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Chinese Rap Wrap: Cosplay Rap Becomes a Thing as Higher Brothers Get Embroiled in an Almighty Beef

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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.

New Chinese Rap Releases of Note 

Young Hefei-based cloud rap trio Indigo Children are producing their first official album — and the first track from it dropped recently. The crew’s output is never predictable, featuring dark and heavy elements both in their diverse musical style and in their sometimes philosophical lyrics. In this case, the new track “Bullet Rain” also sees JD (national champion of rap contest Listen Up) contributing some hardcore verses over a beat from Shanghai-based producer FlyingJacuzzi:

Established Changsha rapper Damnshine from the renowned C-Block crew dropped new single “I’m Not A Rapper” on March 8. He criticizes the rappers who love showing off, (verbally) attacking each other, or selling their souls to commercialism. Damnshine was one of the stars of last year’s Rap of China reality show.

LA-based Chengdu rappers Fat Shady and Lil Castle, labelmates on NO.4 Music, have dropped the music video for a collab entitled “Fendi Facts,” a song that originally came out last year. It’s been quite a while since last time we heard from Fat Shady aka BO$$ X, a controversial figure who’s previously worked with Snoop Dogg and claimed an upcoming collaboration with Eminem

Higher Brothers Get Caught Up in the Biggest Beef of the Year So Far 

There are a lot of beefs happening in Chinese hip hop recently for some reason, and the biggest one is between two rappers who both were born after 2000. 

Lil Jet received national recognition after getting on Tencent Video’s variety show The Coming One, but with the spotlight has come scrutiny and his ex has recently set about unveiling a series of scandals about him. Xi’an rising rapper Capper who made into the final 20 in last year’s Rap of China — publicly fired on him, and received support from fellow rappers VOB, Melo and Double Zhuo.

Before long, the two young rappers were swapping diss tracks against each other (Capper even filmed a full-on music video to go with his diss track “Exit” — watch above), and more established rappers got involved. 

Elsewhere, veteran hardcore rap crew Deformed Boi dropped a track “Prince Charming” after Masiwei’s album with the same title dropped, which was viewed as a diss against Higher Brothers. Capper got involved in this beef too, thanks to his status as a bro of the Bros who frequently collabs with the group. Another major group 7Gurus also dropped Capper diss tracks, along with T-Bobby, GXT, and Wu Sheng, before 7Gurus’ Gibb-Z turned his fire on the Higher Brothers themselves, especially Melo.   

In response, Melo dropped a freestyle video on March 16, to “remind ourselves that we should spend more time on our works, and keep working really hard, otherwise we will be slapped on face.” 7Gurus’ ICE, a rap star from Rap of China 2018, also posted a “BOOMBAP FREESTYLE” the day after. 

Capper himself then dropped a collab “Saye” with YOUNG13DBABY from Chengdu, who is also close to Higher Brothers on March 15. Whether Capper set out to use the beef to promote the new track or it was pure coincidence, he’s certainly attracted a lot of attention in recent weeks. 

Nanjing-based OG MC Guang summed things up after all the drama: “Beef is part of hip hop culture, but is definitely not the most valuable part. 2Pac, Nas all have classic diss tracks, but they are not respected and remembered because of those tracks.” 

Chinese Rap in the Mainstream 

We previously reported that popular rapper Jony J was due to be the rap mentor on the second season of iQIYI’s idol-making variety show Youth With You, which is now underway and garnering huge amounts of attention on Chinese social media (helped along by the presence of Blackpink’s Lisa and SHE’s Ella among the other mentors). Rap has unexpectedly become a hot theme on the girl-group-making show. Xi’an young crew Lazy Air/All In member NINEONE (crew mate of Capper), and Guangdong former Rap of China contestant He Meiyan are set to be picked as part of the new K-pop-like idol group that will emerge from the series.

And one of the most-discussed moments of the show so far has also involved rap, albeit in bizarre fashion (jump to 0:45, if you dare): 

Meanwhile, Hunan TV started airing their new music talent show Women De Yuedui ”Our Band” last weekend, where NO.4 Music mates, veteran Xi’an rapper PACT and young Chengdu rap star Wang Yitai/3Ho, surprisingly showed up with their new tracks “CEO” and “Jie Jiao Jie Zao” taken from albums that came out last year. 

And Finally: Challengers to Rap of China’s Crown?

Besides underground rap competition Listen Up turning into a talent show with support from Hunan TV, iQIYI’s Rap of China will face several all-new competitors for summer holiday ratings this year. The Gen-Z-focused video platform Bilibili is currently recruiting contestants for their first ever original rap program. Few details have emerged about the new show so far, but it’s clear they are looking for some young blood aged 18-24.

In addition, Kuaishou, the other major short video sharing platform in China besides TikTok, is in the midst of attracting investment for their proposed rap competition. The contest will be held in the summer, and there are sections for individual rappers and rap crews.

Related:

Video Streaming Platforms and Reality Shows are Rapidly Changing China’s Music Industry

While The Rap of China just announced that the first round of stadium auditions for the new season will take place soon, apparently a number of RoC contestants have received notice that they can only take part in the show exclusively, perhaps unsurprisingly given the increased competition.

No matter how many Chinese rap-centric shows we can eventually watch this year, it’s definitely a good thing to see more platforms appearing for otherwise unknown Chinese talents. 

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