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 26, 2008
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