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The Chinese Rap Wrap: Yunnanese Cyphers, Dwyane Wade Tributes, and Higher Brothers Worldwide

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Chinese Rap Wrap is a bi-weekly RADII column that focuses on the Chinese hip hop scene, underground or in the mainstream.

Chinese Rappers to Watch

Shanghai OG Cee has been pretty active since an experimental collaboration with musician Yehaiyahan on EP Five last year (in which they used the concept of five elements that traditional Chinese medicine believes the world consists of (metal, wood, water, fire and earth) with five different beatmakers’ works). This year, Cee has featured in singer-songwriter Akin’s “G.O.A.T” and also paired with the Kazakh soul artist on White Castle-themed track “Run Away”.

He’s also worked on Chengdu G-funk/disco rapper Xia Zhiyu’s recently-dropped album California Dream and young Guangzhou talent AR’s all-star remixed “Rhyme Song” from the latter’s latest album:

Now, Cee is aiming to unite Shanghai hip hop scene with fellow local rapper Keyso, starting off with a collab single “Shang” (watch below), while his track “Parrot or Not” was also in major music streaming site NetEase’s recently-released original Chinese rap collection Nineteen which aims to “represent the highest level of Chinese rap.” It’s looking like 2019 could be a big year for the Bamboo Crew rapper.

Elsewhere, a new rap crew from Yunnan province called Dian Sheng Qi dropped their 2019 crew cypher at the end of last month. In the music video, the Kunming rappers spit bars in the local dialect (something rarely heard before) over old-school beats while showing off their local street-life style.

New Chinese Rap Releases of Note

Xi’an-based rapper Nine One, who signed with Beijing hip hop label WR/OC and performed at SXSW this year, released her latest pop rap album Dear X yesterday (April 15). She’s also slated to take part in this year’s Rap of China.

Xinjiang rapper BooM went to watch Dwyane Wade’s last NBA game in Miami last week, and dropped a tribute single “D-Wade” soon afterwards in honor of the 13-time All-Star basketball player. The single also announced that BooM has signed with MDSK, the hip-hop label of Modern Sky, and he therefore appear at May’s Strawberry Music Festival in Shanghai (run by the label) this year.

Chinese Hip Hop Overseas

Chengdu gangsta rapper, and artist responsible for that “Stupid Foreigner” track, Fat Shady (aka Boss X)’s has been on tour in NYC and LA of late, taking Xi’an battle king PACT, Chengdu supernova 3Ho (Wang Yitai), and former HHH member BrAnT.B with him. Besides being invited to visit the Empire State Building and the new headquarters of Billboard, Boss X, Wang Yitai and PACT also guested and even freestyled in Mandarin and Sichuanese dialect in the NYC hip-hop radio interview program Sway In The Morning:

China’s most famous rap export Higher Brothers (pictured up top) are currently on their world tour “Wish You Rich”, which started off with five domestic dates last month. The rap crew was also interviewed by Chinese State media outlet CCTV’s international arm CGTV, which could be seen as an official recognition of the quartet’s worldwide success.

Nanjing rapper Jony J, who came in 4th place in the first season of Rap of China in 2017, is also getting ready for a world tour in 2019, which will start off in New York City on May 16 before heading to Los Angeles on May 23.

Chinese Rap in the Mainstream

Unfortunately, 8 Mile Underground, one of the biggest freestyle rap battle events of recent years, was cancelled in the middle of last month just a few days after it launched its latest rounds. As the organizer H. explained in a video posted on Weibo, “Freestyle battle per se is not in accordance with the current content permission for national cultural performance censorship.”

Meanwhile, Listen Up, the self-declared “military school of the Chinese rap scene”, has been filming in Shenzhen and Shanghai lately, eliminating 17 rappers in each city to get a top 3 who will go to the national finale. Urumqi, Beijing, and Taipei will also feature in their talent search. Although there is little space for battle rappers to show their freestyle skill on the Listen Up stage, the rap performance contest has so far survived in this year’s even-more-strict censoring environment. The judges still consist of OGs including Cee, Max from Xinjiang, Sun Xu from Beijing Dragon Well, AP Manchuker and Dream Walker/ ZionP from Taiwan.

Related:

With OG Judges and a Focus on the Music, “Listen Up” Showcases the Real Rap of China

Beef of the Week

The biggest beef in the Chinese hip hop scene in March was between Hefei-based emo/pop punk/metal/alternative rap crew Indigo Children and Xi’an-based new wave (think Lil Yachty, Playboi Carti, XXXTentacion) rap crew Sugar Boiz.

No one seems especially sure how this diss deluge started in the first place, but the two sides spent much of the month releasing diss tracks on streaming site NetEase mocking each other’s unfashionable tastes as well as music skills. The beef ended peacefully, but it brought enough attention to the Sugar Boiz crew for member Lu Qi to score a collab with Boss X. Their track, called “KeLiMaCa”, saw the two make a bouncy mix of Sichuanese dialect and Shaanxi dialect that will linger in your mind for days.

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

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