 2008
MC Yan with MC Yan toy
During our time in Guangdong province we had the opportunity to take a day trip to Hong Kong. In Hong Kong we met with Duncan Jepson (director of “Follow your heart.” For more, take a look at Angela’s previous post) as well as Hong Kong rapper and artist, MC Yan. MC Yan is former member of Hong Kong’s Lazy Mutha Fucka, or LMF, a Hip Hop crew active throughout the mid 90s to the early 00’s, making them one of the first Chinese Hip Hop groups. Though LMF disbanded in 2003, it continues to be regarded as one of most influential Chinese Hip Hop groups. Their provocative lyrics and attitudes set them apart from mainstream Canto-pop music and grabbed the attention of Chinese youth both in Hong Kong as well as Mainland China. Take a look at LMF’s music video for their song “大懒堂，” the group’s name in Chinese. MC Yan, with fake handlebar moustache and real pigtail braids, does the main rap verses.
So far, MC Yan is the only Hong Kong rapper that we have interviewed. With our project’s main focus being Mainland Chinese Hip Hop artists, trying to include Hong Kong’s Hip Hop scene, or similarly, the Taiwan Hip Hop scene, would in some ways take away from the unique themes and concerns that characterize each place. Though the “One Country, Two Systems” policy enacted in 1997 brought “Hong Kong home to China,” the vastly different social and political histories of the two places continue to make them feel like two completely different countries. Director Duncan Jepson explained his decision not to include Hong Kong in his film “Follow your heart” by pointing out that Hong Kong youth and Mainland Chinese youth face different issues in their exploration and development of Hip Hop culture. Access to Western music and culture came much earlier and much easier in Hong Kong than in Mainland China, having a major influence on how the respective Hip Hop scenes developed. Hong Kong’s Hip Hop scene came first, but at this point, Mainland Chinese Hip Hop is growing and developing at a much faster rate, similar to the Chinese economy.
In our visit to his studio, MC Yan gave us his personal take on the differences between Hong Kong and Mainland China’s Hip Hop scenes, shared his thoughts on current world issues that interest him, and gave us a look at some of his current projects. Post-LMF, MC Yan has a lot going on. From developing memory sticks as a new platform for releasing music, to making it into the Guiness Book of World Records for the world’s farthest tag (using L.A.S.E.R. technology developed by GRL), to developing his label “宁死不屈,” or “rather die than dishonor,” MC Yan’s is putting his personal motto of “keep being creative all the time” into action. Our visit to MC Yan’s studio reminded me how lucky I am to have this opportunity to meet such interesting and thought-provoking artists. Check out our visit with MC Yan.
May 20, 2008
On the morning of the 13th I woke up to an ominous message on a friend’s instant messenger. It simply said “Bless Angela and her friend”. Although my friend is a sweet person, I didn’t understand her sudden concern. I didn’t even have time to drop her a line before I received several text messages and emails asking if I was all right and if I had been affected by the earthquake. I was still in Kunming and hadn’t even heard about it. But by the end of the day, reports from domestic and international media agencies were already streaming in about the level of devastation and relief efforts already underway. The shock, sadness and sympathy felt by all after the earthquake, has turned many to action. People throughout China and the world have supported government relief efforts through donations and volunteering. Members of the Hip Hop community have also responded by organizing and participating in benefit concerts and donating proceeds from performances. If you would also like to help, the New York Times has compiled a list of organizations that are currently engaged in relief efforts.
As the nation continues to deal with this tragedy, every day there are more stories of suffering and loss, but also stories of hope. My heart goes out to everyone affected by the earthquake - survivors, families, relief personnel and volunteers. Bless them.
May 17, 2008
Co Op Sol: "The Work Song"
This week’s song comes from Kunming's Co Op Sol. Made up of American MC Mike Metcalfe and Kunming MC Hu Xuan, Co Op Sol has succeeded in creating amazing multilingual rap music. They experiment with the sounds and rhythms of English and Chinese to make their verses smooth and natural. Heavily influenced by Guangzhou’s Dumdue, Hu Xuan produces the group’s jazzy beats. Combined with Mike’s poetic lyricism, the result is soulful and cerebral songs like “The Work Song”.
