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

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Just when you thought The Rap of China was all done, here we are with some more R!CH-related coverage. But this time it’s to do with season one co-champ GAI, who has dropped his debut album and premiered a new film in the space of one week.

In August, we reported that GAI was set to star in the first Chinese rap film 爆裂说唱 Burst Rap which is produced by the studio of Bao Beier, a comedic actor and now director whose Fat Buddies has been in theaters in China since late September. The film also has involvement from Hippo Films, Tencent Pictures, and Maoyan Culture Media along with iQIYI (of course), who are due to stream the movie on their platform this weekend.

The rap-themed film’s other leading actor is Plan B (aka Xu Sheng’en), a contestant in this year’s Rap of China who made it through the 60-second elimination round (but not much further) and finished in the top 20 in another hit iQIYI show Idol Producer earlier this year, a program which aimed to manufacture a K-pop-like boy group in China.

Burst Rap film GAI

In the trailer, we can see both rappers being confronted with family crises and other difficulties while trying to chase their hip-hop dreams. In the end, it seems, they both get on a rap battle stage to seize the only opportunity for public recognition. Sound familiar? It appears that Burst Rap will follow a fairly similar story arc to 8-Mile but with GAI’s Sichuanese flow in place of Eminem’s bars. Less “mom’s spaghetti” and more “mom’s shui zhu yu” perhaps.

Ironically, GAI used to harshly criticize BTS-like K-pop group trainees when he appeared on last year’s Rap of China. What words he will use to battle against Plan B in the film? We will find it out when the full film rolls out on iQIYI this weekend. Update: Burst Rap is online here.

Meanwhile the theme song “Generations of Glory” (光宗耀祖, literally “To Glorify Ancestors”) is also the name of GAI’s first album which was officially released on QQ Music, Kugou.com and Kuwo.cn on October 10. The 9 collected songs, is produced by Door & Key Music, continue GAI’s lyrical style and musical sense full of Chinese characteristics that we’ve seen in previous efforts such as “Great Wall”:

“Rap of China” Champion GAI’s New Music Video is a Desperate Attempt to Make Censors Happy

Besides “Great Wall,” there’s “Yuan Zhou Lv” (π), in which he brags about his quickly-accumulated fortune with his G$SH little bro Bridge dancing alongside, “Hong Qi Car” (Hong Qi, or “Red Flag”, being a famous Chinese car brand established in 1958 and beloved of Party officials), and “I Love Wang Siran,” a direct love song for his newly-married wife.

Apparently GAI is pretty satisfied with his current riches: “There’s no one that is worth my diss, especially in the rap scene,” he recently stated in a video interview posted to Weibo. “So no matter what mean and sarcastic words they throw out against me is… I just know [where I stand] when I take a look at my bank account.”

GAI Burst Rap

Asked about rappers mocking him in underground battles, he reacted, “I don’t care. Your songs can only exist down there. You can never get on the stage where I stood yesterday, neither can you be the news headlines. There are different social classes – which I didn’t believe in the past, but now I do.”

It’s definitely a good thing to see a talented underground rapper like GAI come into the mainstream and to now be followed by 4.82 million fans on Weibo (far more than his R!CH mentor MC Hotdog), so that he can pursue a much better quality of life. But judging by the flows on his first studio album, the “musician and singer” (as he describes himself in his Weibo bio) might still need to work hard and polish his future creations instead of relying on repeating similar rhymes and nearly monotonous ideas.

More background on GAI:

GAI Returns with “Endless Flow” After Being Banned from Chinese TV

Rapper GAI Abruptly Removed from Reality Show Following Reported New Hip-Hop Ban

Two Champions, Two Paths: PG One Apologizes for “Improper” Old Songs While GAI Enters the Mainstream

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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