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Cacien is China’s Garlica Princess, Whom We Can’t Help But Love

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When we talk to Cacien, she’s in New York City, taking a break from her applied psychology degree at NYU to work on music videos for her upcoming album, Garlica Princess.

She’s also preparing to return to China to refocus on her music career. By the time this story goes online, she will have flown back to Shanghai. (She is, in fact, under lockdown with the rest of the city now, creating content and making music.)

Cacien Garlica Princess

Cacien in NYC, sporting swag bright enough to wake up the dead

Cacien has done a lot over the past couple of years, from appearing on the female-focused hip hop talent show Girls Like Us (黑怕女孩) to signing with 88rising, all while bouncing back and forth between China and New York.

When asked about her studies, she says, “It’s like, when people tell you not to put all your eggs in one basket, and I was like, maybe I shouldn’t risk it, maybe I shouldn’t only do music.”

IB psychology, the systematic study of behavior and mental processes, intrigued her in high school. Nevertheless, she confesses, “But I would say music is my passion, and psychology is just like the thing that I’m interested in knowing about.”

Her final decision to pursue her passion in music grew out of a fear of ‘wasting her time.’ “Because I think the timing is really important for an artist’s growth,” she mulls. “Especially right after the reality show. I just feel like, maybe I should just go back (to China).”

Cacien garlica princess

‘Boring’ is nonexistent in Cacien’s fashion vocabulary

Tencent’s rap variety show Girls Like Us was the first of its kind. It shone the spotlight on rising names in Chinese hip hop, including Jinx, under the mentorship of big-name stars like Masiwei, Jackson Wang, Yico Zeng, and Vinida Weng.

“There had never been a hip hop show for girls, and then that showed up,” she says. “So I wanted to try it out. I’d also never been on a reality show, so that was a good experience. I think people were a bit disappointed that it didn’t blow up, but, overall, the experience was good, and I learned a lot.”

When asked about her personal growth during the show’s filming, she answers candidly, “The show helped me realize how unique I am, my persona and my music. I always knew that I was unique, but I didn’t realize to what extent until then.”

The experience also led to her recognizing her leadership qualities, as she was encouraged to step forward as the leader of the team called ‘Different Spice’ (不同辣).

“It was really fun being a leader and telling other people what to do. I loved the feeling of being in control,” she admits with a giggle.

Cacien’s initial forays into music were joining a choir and listening to lots of pop, especially One Direction, as a teenager. The first led to her participating in the World Choir Games in Latvia, while the second influenced her decision to apply to a middle school in central Shenzhen, specifically for its well-reputed music program.

Choir tunes and pop are certainly a far cry from the kind of music that she creates today, which takes cues from hip hop, RnB, and jazz.

After graduating from high school in Australia and before beginning her next chapter in New York, she spent half a year on the road. This was an influential period of her life that involved exploring Europe, being introduced to Taiwanese RnB musician 9M88 by a Tinder date in Hong Kong, and meeting a pair of rappers at a club, with whom she would begin collaborating.

“I took part in the writing, but a lot of the lyrics were written by another rapper, because at the time, I didn’t know how to rap or write lyrics for a rap song,” she admits. “Those songs needed to be fierce, and I was just an innocent 18-year-old girl or whatever.”

Nevertheless, it marked her first involvement with making hip hop music.

Cacien garlica princess

Cacien looking pretty in pink

Listening to music by Leo Wang and 9M88 had a significant impact on the music that Cacien wanted to make. “The combination of jazz and hip hop is so cool,” she says. “And I kind of got my heart broken at the time, so I thought, ‘let me write a jazz-hip hop song.’”

The resulting track, titled ‘兄弟我玩不起你的游戏’ or ‘Bro, I can’t play your games,’ is a fun and honest admission about heartbreak and feels almost like a diary entry — an approach she has continued using through the years.

Her most recent single, ‘Do Whatever,’ shares a similar sense of honesty, as she states how she chooses to live with lyrics like, “Drеssing sassy hearing people talking shit bout my zhuangban (装扮, ‘look’),” and, “What I wear is really none of your business.”

Throughout our talk, we learn that this attitude forms a central part of Cacien’s persona. Her very moniker, Garlica Princess, sums up her take on herself:

“It’s smelly, but people like it. That’s kind of like me.”

“I love to dress myself up, and when I walk on the street, because of the colors [of my outfits], a lot of people are like, ‘what the fuck?’ and when I post my street runway content on Douyin, there always seems to be a lot of controversy.”

Now that she’s back in China, Cacien is prepared to fully focus on her music career. With her new album Garlica Princess set to drop soon and having signed up for the variety show Rap for Youth, she’s likely to make a statement, both musically and stylistically.

All images courtesy of Cacien

Bryan Grogan
Bryan is RADII's former culture editor. He is a Shanghai-based writer and editor with an interest in culture stories with a social bent. He once correctly guessed all 151 original Pokemon in seven minutes for an online quiz. He also correctly guessed all 100 second generation Pokemon in eight minutes for an online quiz.
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