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Daily Drip

Is Jackson Wang Heading Up a Revamped “Rap of China” with No Kris Wu?

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It’s that time of year where we talk Rap of China rumors.

The iQIYI TV show that switched the whole game up for hip hop in China, bringing a version of the genre roaring into the country’s mainstream, has found itself fading from relevance in recent years and there were even rumors it might not even make it back for 2021.

But now, Xi Xiao Tang, a hip hop account on Chinese social media platform Weibo, has gotten this year’s rumor mill going with an unconfirmed but very interesting list of celebrity judges for the show.

According to their post, controversial Chongqing rapper and co-champion of the show’s first season GAI is set to return, as is singer GEM, who sat out last season and was replaced by the widely-panned Jane Zhang.

Perhaps more interestingly however, is the account’s suggestion that they’ll be joined by pop stars Lay Zhang (Zhang Yixing) and Jackson Wang, plus Higher Brothers lynchpin Masiwei.

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While having a pop idol who wants to be a rapper as a judge on the show is part of Rap of China‘s DNA thanks to its long association with Kris Wu, the choice to replace him with Lay Zhang and Jackson Wang would at least get iQIYI’s flagging flagship variety show some attention.

The poaching of Masiwei from Bilibili’s well-received Rap for Youth talent show meanwhile would also likely raise a few eyebrows, after that show helped bolster the impression that Rap of China was past its sell-by date last summer. And in another move that suggests iQIYI have been paying close attention to Bilibili’s break out hit, this year’s Rap of China is also rumored to be putting more focus on Gen Z rappers.

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There are also rumors circulating that the show has amassed an impressive cast of guests, that if true would amount to a who’s who of mainstream Chinese rap. Vava, Air, Vinida, Kafe.Hu, AfterJourney, MC Guang Guang and even AR — who has called out “pop rap” in the past — are among the names being mentioned.

Of course, all of this is just speculation at this point. But it’s pretty clear the show needs some freshening up if it’s to remain influential on China’s evolving, expanding hip hop scene.

And if true, it could end up being a busy few months for Jackson Wang in particular. The star is also rumored to be returning alongside Wang Yibo for season 4 of Street Dance of China, a show that has only grown in, rather than struggled for, relevancy as it’s gone on.

Jake Newby
Jake Newby is a Shanghai-based writer and editor with more than a decade's experience living and working in China. Previously managing editor of RADII and Time Out Shanghai, he's also written for the Associated Press, The Wire, the Financial Times and more.