After weeks of rumors, the smash hit TV show that took hip hop mainstream in China will return this year, according to streaming network iQIYI. Rap of China season 4 has been officially confirmed with Kris Wu and season one co-champion GAI in tow.
Wu’s fanbase is naturally thrilled by his return. The 29-year-old Chinese-Canadian rapper was a driving force back in the show’s earliest days, bringing hip hop to a mainstream audience in China for the first time. GAI’s presence, meanwhile, marks an unexpected appearance for the previously-cancelled rapper.
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The announcement comes as competition stirs in the commercialized hip hop TV show space. Hunan TV’s Rap Star began airing on June 7, with some calling it a more “legit” version of Rap of China. The judges’ pre-show cypher track called back to the roots of hip hop in China, as the show aims to better bridge the underground and mainstream rap scenes.
Kris Wu’s hip hop credentials — on the other hand — have always been in question, but there’s been little doubting his ability to help make the show popular. In season one, he gave us “can you freestyle?” In season two, he gave us “skr.” Both became major memes and entered everyday usage for many young people across the country, while China’s underground rap scene eventually dropped diss tracks targeting Wu as his star grew.
Chongqing rapper GAI however, is quite a different character.
In the first season, he tied as champion with PG One. But that golden moment didn’t last long; his abrupt removal from another reality show, Singer, due to controversy over some of his old lyrics marked the beginning of China’s apparent “hip hop ban” which seemed ready to stop rappers from appearing on mainstream Chinese television. The supposed ban didn’t last long, and while PG One has been consistently kept away from the mainstream, GAI has worked hard to get back in the good books of the powers that be.
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Rumors online suggest that the new season may focus on China’s diverse regional rap scenes. Other names thought to be involved in Rap of China 2020 include Vava, Jony J and After Journey. The return of Kris Wu and GAI is buzzworthy, but maybe the bigger question is whether Rap of China can maintain its authority and draw viewers, as qualified competitors continue to step into the ring and the novelty value of the show’s initial wave of attention rapidly fades.
Update: Pop star Jane Zhang — who gave us the Timbaland-produced banger and crazy accompanying music video below — has been named as one of the new Rap of China season’s judges, seemingly as a GEM replacement. Kris Wu has naturally returned, as has newly-married singer Will Pan; as noted above, GAI is joining them.
Update 2: We have a cypher:
Kris Wu, GAI, Jane Zhang, Will Pan and Jay Park Team Up for “Rap of China 2020” Cypher
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