本周的个来自昆明的邪作社。美国说唱家Mike Metcalfe和昆明说唱家Hu Xuan一起创造奇妙的多语种说唱。他们巧妙地结合英文和中文。结果是他们的歌又流畅又自然。广州的噔哚对Hu Xuan是很大的影响。他制作邪作社爵士性的音乐。再加上Mike诗意的歌词，结果是又灵魂又知识的歌，像 “The Work Song”。
May 6, 2008
FK Moses and Mogo.com.cn Cameraman
This week’s song comes from Beijing rapper FK Moses. He is one of China’s few hardcore rappers and his deep, resonant voice is perfect for this style. FK Moses has collaborated with rappers, vocalists and musicians from around the world. His latest project brought together 12 MCs from 12 different countries. This yet untitled track is a testament to the unifying power of Hip Hop.
April 29, 2008
In China, Shenzhen is somewhat of an anomaly. Unlike most other Chinese cities that can lay claim to a rich local history that goes back thousands of years, Shenzhen is a city that was created only about thirty years ago. Set up by former leader Deng Xiaoping, Shenzhen was China’s first Special Economic Zone (SEZ), meaning that economic laws are more liberal in Shenzhen than in the rest of the country in order to promote economic growth. Thirty years ago Shenzhen was a small fishing village, but today, Shenzhen is one of China’s fastest developing cities. Chinese people from all
travel to Shenzhen in order to find jobs and make money, and the majority of Shenzhen’s population come from other parts of the country.
And so what does this have to do with Chinese Hip Hop?
We had the opportunity to hear what native-Shenzhen rapper JR Fog had to say about his city and it’s Hip Hop development. JR Fog sees Shenzhen’s lack of traditional local culture as an advantage. In his opinion, Shenzhen isn’t held back by many of the traditional values that might be essential to Chinese cities with ancient history, values that might clash with a young and modern culture like Hip Hop. As a result, as Shenzhen’s population starts to get more settled, JR Fog looks forward to Shenzhen’s young people being the city’s first generation of “producers of culture.” It will be up to him and his peers to weave the cultural fabric, and he is excited.
When we were in Shenzhen we got the chance to see some examples of a vibrant youth culture. Our main focus was the Shenzhen Hip Hop Awards China, the perfect example of a group of young people using their own resources to put on an event to promote and spread their passion Hip Hop culture.
We also met a group of Shenzhen skateboarders who were proud to quote an international skateboarding magazine saying that Shenzhen was a “skate capital of the world, second only to Barcelona.” Who knew? They took us out to a couple of Shenzhen bars with great live music and laidback atmospheres, one being True Colors, a reggae-themed lounge with nightly DJ sets. In my opinion, Shenzhen has some of the best alternative nightlife in China – “alternative” meaning unlike the majority of Chinese bars and clubs which feature throbbing bass-heavy music, dice games, and watered down Chivas Regal. Which can be fun…if you have earplugs.
The night after our interview with the Hip Hop Awards organizers, the organizers brought us to a local Hip Hop dance competition. Most of the dancers were in High School and their raw excitement was infectious. They cheered for each other and joked around both in and out of the dance circle. It was clear that they were having a great time, getting the chance to showcase their moves and their own personal style. And for us, it was a chance to see some of Shenzhen’s next generation of Hip Hop lovers in their element. Take look at some of the night’s highlights!
April 28, 2008
When I tell people that I am researching Hip Hop, they often assume that I am strictly recording and examining the production of Hip Hop music. Though my main focus is on Hip Hop music, this project is anthropological in its design and methodology. In anthropology we like to talk about “subject positioning” of the researcher, which means analyzing how your gender, race, nationality, economic status, and other markers influence the ways in which you are being understood by study participants and how you are interpreting situations. So far on this project, one of the most critical identifiers has been gender.
In terms of methodology, being women in the field has given us a different level of access. Beyond the overwhelming hospitality to guests, I think we receive genuine feelings of affinity and trust. People are eager to help us and have faith that we have good intentions. These dynamics are defined by the fact that we are two young, female researchers interacting with mostly young, male artists. We like to joke that we are like Darla in The Little Rascals, the only girls in the boys club. As a result, I think in personal interactions we have avoided a lot of macho posturing common between males and, and endemic among Hip Hoppers. Though, of course, we are seeing behaviors tailored to our positions as female and foreign. We have also made a conscious effort to find female Hip Hop artists to see what kind of challenges they face and how they feel about being in the boys club.
