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Meet The Rap of China’s New Hip-Hop Hopefuls

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Auditions for the new season of The Rap of China are currently being held around the world. At the same time as the American portion of the talent search is being judged by Migos, Kris Wu and MC Jin, five national contests and campus tryouts have identified quite a few “qualified” rappers within China. Music platforms like music.163.com and QQ Music are also opening up the search process to the online masses.

Migos on the judging couch (Weibo)

According to China Entertainment Net (link in Chinese), over ten thousand people have signed up for the contest domestically and overseas. Compared to last year, when contestants numbered in the hundreds, it seems the expectations are set much higher for the series’ second run.

We’ve seen some familiar faces in the contest pictures so far, including rappers Vinida and Mansuk, who are signed to Modern Sky hip-hop sub-label M_DSK; Shanghai-based, American-born Chinese rapper Al Rocco, who took part in last year’s contest but was eliminated due to his Chinese rapping skill; and recent K-Pop rising stars 岳岳PINKRAY and 徐圣恩Plan B. We’ve also seen a few amateur rappers emerge so far, including BRB, a high school student who dropped out of his gaokao (college entrance exam) studies to concentrate on hip-hop.

Uncle Xiaoqiang, a Chengdu-based hip-hop writer, has interviewed some of the rappers who completed the first-round audition in the city, which has been put on the map by the CDC label and their main act, Higher BrothersIn an interview (link in Chinese) with Lilshin of CDC group A.T.M., the rapper confidently boasts that making it to the “top 10 should be no problem.” He says that the reason he wants to get on The Rap of China is “to prove myself […] I brought two unreleased songs, one of which is old-school, the other one is trap, and a pop-like rap track named ‘Single.’

When asked about hardcore rapper MC Pharaoh and Indigo Children — both of whom have beef with Lilshin — taking part in the show as well, Lilshin said, “Not a problem. Things like this have already occurred enough to me. If we meet on the show, [I’ll] just let music speak.”

CDC rapper Free T — who studied and worked in France for nine years before moving back to Chengdu last year — told Uncle Xiaoqiang:

I have so many friends in the West, but it’s still hard to dive into their community and culture, from an Easterner’s perspective. There’s still a difference. So I think making music in China would be purer […] Hip-hop music means three things to me — being yourself, accomplishing dreams, and giving back to the community.

Free T thinks the reason that Chengdu rappers are the best in China is that they have an inheritance from one of the first Chinese rap crews, Big Zoo, down to CDC today. “We have deep roots here in Chengdu.”

Some rappers who might not agree with CDC also did interviews with Uncle Xiaoqiang. CD REV — probably China’s “reddest” hip-hop crew, who’ve been dissed by CDC several times — are ready to get on the show:

We want to show another side of us, to express some personal emotions and our love of hip-hop […] We always have different things [to express], but one part of them was promoted too much, and the rest has never been heard […] Controversy is good. If there is not any, then no one would care to watch. You can like me or not, but let’s communicate through music […] We don’t need to be viewed completely differently, but we want more perspectives to be seen.

If you’re wondering who dislikes CDC the most, that would be GOSH, a rival rap crew in nearby Chongqing. This year, they sent their best soldiers: trap talent Wudu Montana, who studied in the US and raps in Chongqing dialect, and battle rapper Watch Me, who quit his job to make music full-time. The two Chongqing rappers surprised many by showing up in Chengdu. When asked by Uncle Xiaoqing who they think will win, both rappers referred to each other, saying, “My brother.”

Damnshine, leader of Changsha rap crew C-BLOCK and a close affiliate with the GOSH crew, was also optimistic about his journey on The Rap of China. “I’ll try my best to get into the top three,” he told Uncle Xiaoqiang. Speaking about why he came to the contest, he said (link in Chinese), “Gold digging is a big reason, and we want our music to be heard by more people, and change people’s bad impression of hip-hop.” Soon after giving the interview, however, Damnshine announced over Weibo (link in Chinese) that he’d quit the contest due to “personal reasons.”

Last year’s Rap of China contestants are also taking advantage of the run-up to season two to debut new material. Last week, 2017’s co-champion, GOSH member GAI, released his latest track, “The Great Wall,” which got more than 13,000 likes and thousands of comments and reposts within its first five hours online.

The slogan of the new season of The Rap of China is “Speak Out Positive Energy”. And though an exact air date is being kept tightly under wraps, it’s clear we’ll soon be finding out who will be the next rap superstar to grab the limelight in China. 

Cover photo: Contestants in the American talent search for The Rap of China (Weibo)

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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

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