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.
After being pushed back from its originally-scheduled release of Valentine’s Day, Masiwei’s first solo album Prince Charming finally dropped on February 28. The title from the fairytale usually translates to “White Horse Prince” in Chinese language, but the prominent Higher Brothers rapper changed it to “Dark Horse Prince,” which not only makes sense in the context of 7 of the album’s 18 tracks being out-and-out love songs, but also reveals another theme of the record — working hard, chasing dreams, and finally surprising everyone as a dark horse. It’s also a play-on-words of sorts with his own name, the “ma” of Masiwei being the Chinese character for horse (马).
On the love song side, well Masiwei is so in love (Congrats!). From the official music video of “Prince Charming,” to “Can I Have Your Number” and “Crush On You” featuring step.jad, as well as the quite sexy “Bathtub,” we hear it.
On the more conscious tip, Masiwei also shares his experience of struggle in pursuit of his music dream, and encourages those who are frustrated in “Day Dream,” “Successful,” “Go,” and “The World Is Yours.” Especially at the end of “Go,” a recording of his dad saying over the phone, “You are a grown-up, and your mind is mature now. I don’t worry about you anymore,” makes it very personal and feel-good. Generally speaking, Masiwei’s flow — arguably the strongest of any of the Higher Bros — doesn’t fail, and the album is musically diverse and worth a listen.
However, many hip hop commentators and his fans have still expressed disappointment regarding Prince Charming. Hopes were raised by a promotional video at the beginning of last month, “Masiwei vs Chinese Rap.” In the first half of the film, featuring Masiwei recording at a studio, the rapper shouts out “Big L, Big Pun, Biggie and Pac,” and resurrects his “O.G Skippy” moniker, which was the name he previously used when doing boombap and making mixtapes in his home studio. In the second half, he transitions to the trap sound that he’s been doing more recently and has helped bring Higher Brothers their success.
In the video, Masiwei claimed that, “Prince Charming will be the most badass Chinese rap album,” but apparently many feel the album hasn’t lived up to the hype. Flexing tracks like “Chengdu,” “P Town” and “Taker” may cheer youths at clubs or parties, and may sound trendy to American listners as well, but fans who had put their faith in Masiwei’s lyrical and rapping ability expected more.
He explained a bit about the flexing tracks in a livestream to promote the record, saying that he doesn’t necessarily agree with the lifestyle, but just wants young people playing it when dressing up and hanging out. “The most important thing about making music is to deliver and to amplify different emotions,” he said. “In the end, I wanna tell people you gotta work hard and get what you want.”
Masiwei definitely worked hard and got what he wanted. Our question is: is this all he wants from hip hop music?
High profile Chongqing-based crew GO$H dropped their full-member (and multilingual) cypher for 2020 this week, “Zang Bang Zi (Dirty Squad).” Established rappers from Rap of China including Bridge, GAI, Turbo, WatchMe and L4WUDU all showed up, along with Xi Jie, OG Rolly, Eye, and the only female member REGI. The cold and heavy 808 beat adds some cool to the track, as does the music video:
XZT from young rising rap trio Straight Fire Gang dropped “Jing Zi (Mirror)” on February 21, a song supporting people in Wuhan who are still suffering from Covid-19 and its fall out, as well as criticizing the problems revealed by this catastrophe: “How many lies unfolded at this moment? How many truths meet at this moment? How much greatness collapses at this moment? How much happiness broke into pieces?”
XZT’s track was taken down from Chinese steaming service NetEase, then put back after he negotiated with the platform and muted the word “official” in some of the lyrics.
A similar problem was encountered by rapper JD from Beijing crew 7 Gurus. His track “Should I Say I Love You” couldn’t be streamed on NetEase because his lyrics brought up questions about the coronavirus outbreak and especially the treatment of doctor Li Wenliang. Although both tracks are now up on the platform, their lyrics feature numerous “sensitive words” and lines replaced with ***.
Elsewhere, C.Jam from the old school crew Dungeon Beijing did a collab with German brass band MOZAH, appropriately named “Berlin To Beijing.” It’s definitely an interesting mix of brass instrumentation and Beijing dialect. The video also sees the German crew rapping on the Great Wall and in the Chinese capital’s hutong alleyways.
A proposal document for this year’s Rap of China was “leaked” a week ago. According to the source, the variety show and rap contest may turn into a regional battle between major crews that are based in different cities, including CDC Crew (not related to the US’s Center for Disease Control), GO$H, Nous from Xi’an, Freeout from Nanjing, Walking Dead from Shanghai, Dungeon Beijing, and more. The move could be an attempt to build on the beefs and rivalries that injected some much-needed energy into last year’s show run.
Chinese Rap Wrap: Off-Screen Beefs Sizzle as Rap of China S03 Exceeds Expectations
On top of this change, former K-pop superstar and American rapper Jay Park may join the show as one of the judges alongside Kris Wu.
We highlight our top stories each week in an email newsletter that goes out every Monday - hot, fresh, and straight to your inbox.
Don't worry, we don't spam