August 16, 2008

Skateboarding and Hip Hop

To quote Mike Wind, a rapper of Kunming’s Co Op Sol who grew up in Hong Kong and was part the local skate culture, “I wouldn’t say the connection between skateboarding and Hip Hop is the defining connection. Because there’s all different kinds of stuff going on.” The musical tastes of skaters often vary, from Metal, to Rock, to Punk, to Hip Hop, and sometimes this can cause music-based splits in their social scene. What Hip Hop and Skate culture do have in common is that they both tend to fall under the more general term of “Street Culture,” or in Mandarin, jietou wenhua. Both skate culture and Hip Hop culture continue to grow in popularity among Chinese youth, but they have had to struggle to carve out a niche for themselves in the Chinese market. These struggles are mostly due to negative stigmas that characterize skateboarding, Hip Hop and other elements of Street Culture (such as Street Ball and BMX biking), as “rebellious,” “crude,” “meaningless,” and something that “young trouble-makers” engage in. Click here to read Jonathan Chow’s article on the development of skateboarding in China.

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.


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