Rapper PG One’s 2018 is off to a rocky start. A paparazzi exposed some videos of well-known, married actress Li Xiaolu staying overnight at PG One’s place on December 31, and four days later, the Communist Youth League criticized the lyrics of one of his old tracks. Though Li Xiaolu, her husband (actor Jia Nailiang), her good friend Ma Su (also an actress), and PG One himself have all posted statements of innocence, discussions and arguments have raged on across the Chinese internet, grabbing the public’s attention for longer than the normal entertainment news cycle.

In fact, the more PG One’s fans have defended him or even (sometimes radically) overreacted to criticism against him, the more people on the other side have gotten angry and expressed negative feelings about the Rap of China co-champion.

On Zhihu, the Chinese equivalent of Quora, several trending questions related to PG One have popped up since January 1, including Why has PG One slipped from rising star to someone being sneered at by the whole country?, Why do we see PG One’s Christmas Night being criticized by the Youth League and HHH pulling the song from all online platforms?, and How do Chinese people see black hip-hop influence on PG One’s lyrics?.

Zhihu user Han Di brought up an interview with Jay Chou, China’s first R&B/rap superstar, in which Chou says that his songs are all about not doing drugs and caring for your parents, subjects different from “typical” American hip-hop music. By contrast, Han Di argues, drugs and sex are implied in PG One’s lyrics. An anonymous user listed 27 “sins” of PG One and his fans.

On Weibo, fans are fighting back with more force, and the battles are more intense. Back in September, Weibo user “zopiclone girl” posted pictures from PG One’s Momo account (a Chinese dating app), which showed the rapper with marijuana, a substance illegal in China. The Weibo user’s personal information was later found by PG One’s fans, and she was the subject of concerted online attacks.

More recently, the Weibo account of news site People.cn reposted Jay Chou’s interview — the same one circulated by Han Di on Zhihu:

Tower of Violet Light (紫光阁) — a magazine published by the central government, and also a place where government officials meet foreign guests, whose name sounds like the name of a Chinese restaurant — followed in the steps of the Youth League, posting and harshly criticizing the lyrics in question.

Zi Guang Ge (Tower of Violet Light)

However, in PG One’s fans’ eyes, the title “Tower of Violet Light” was misunderstood online as the name of a restaurant. A group of his fans planned to get revenge by throwing a couple of cockroaches into the fictional “restaurant,” and supported a campaign on ecommerce site Taobao to make “gutter oil of the Tower of Violet Light” a trending search topic on Weibo. Xinhua News sarcastically posted the fans’ group chat, along with a criticism of one of PG One’s earlier songs.

Xinhua News post

Incidentally, #gutter oil of Tower of Violet Light# is currently one of the hottest topics on Weibo, and one of the biggest jokes of 2018 so far.

These fans’ defenses didn’t help their idol dodge the scandal: PG One’s performance as part of a Rap of China tour stop in Changsha got cancelled due to “force majeure” (link in Chinese):

According to Social Network and Data Digging, a professional data statistics account on Weibo, back when Rap of China aired last summer, the keywords representing netizen impressions of PG One were “like”, “hardworking” and “awesome”:

Now, his word cloud is dominated by “bad character”, “brainless fans” and “affairs”:

The young rapper has been silent for days now — and it seems that the Golden Globes distracted netizens a bit yesterday. Let’s see whether PG One, the fallen superstar, will rise again with better and “correct” Chinese hip-hop.