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Chinese Rap Wrap: AR Puts Clout Rappers on Blast with “Pop Rap”

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Chinese Rap Wrap is a bi-weekly RADII column that focuses on the Chinese hip hop scene, featuring the freshest talents, hottest new tracks, and biggest beefs from the world of Chinese rap.

Chinese Rappers to Watch

AR’s second album, Pop Rap, dropped on November 30. As a hardcore hip hop music nerd, and probably one of the most respected underground rappers in China right now, AR “wants to explore how to make high-quality ‘Chinese pop rap,’ and to discuss its status quo” via this album, as the rapper said on Weibo. To this end, AR experiments with different styles in “Ri Chang Lian Xi (Daily Exercise),” “Pop Rap,” “Trap Talk,” and “Self Portrait,” putting down real talk via a lot of homophonic wordplay, as is his style.

On top of six solo tracks, the album also features collabs with rappers who either did great in Rap of China or made popular songs before, all of whom are good at melodic rapping. As AR broke it down on Weibo: Rap of China breakout FOX compares his mindset before and after the show on“Forever Young”; Ice Paper tells of sleepless nights on “Long Night”; DamnShine raps about bringing a “disappeared lover” back home on “Way Back”; and AIR discusses how income made from music changes one’s original intentions with me on “Money.”

A further question might be: are variety shows like Rap of China the only way up for Chinese rappers? AR has openly dissed Kris Wu, and has consistently brought up issues haunting the industry from a wider perspective. On Pop Rap he speaks about “what is self-made, and how to make tracks with quality and what people really want to hear.” Here are some lines so you can have a sample:

“Chasing that clout won’t get you anywhere / Bro listen, bring the hip hop back / If you wanna hear pop rap / Don’t worry, here’s some / Let me lower the difficulty / To make you understand [Salvador] Dali / I gotta be Andy Warhol first” – “Intro”

“Just sing Chinese like it’s English / Then add some bad English in the Chinese bars / They’re made for foreigners so it doesn’t matter / Only in this tone can it break through / Please tell me why you have beef / For attention / For hot topics / For internet traffic / For popularity / Or you do have some problems?” – “Pop Rap”

“Money can change your destiny overnight / Money can confuse you without any explanation / Money can make your mindset sly / Money can make the elite imitate gorillas and play with Pinyin” – “Money”

Meanwhile, veteran Inner Mongolian rapper and tatooist Kigga, from the Xi’an crew NOUS Underground, dropped his second album Black Chip on November 29. Although his crew is famous for slowly releasing quality tracks, KIGGA apparently didn’t want to hold back his latest work for too long. Combing boom-bap, G-Funk, Gospel and Trap, and featuring with his crew mates PACT, Killa4nia, and Dirty Twins, KIGGA’s ten tracks on Black Chip prove that his music is much more than simply “Old School.” “Everyone gets different chips and deals from his fate, and we just play our own cards,” the official introduction states. The album was produced by two-time Iron Mic champion PACT, and recorded by No.4 Music.

New Chinese Rap Releases of Note

Beijing rapper Liu Yue, aka SPAM (Specially Processed Assorted Music), from local hardcore crew Dungeon Beijing, released a film-like music video for “Kan Shi Jian (Watching Time),” a track off his October debut, Fu Shou Kang Ning. The rapper has sold luxury watches for 11 years, and therefore has witnessed quite a few real stories about romantic relationships, families and corruption. The track was taken down on NetEase soon after the music video dropped, for some reason.

A collab between two Chengdu young talents Y.O.U.N.G and PO8 — “Jiu Yao Zhe Yang Shua (Just Play Like This)” — came out on December 1. Y.O.U.N.G has frequently featured on tracks by former CDC members like Deng Dianguo and Lil Shin, while PO8 just dropped a Howie Lee remix. The two young bloods’ new track presents a new trend in Chengdu: on top of flexing trap and acting like gangsters, they display a more sophisticated flow and honed lyrics in the Sichuan dialect.

Yin: Electronic Producer Howie Lee Taps Deep Bench of Talent for Remix Album

Chinese Rap in the Mainstream

The Starter Hip Hop Award ceremony took place in Shenzhen on November 23. Rap stars including VaVa, PACT, Wang Yitai, Vinida, FOX, and AIR showed up and performed. Although the organizer was backed by more powerful partners, apparently the award itself still needs to increase its influence and attract more attention. Hopefully Chinese hip hop artists will have their own “BET Awards” before long.

Gem/Dong Baoshi’s “Ye Lang Disco” is still in fashion. Recently, he was invited on the opening episode of the fourth season of hit standup comedy show Roast. In Gem’s part, he jokes about how his northeastern vaporwave track is too popular, and has been covered by so many people that he is not sure if it’s still his work. On the show he was joined by the main guest, popular Taobao shopping livestreaming host Li Jiaqi, who sells millions RMB of cosmetics within seconds every day.

The track also — finally! — has an official music video:

And it just got the classical Chinese music makeover treatment, cementing its place in 2019 folklore:

GAI came back to the center of attention online with “You Kong Yi Qi Chi Fan (Grab Food Together When You Have Time),” a collaboration with rock band New Pants at the Strawberry Music Festival in Guangzhou. Wow… but not really surprising, as New Pants was one of the main benefactors of iQIYI show The Big Band this year. We can definitely imagine a better crossover of rap and rock.

In Other News: Rap of China Memes and Wannabe Big Bang Star Gets Slammed

Some memes from this year’s Rap of China have gone viral, among which the first and the most known was “Ayo Zai Ni Tou Shang Bao Kou (Slam on your head).” The rapper who said it in the first place was 19-year-old Wang Haoxuan from Chongqing. In the audition, he wore a dramatic fur coat and jumped up and down, attracting some attention and showing an obvious inspiration from contestants on Korean hip hop show Show Me The Money, the original on which Rap of China is based. Although he didn’t make it any further on the show, the young guy hasn’t stopped stirring up the scene since his audition.

Wang dropped a new track with a not-bad-looking music video a few days ago, entitled “W-dragon” (think G-Dragon, the leader of major K-pop group Big Bang, who is just now coming back from military service). The music is terrible and so embarrassing that I won’t link to it here, but some fellow Chinese rappers couldn’t stand it so much that they had to speak up. Buzzy Sun from the very online Walking Dead crew fired shots against Wang in a comment to the latter’s original post, and Yunnan rapper Jiang Yunsheng has tried to engage him in an offline battle. Rather than share the hot garbage that is “W-dragon,” here’s a recent (far superior) Walking Dead cypher to play us out:

More Chinese Rap Wrap:

Chinese Rap Wrap: Iron Mic, Road Safety Raps, and the Tibetan-Born Answer to XXXTentacion

Chinese Rap Wrap: Beijing OG Sbazzo Returns, AR & VaVa Tease New Albums

Fan Shuhong
    Shuhong (aka Rita) is a language instructor, English/Chinese translator, writer, and proud bunny owner based in Beijing. She's previously worked in Washington D.C. and IUP at Tsinghua University. She loves Chinese language, Japanese arts, post-rock music and good English TV series. Instagram: rita_van