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Chinese Rap Wrap: Rising Star Lexie Liu Stuns Mainstream TV

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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

Lexie Liu has been at the center of attention recently after bringing “Manta,” a single from her latest EP Meta Ego, onto the stage of popular Hunan TV variety show Singer. Although she didn’t make it further on the show, her cool and futuristic appearance and reinvented music style made her stand out from the other pop singers on the program, most of whom seem to be competing to see who can hit the highest pitch.

Audiences and music critics alike have expressed their love for Lexie’s performance and her trendy musical concept. According to her intro on music streaming site NetEase, she has turned down an invitation from an American label, and built up her own independent studio, Nixie Music. For more on the rising star, check out our interview with Lexie Liu here.

Boom bap duo Green Soldier from Tianjin, dropped their first mixtape Hip-Hop Utopia last week. One of the members, V.O.B, previously won the championship at the Tianjin portion of 8Mile Underground Rap Battle, and went on Rap of China last year. The other of the two, Double C, has long been an old-school hip hop lover, and posts West Coast-style freestyles on Weibo now and then. Their mixtape aims to “bring you back to NYC in the ’90s’,” and has been endorsed by AR, Fox, OG Nasty Ray, as well as Beijing boom bap crew Drop Science and producer XXLOKI, who are also featured on the tape.

New Chinese Rap Releases of Note

South Korean rapper and producer Dok2, who was one of the judges of popular hip hop talent show Show Me The Money (producers of which once accused The Rap of China of plagiarism), has collaborated with a few Chinese rappers, including Tizzy T and PG One/Wang Hao. On Feburary 18, he and Korean-American rapper-singer Jessi/Ho Hyun Joo featured on a new track with Sichuanese rappers Wang Yitai and VaVa called “Life Is Beautiful”.

The track was produced between China, South Korea and the US, and according to the artists is made for spreading positivity and love, and for supporting Wuhan and all the people suffering from the coronavirus outbreak.

J-Fever has dropped a new album, Dai Shang Erji Jiu Kanjian Le (See It When You Put On The Headphones). The ten freestyle tracks feature more samplings from real life, full of metaphor and whimsy as always, and even some ASMR-ish mumblings. The album is so experimental that it’s received polarized reviews on Douban.

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Veteran Nanjing rapper MC Guang has never held back from his straightforward lyrical approach. He dropped a new single, “Blind Man,” criticizing the fact that public information has not been transparent enough, causing tragedy and chaos in the wake of the Covid-19 emergency. “I’m like a blind man who can only see what you want me to see. How could you have made those fabricated and distorted words?”

Chinese Rap in the Mainstream

After various supposed “bans” and controversies, it seems that more rappers are getting back on the mainstream stage now. On Hunan TV’s Lantern Festival Gala, DamnShine from Changsha-based crew C-Block performed his latest track, “Wu Yan (Roof),” along with hosts Wang Han and Ma Ke.

Wild Wolf Disco” rapper Gem continues to enjoy popularity on mainstream platforms. After he brought his new anti-coronavirus song “Chu Zheng (Expedition)” to CCTV’s Lantern Festival Gala on February 8, he made his debut as one of three mentors on a new music variety show, Zhejiang TV’s Xin Sheng Qing Zhi Jiao. On the show, 15 groups of college students from Tsinghua University, Peking University, China Conservatory of Music, Berklee College of Music, and more will present their musical talent, following the mentors’ instruction.

Here’s “Chu Zheng”:

As we reported in the last Rap Wrap, allegations of copyright infringement against Gem stirred up a storm earlier this month. The actual, legal charge against Gem’s use of the beat on “Ye Lang Disco” came from Maxima Pictures, the exclusive copyright publisher in the Greater China area for the beat “More Sun,” and not from the original producer of the beat, Ihaksi, as was previously believed.

After netizens went to apologize to the Finnish musician or to defend Gem on different platforms, Ihaksi himself responded to the claim by stating that he was never part of the allegation or lawsuit against Gem, and that his previous video was taken only as proof that he was the producer of the track, fulfilling a request from the publisher. Ihaksi also confirmed that all the leasing licenses are still valid, including the one Gem purchased, and he “kind of hope that we could just leave this case behind and maybe even do a collab track” with Gem.

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The next question is whether there is still legal controversy between Gem and Maxima on the usage of the track, and if the latter will officially sue the former. But for netizens, the storm seems to be gone already.

New Competitions and Labels

Ding Fei, one of the original members of former Xi’an rap crew HHH (then GDLF Music, and now aka 404 RAPPER), announced that he will put together an online rap competition at the beginning of April, to support fellow rappers whose income from live performances will likely be affected by the current Covid-19 outbreak throughout China.

The first-place winner will be awarded 1 million RMB, and the top 100 in the first round will all receive cash rewards, according to Ding’s interview with hip hop WeChat account Xiao Qiang Shu Shu. The official organizer, 404 RAPPER, will also donate 300,000RMB to medical professionals in the name of Chinese rappers.

As most rappers, producers, and listeners are still staying at home as much as possible in the hopes of avoiding the coronavirus, Xi’an-based underground competition organizer 8Mile launched an online “Bedroom Music Festival” on February 4. The organizer edited together some highlights from previous offline competitions, hoping “brothers and sisters can experience the happiness of the live vibe while you’re lying on your bed.”

Related:

Amidst Coronavirus Lockdown, Musicians in China Livestream the Party

Meanwhile, Che Che, the director of Rap of China and VP of the video streaming platform iQIYI, announced that he is establishing a music label run by himself and iQIYI, called BK Store, and is now recruiting talent. According to Che’s Weibo posts, BK Store is looking for pop, rap and rock musicians, as well as photographers, illustrators and graffiti artists, with just one requirement: being born after 1995.

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