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Chinese Rap Wrap: Iron Mic, Road Safety Raps, and the Tibetan-Born Answer to XXXTentacion

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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 Rappers to Watch

Although Xi’an trap crew GDLF Music (fka HHH) unexpectedly disbanded in August, its members haven’t drifted apart. In fact, on top of their “Gan Yi Piao Best Rapper Game” and after the luxurious wedding of crew leader K9999/Danko/404Rapper, where the whole crew showed up, GDLF/HHH’s members have announced that they will regularly release new tracks starting this month.

Sure enough, K9999 has already dropped three solo tracks — “I Need Somebody,” “JU” and “Golden Lady” — as well as quite a few collaborations since November 1. He and one of the other HHH co-founders, K Killa, just dropped their latest, “From NYC To Paris,” which was made four years ago but never publicly released.

K9999 has also recently released a collab with Higher Brothers’ DZ Know and PSY.P, “HANGSHI,” and “Ni Shua Bu Lai (You Can’t Do It),” a collab with Melo and Know Know, in which the two Higher Brothers claim, “our brand sells two million+ RMB in one day.” After this bit of flexing, K9999 reacts to the doubt surrounding his crew’s breakdown, saying “our popularity has never gone away.” The former HHH chief is also featured in Shanghai rapper KOZAY’s recent rack, “Da Wo Dianhua (Call Me).”

Surprisingly, all of these tracks were dropped on NetEase and QQ Music, streaming platforms that had previously taken down all of HHH/GDLF’s music. After several years of drama, it seems that we can still expect to hear more from these veteran Chinese hip hop trendsetters.

Sena, a 25-year-old rapper/livestreamer who first became known online in 2012 by covering some of Taiwanese rapper MC Hotdog’s classic tracks, has now attracted nearly one million followers after making it onto the first season of Rap of China. Known for her wacky, sharp but cute lyrics and rapping style, she finally dropped her first original EP on November 10.

Yi Ke Wu Li Tou‘s eight tracks present the inner world of the brave, optimistic (and apparently alcoholic) girl, as well as her confusion and struggles over the past few years. Her stage name in Chinese may have already given us a hint of her life motto: Da Xiao (“Big Laugh”).

New Chinese Rap Releases of Note

The most famous “new blood” to recently emerge in the Chinese hip hop scene is definitely XXXL, aka Han Hong, a well-known pop singer who was born in Tibet and has been active in the Chinese music industry for over two decades. She’s never hidden her love of XXXTentacion’s music in her posts on streaming site NetEase, and based on the public playlists she’s created there, she’s also a big fan of Tupac, Drake, Pharaoh and Young13Dbaby.

XXXL did a collab with Beijing rapper J-Fever in 2018 as a small trial in hip hop music, and her official debut single, “Wo Bushi Nimen Shuo De AKA Han Fei (I Ain’t AKA Silly&Fat Like You Said)” dropped a few days ago. As opposed to the type of songs she used to sing — usually with themes like nature, her hometown, or the Qinghai-Tibet Railway — the new rap single is all about her personal feelings and her resistance against verbal violence on the internet. No matter how many rap tracks XXXL may drop in the future, there’s no doubt that she’s already become an influential Chinese hip hop lover and promoter through her curated playlists.

Sichuan rapper Jello Rio made a hit melodic love song, “Xing Qiu Zhui Luo,” with AIR during last year’s Rap of China, that’s been all over China and TikTok since it dropped. Although he didn’t make it further in the show after that collab, his music keeps improving. Ahead of his EP release later this month, Jello and OTTNO label-mate A$en dropped an R&B track called “Berry” on November 15. The new song attracted Shanghai rapper (and fellow former Rap of China contestant) BlowFever, Cream D, M03, SuperDeep xXx, Ranzer, and dozens of other artists to remix and work with Jello.

Chinese Rap Underground

The 18th Iron Mic freestyle battle will kick off on December 6. China’s longest-running rap battle will travel to four cities for the regional contest this year: Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan and Changsha.

Earlier this month, a much smaller rap competition, RichKids, was held in Chengdu, sponsored by GoodVibesOnly Music. The final judges were beatmaker Harikiri, along with musicians Cloud Wang and Q Luv.

Selling Out for Singles’ Day?

We’ve reported on how a few rock bands have seen commercial success in recent months, following their appearance on iQIYI reality show The Big Band over the summer. Some Chinese rappers are also winning favor from big corporations. Higher Brothers appeared in a recent promotional video for Intel laptops, while Tizzy T endorsed the Dell esport laptop for the Singles’ Day shopping craze on November 11.

As for Gem, the northeastern rapper behind one of the year’s biggest hit songs, even rewrote a special version of his super hit “Ye Lang Disco” for ride-hailing app DiDi, which came complete with a “gesture dance” to remind passengers to always fasten their seat belts during a ride.

Cover photo: Sina Weibo

More Chinese Rap Wrap:

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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