July 6, 2008

Kunming's Hip Hop Community

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.


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