In China today the majority of women in Hip Hop are dancers. Many studios organize crews that include Girls Hip Hop, New Jazz, or what is often just called “Sexy” Dance teams. Such studios include Shanghai’s Dragon Dance Studio, Wuhan’s Special King Crew, and Beijing’s Wujiawu Better Dance Family. There are also independent female dance crews like Beijing’s Spy Crew and Kunming’s KTS. This trend follows the general growth of Hip Hop in East Asia. From Japan to Korea to Laos, Hip Hop is often first popularized by dance. Consequently, the majority of all Hip Hoppers, male and female, are dancers. Many artists in China like DJ V-Nutz and MC Webber started as dancers then went on to other arts. In addition, the majority of roles played by women in music videos, Hip Hop movies, and other media are of dancers and models. This fixes a male gaze on Hip Hop and dance allows women to fit into normalized roles to be sexy and attractive. This is not to say that being a dancer does not present its own challenges or that it is seen as an acceptable hobby or occupation in China, but to clarify that there is more encouragement to become a dancer.
However, beyond dance, women are already staking their claim to Chinese Hip Hop history. One of China’s most acclaimed writers is a woman named SIC from Guangzhou and DJ Yuki from Tianjin is paving the way for female turntablists. Many women also work behind the scenes as managers, promoters and event organizers. Women are also sources of motivation as dedicated fans, friends, and mothers. (In Shantou, the mother of the leader of Keep On Hip Hop Studio was very active in her sons Hip Hop career and business. She was essentially the crew Mom and spent hours at the studio cleaning up, talking with the kids, and even cooking huge dinners. The kids at the studio loved her and she made them feel like a big family.) There are also several solo female rap artists and female artists in rap crews.
The challenges faced by female MCs in China are many, and undoubtedly similar to those faced by women in Hip Hop around the world. To be an MC you have to be able to pick up the mic and command respect and attention from an audience that will be scrutinizing what you say and how you say it. You are also operating in a creative community of predominantly males, which can be lonesome and frustrating. Though many say having a woman in a crew makes her the highlight and is attractive, it also carries a (perhaps unwanted) responsibility to represent all women. Fortunately, none of the women we interviewed felt pressured by being one of few female rappers and felt they were treated the same as male crew members and friends.
Whenever you talk about female rappers, I think you have to talk about representation. One of the reasons I fell in love with Hip Hop was because I was seeing women on television and hearing women on the radio that I felt represented me. One of my very first Hip Hop albums was a bootleg tape of Salt N Pepa “Very Necessary” and my sister and I would learn the verses and pretend to be Salt, Pepa, and Spin. I would rap along with every Lil Kim album that came out, which was probably traumatizing for my mom since I was only about 12, and debate about who was the better first lady of the crew Rah Digga of Flipmode or Eve of Ruff Ryders. (Still have to go with Rah Digga, Flipmode is the squad.) As a Black woman in America, I loved these women who were not only making music I was into but also representing an element of my life experience. Of course, they were not representing a complete image of Black female life but I won’t get into a discussion of bitches/queens stereotyping. Though I clearly did not become a rapper, I had played the part enough that the idea existed in the realm of possibilities and I always thought it was normal for a woman to rap. In terms of received global Hip Hop images from abroad, I question, when Chinese girls see female rappers on TV, movies and in the media, what, if anything, are they relating to? How do female artists from abroad also represent them? How is any encouragement gained from seeing the few women with global distribution like Missy Elliott and Lauryn Hill affected by the deluge of male-centered Hip Hop images? There are no female rappers in the mainstream music industry in Mainland China and no underground artists with national distribution aside from the Internet. So who are young girls in China looking up to and rapping along with? Who represents them?
We got to meet several rappers holding it down for women in Hip Hop. Aken is an artist in Shanghai who has been rapping for five years. She is now teaching rap at New Idol Arts School, a school that produced many of Shanghai’s earliest Hip Hoppers. ALion is an artist from Shantou’s AFinger Crew and is the youngest female MC profiled. TZ Jane is a singer and rapper from Wuhan’s No Fear Family. Dai Bao Jing is an artist from Guangzhou crew Uranus and is definitely one of China’s best rappers. Check out what these ladies have to say about their own Hip Hop careers and women in Chinese Hip Hop.