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Chinese Rap Wrap: The HHH Era Ends with a Shocking, Livestreamed Scandal

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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 Crews to Watch (/Mourn For)

Xi’an rap crew HHH became widely known among newly-made Chinese hip hop fans after one of its members, PG One, became co-champion of the first season of Rap of China in 2017. The crew has also long courted controversy for its crazy fans, and constant beef between PG One’s fans and those of another HHH member, talented battle rapper MC Bei Bei. Within the last two years, HHH completed a sold-out US tour with big indie label Modern Sky; successfully sued Modern Sky to get out of a three-album contract; and survived numerous PG One scandals and the departure of another key member, BrAnT.B. Earlier this year, HHH changed its name to GDLF Music, hoping for a new start.

But the drama never ceases where this group is concerned. While in the middle of a national GDLF Music tour and the production of a new crew album, MC Bei Bei/Bae (above, on the left) hurt himself — chopped off his own right pinky finger, in fact — in a livestream early on the morning of August 6. According to the rapper, this act of self-mutilation was meant to prove his innocence with regard to rumors of sexual misconduct and verbal abuse between him and a fan.

MC Bei Bei flouts his amputated pinky on social media (photo: The Beijing News)

His actions shocked the whole Chinese hip hop community, and soon jumped to the top of the hot search topic list on social media site Weibo. Musicians and fans immediately became worried that such a graphic display would lead to another “hip hop ban” from displeased authorities, though for the moment State media ire over the issue seems to have been targeted at livestreaming platforms.

GDLF Music was quick to run damage control after the shocking display, announcing later on August 6 that the crew would formally disband. In a statement posted to Weibo, the group wrote:

We announce that we will immediately disband. We feel so sorry about the bad influence that we’ve made, we cannot do anything to make up for or deal with it, and we are concerned about something more extreme happening as [the situation] develops… For friends who care about [MC Bei Bei], please don’t worry. We will always be with him while he is healing, physically and mentally, until he has recovered. We hope everyone can stay away from internet violence, and care for the psychological health of the ones on your side. It was our oversight, and it made a bad impact. We hope this tragedy will never happen to anyone else.

Related:

“Rap of China” star BrAnT B Goes Solo as His Former Crew Beefs with Label Modern Sky

HHH was originally founded in 2011 by K9999, Ding Fei, Spider/Mercy, and over the next several years added MC Bei Bei, AZ, PG One, BrAnT.B, and more. The era of HHH might have officially ended today, but a better future for each member is hopefully only beginning.

Also on August 6: an up-and-coming crew called Walking Dead (or, sometimes, WalkinDad to avoid the name being censored) started releasing tracks from its first studio album, Woken Day. The crew, which was founded in 2016, showcases members with diverse styles, including Pharaoh (probably the most hardcore Chinese rapper in the game), “diss king” Buzzy Sun, Long Qi, and Real; producers Viito, XXLOKI, and He Xian Wen Lu Xian; newly-joined Chengdu rapper JarStick; and Pissy from adamantly pro-Communist Party Chengdu crew CD REV.

The crew also includes two contestants on the current season of Rap of China: UCLA graduate Key NG, and Fox, whose lyrics often reference traditional Chinese culture. Walking Dead frequently make it onto Weibo’s “hot search” rankings, most recently due to fake news about the crew breaking up — a rumor started by the crew members themselves.

New Chinese Rap Releases of Note

Although all of the female contestants on the new season of Rap of China were eliminated as of two weeks ago (and many thought the last woman standing, Miko, who made it to the final 16, was robbed), four female rappers dropped a cypher track, “Mei Li Huo Chui (Beautiful Fire Hammer).” The name is a combination of the rappers’ names in Chinese; check out the cypher from Guangzhou rappers HAMY and Rocket, OuO from Hong Kong, and Cente from Sichuan above.

Miko also dropped a new, post-Rap of China single called “Me” to talk about what she went through inside and outside of the show (listen above).

When Rap of China started promoting “punchline” as this season’s keyword — perhaps hoping that it would go viral like 2017’s “freestyle” and last year’s “skr” — Guangzhou rapper AR of the label All That Records (and a longtime critic of Rap of China) posed the question to his Weibo followers: “Do you want me to make a track that talks about what a punchline is?” Well, here it is.

Following a recent track tearing into exploitation of artists by music streaming services — which I covered in the last Chinese Rap Wrap — on “Punchline No.1” AR demonstrates his talent for witty puns, works in jokes about recent news such as the Jay Chou vs. Cai Xukun beef, references groups competing on iQIYI reality show The Big Band, and shouts out Straight Fire Gang, Cee, Buzzy, Key NG and AR’s own crew CHEE, proving himself once again to be both a wordplay master and a responsible, thoughtful artist.

“Speaking of attitude, it’s more like ‘the winter of the rapper’ now,” he says at one point. But the very existence of rappers like AR is a reason to remain optimistic.

Another important yet mysterious rapper, Kindergarten Killer, the king of diss kings, also dropped a track out of the blue recently. “Art of Rhyme” serves as a good model for what Chinese rap could be. People still talk about how the Chinese language is not suitable for rapping, due to its tonal system and relatively complicated vowels, but in my humble opinion these factors offer more possibilities for creating different rhymes and flows as compared to English. Kindergarten Killer showcases this on his latest track.

And, speaking of Rap of China season 1 co-champions: the gangster-like GAI is back. Again. Chinese rap’s “big brother,” who has been one of the genre’s mainstream faces in the country since his 2017 win on Rap of China, dropped a new music video of him flexing with his little brothers from Chongqing crew GO$H.

Chinese Rap in the Mainstream

The recently reformatted 8 Mile Rap Music Game 2019-2020 is underway. Since the beatmaker competition started on their official 8 Mile app, there have been over 2,000 beats uploaded on the platform by more than 500 producers. Registration for contestants for the rap portion of the contest began on August 5. The rapper contestants will pick up beats from the platform, make their songs, then be judged by veteran rappers. The top eight rappers from each city will have an offline competition for the title of city champion, and in the end each city’s winner will scramble to become the grand champion of 8 Mile 2019.

Related:

Has Controversial Rapper GAI Made China’s “8 Mile”?

“We even anticipate that there will be works like ‘Lose Yourself’ that can influence generations of people — this is the ultimate goal of this year’s 8 Mile,” said founder Ye Nan in a promotional video. Although it’s a bummer that we have to wait a while for the competition to enter its intense freestyle battle phase, the online competition might be better suited to providing what the hip hop scene needs most right now, according to Ye Nan, who says the initial online competition format will improve the quality of the music being made.

And Finally…

It’s not rare to see contestants dissing Rap of China, whether it’s for “keeping it real” purposes or because they’re sick of post-production edits that make them look bad. But when one of the show’s high-profile judges — OG Taiwanese rappper MC Hotdog — publicly criticized the show’s production team on Weibo, it immediately became a trending topic.

Hotdog accused the show’s editors of making his team look boring, showing them hard at work in the recording studio in a recent episode while other judges’ teams were shown eating hotpot and going to KTV (karaoke). “From those details we can see that the production team treats us really… Well, never mind, we are just speechless about a lot of things,” the veteran rapper wrote on Weibo.

A few hours later, he made another post clarifying that his earlier post was not meant as a diss, and that his team did have a team-building hangout as well, at a bowling alley. “No matter what, we have been a team of brothers for three years… They are really doing something for hip hop, and making the [rap] environment better, and I absolutely understand and support! … The hot topic search thing is hurting my coolness, and I hope all the turmoil ends now.”

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