This article is part of RADII’s deep dive on the history of rap in China. Find our two-part historical overview in the following links: Part 1 (1993-2009); Part 2 (2010-2019).
What would a hip hop scene be without a corral of major beefs? While the 2017 debut of The Rap of China arguably broke the dam to make hip hop a topic of national conversation, rap in China has a much longer history — and comes studded with some legendary beefs.
Here are some of the biggest bust-ups and dirtiest disses from China’s underground hip hop scene.
In 2007, Taiwanese rapper Dwagie (大支; aka Zeng Guanrong) kicked off a major musical conflict, which was given an extra edge by its cross-Strait dimension.
After a fight erupted on the basketball court during a “friendly game” between the Jiangsu Dragons (from the Mainland) and Taiwan Beer (yes, that’s the team name) in 2007, Dwagie took to the mic to fan the flames. At least 15 rappers from Mainland China returned fire, including TJF (天津饭) from Tianjin, D-Evil’s MC Guangguang (光光), MC Pharaoh from Gansu, Soft Lipa (蛋堡) and GorDoN (国蛋) from KAOINC, and Shenzhen rapper LaceDoll (later aka Angel Mo). The resulting diss battle remains one of the fiercest witnessed thus far in the Mandarin rap world.
GAI’s 2015 single “Gangsta” (超社会), in which he raps about the young mafia life in Sichuan dialect, brought him huge success in underground circles, and even extended his fame across the Strait to Taiwan. But this “gangsta” image was unsurprisingly at odds with the ruling Communist Party’s vision for China, and the track has subsequently been taken down from the Chinese internet.
GAI himself has avoided discussing his “gangsta” credentials since his rapid rise on season one of The Rap of China, and has even gone full-on nationalist in the hopes of warding off criticism from the powers that be.
Rap beef memes from Feb 2017
But let’s go back to February 2017, a few months before Rap of China‘s first season began airing. Nanjing-based rapper MC Guang opened fire on “gangsta” GAI via Weibo, spitting:
“Study more, and pretend to be gangsta less. But it doesn’t matter if you make a track for less educated people — after all, a lot of rappers don’t even graduate from middle school.”
GAI reacted, and the beef began. MC Guang’s former D-Devil crew mate Jony-J — who cracked the Top 4 in season one of Rap of China, and who maintains a personal conflict with GAI to this day — jumped in, as did Xi’an-based crew HHH and Chengdu-based CDC, who both backed MC Guang.
When Rap of China finally aired that summer — and especially when GAI and PG One from HHH competed for the championship in August, bringing the simmering beef to their widely-viewed performances — the war between GAI and HHH/CDC leveled up. Members of HHH (K9999, MC BEIBEI, PG One, BrAnT.B, Mai) and CDC (Higher Brothers) posted diss tracks and direct words to GAI on WeChat, Weibo, and even some livestreaming platforms.
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At the end of 2017, another beef started with Fack of Sup Music, the label of Changsha-based crew C-BLOCK. Fack, a friend of GAI’s, mocked Chengdu rapper T$P, who was backed by CDC on Weibo. C-BLOCK’s Kungfu Pen then released a T$P diss track, also taking the opportunity to accuse Higher Brothers of rocking fake Rolexes. Unsurprisingly, Higher Brothers fired back with fresh ammo.
Higher Brothers diss tracks from Dec 2017
More crews and rappers joined in, choosing their side over the next few days:This battle of Changsha vs Chengdu rappers eventually morphed into a beef between the two cities, with local graffiti artists picking up their weapons to add a visual dimension to the fight:
Changsha graffiti artist Kong (KSF) takes a shot at Higher Brothers’ Masiwei
Chengdu artist how chill returns fire with CDC graffiti in downtown Changsha
But almost as soon as it started, the epic Chengdu/Changsha beef came to an end around the same time as 2017 did, with the main protagonists calling for peace:
It can’t be easy to manage a talent competition full of rappers, a group of people who are specifically gifted at vocalizing criticism. Naturally, the breakout success of The Rap of China has also generated a slew of beefs, and even a series of “Rap of China Diss Mixtapes,” giving voice to dozens of internet rappers who were dissatisfied with the show and its production.
A Rap of China diss track playlist on streaming site NetEase
On one such mix that included tracks from MC Guang, BlowFever, and many others in the midst of season one, the diss that attracted the most attention was a track by Chengdu rapper Ty. (pictured up top). He expressed his attitude clearly in his Rap of China audition, when one of the judges, Zhang Zhenyue, looked reluctant to give him a pass. Ty., always ready for a battle, released two songs in a row aimed at Zhang, but Zhang, technically a pop-rocker, didn’t fire back and the beef faded away.
Not to worry — season two brought plenty more controversy and beefs. As the lightning rod for criticism of the show, lead judge Kris Wu had the guts to stand up and diss half of the underground hip hop scene (the other half stood with him) after an unedited clip of his live vocal performance was posted on the online sports forum HUPU.
The leaked clip caused underground rappers to question — once again — Wu’s credibility as a self-described “Young OG.” But Wu responded, using his platform on the show to fire back:
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Beefs are an inherent part of hip hop, and diss rounds will continue as long as rappers continue to value keeping it real. It’s a crucial part of the culture, and though it might get edited out of mainstream TV shows in China, to hip hop lovers a good beef is often the realest stage for rappers to show off their flow and lyrical ability — long may they continue.
Learn more about the history of rap in China here:
The History of Rap in China, Part 1: Early Roots and Iron Mics (1993-2009)
The History of Rap in China, Part 2: Hip Hop Goes Mainstream (2010-2019)
Cover photo: Ty.’s “Bro Yue Not Type Only”
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