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Chinese Rap Wrap: Jay Chou Wins Epic Beef Without Saying a Word

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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 Rapper to Watch: AR

AR, aka Liu Fuyang, is manager of All That Records and a member of Guangzhou rap crew CHEE. The 25-year-old rapper has been performing on stage since age 14, and received public recognition early on when he won third place on the national finale of CCTV-produced talent show Sing My Song in 2016. Last summer, his diss track against Kris Wu went viral, showing his unparalleled wordplay skill and sense of flow.

And now, his latest record Xiaoyuan Yu Yan Gushi (Fables on Campus) — and its well-attended national release tour — have proven the young rapper’s popularity among music lovers throughout China, no small feat for a truly underground rapper.

AR recently dropped a new track, “NetEase vs QQ Music” (the names of China’s two major music streaming platforms; listen above) based on his friend’s real experience. On the track, AR raps about intellectual property issues that a lot of independent musicians encounter yet only a few comprehend and are able to deal with properly.

Related:

China Explained: How Tencent Came to Dominate Music Streaming in China

As the most important music distribution platforms in China, NetEase and QQ Music are an essential part of any indie musician’s career — but for individual artists, the streaming platforms are too huge to negotiate with, and compared with Western platforms like Spotify or Apple Music, there is less transparency about the streaming data that form the basis of payment.

New Chinese Rap Releases of Note

“I copied everybody, and everything you said was correct.” Shanghai rapper GALI dropped a new single, “70%,” in which he sarcastically addresses dozens of established rappers and crews that he allegedly “ripped off” — in reality, he’s criticizing the increasingly common phenomenon of rappers accusing other rappers of being copycats over social media, when most of the time it’s usually just a case of two artists having slightly similar flows or rhymes — which is inevitable. The video for “70%” has been reposted by quite a few rappers on Chinese social media.

Six veteran rappers and contestants on the current season of Rap of China recently dropped a cypher called “Dou Dizhu (Fighting Landlords).” Wordplay masters Kafe Hu from M_DSK, Kigga from Xi’an crew Nous, JD from Beijing-based label Seven Gurus, Kungfu Pen and Key from Changsha crew C-Block, and their former crewmate Sio rapped about their attitudes toward the iQIYI variety show and fakers in the industry. All of these certified underground OGs made it onto Rap of China‘s third season, and two of them — Sio and Key — are still in the running. But it seems that the relatively mainstream, commercial world of the show hasn’t pulled them away from their underground roots.

Chinese Rap in the Mainstream

It’s been announced that Taiwanese director Tom Lin (Lin Shuyu) will make a biographical film about legendary rapper Shawn Sung, entitled Life’s a Struggle. Born in Taiwan, Sung moved to the US as a teen, got sent to prison (allegedly framed for blackmail by his friends), and died of cancer at the age of 24. His posthumously released track “Life’s a Struggle” encouraged and inspired generations of Chinese-language rappers.

On July 19, a few hours before the latest episode of Rap of China aired, Kris Wu released a new music video for his recent hit track, “Da Wan Kuanmian (Big Bowl Wide Noodles),” which won him respect inside and outside the hip hop scene. In the down-to-earth video, Kris filmed more than a hundred ordinary Chinese people from different service industries, such as food delivery guys, construction workers, taxi drivers, street food stand owners, and, of course, a noodle chef.

Related:

Yin: Kris Wu Turns Humiliating Noodle Freestyle Into Studio Masterpiece

On the show, Kris Wu won first place in a tables-turned judge competition with the live version of “Da Wan Kuanmian,” while G.E.M won joint second place with “Ms. Chabuduo,” an adaptation of MC Hotdog’s “Mr. Chabuduo” (chabuduo roughly translates to “good enough” — not great, not terrible).

Beefs: Pop OG Jay Chou Pitted Against Newly Minted Idol

A “war” — some might even say a “movement” — over internet traffic took place last weekend, when microblogging platform Weibo broke its all-time traffic record. This was due to a clash between fans of Jay Chou, the most successful Chinese R&B/pop singer (and arguably the first mumble rapper), and Cai Xukun, 21-year-old, recently-made idol and leader of boy group NINE PERCENT. Cai’s star was born on 2018 iQIYI show Idol Producer, and he’s become Weibo’s “biggest traffic driver” thanks to a legion of dedicated fans.

Related:

Idol Hands: How China’s Super Fan Groups Make and Break Stars Via the Multi-Million Dollar “Fan Economy”

The beef started when a young fan questioned Jay Chou’s popularity on Douban with a post entitled, “Everyone says Jay Chou is so popular that it’s so hard to buy his concert tickets, but why have I never seen him on any influence rankings on social media?”

The answer is obvious: back in Jay Chou’s heyday, a pop star didn’t need fans to consistently vote, comment, and post related content on social media to prove popularity (or market value). Nevertheless, millions of older fans — those born in the ’80s and early ’90s — were offended by the post. They took it as a call to arms, swarming Weibo to defeat Cai’s internet army and install Jay Chou at the top of the platform’s “Weekly Celebrity Influence Chart,” where Chou remains at this writing.

Besides maybe MC Hotdog, Jay Chou has been the biggest single influence on Chinese rap with his countless rap/R&B tracks, such as “Shuang Jie Gun (Nunchuks),” “Yi Fu Zhi Ming (In The Name of Father),” and “Wei Lian Gu Bao (William’s Castle).” Many rappers have shouted him out in their songs, and in the heat of this new battle, posted Jay Chou-related topics on Weibo to show support. Rappers rallying for #TeamJay include After Journey, Tizzy T, PACT, Wang Yitai, Psy P from Higher Brothers, Watch Me, KeyNG, Nine One, and more.

The beef ended with Cai Xukun’s fans announcing that they were quitting chart-topping fights. Throughout the whole thing, Jay Chou never gave a public reaction — he doesn’t even have a Weibo account.

Related:

3 of China’s Biggest Ever Rap Beefs

Freestyle battle 8 Mile officially took the “Underground” off its name recently, and announced that it would transform from an old-school, real-world battle format to an online competition among beatmakers and rappers. The newly renamed “8 Mile Rap Music Game 2019-2020” will start with a competition among beatmakers judged by five experienced producers: Mai, ATYANG, Cloud, Kass, and SDOUND. Via a newly-launched 8 Mile app, beatmakers and rappers will be able to upload their work and compete virtually — meanwhile, the audience will vote on the same platform.

Last up: Saber, a member of boom-bap crew Dungeon Beijing, has signed to M_DSK, the hip hop imprint of major music label Modern Sky. Saber has been a regular on the program of Modern Sky’s nationwide chain of music festivals for a while.

Related:

Beijing Rapper Saber on the Hip Hop Wave, and “Rap of China” from the Inside

In an official announcement released on July 17, Saber claimed that he wants to try something new, and make a career breakthrough. Presumably we’ll hear Saber break away from his hardcore roots and try a more diverse style before long.

Cover: © Starstock | Dreamstime.com

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