PG One, last year’s Rap of China co-champion, has been largely silent for the last three months following a series of scandals that hit him at the beginning of 2018. But hip-hop in China continues to throw up plenty of controversies.
While awaiting PG One’s return, fans have placed their attention on his “little brother” BrAnt B (小白), another contestant on the show from the same Xi’an-based hip-hop crew HHH (红花会). The hype around HHH intensified last November after the crew fell out with MDSK, a hip-hop focused imprint of long-running Beijing label Modern Sky Music:
Is Chinese Hip-Hop’s Honeymoon Over? Rap Crew HHH Quits Modern Sky
The termination seemed peaceful at first. But the following month, HHH posted an announcement apparently detailing the legal process regarding signed contracts for PG One and BrAnT B, and unsigned cooperation. “HHH’s original aspiration is to make music, not to be a music company,” the group wrote at the end of the announcement.
Apparently however, the reality is much more complex. HHH’s leader, 弹壳K9999, took to Weibo last week to say, “Together, we are fire. Separate, we are stars,” implying that something had changed within the crew. The next day, BrAnT B announced that he’d quit HHH:
I’ve always been with my crew since I started my music career, and went through all of the ups and downs with my brothers. It’s made me understand that no matter what happens, brothers are brothers for life. Now, due to some legal disputes beyond the scope of our ability, I regretfully have to leave HHH, and develop on my own merits. However, I will never forget that I would be no one without the crew…
BrAnT B has been active until today as a member of HHH, and he is always the little brother that everyone loves. He grew very quickly, and has become a capable artist with a new direction that he wants to try out. He brought this up, and we have discussed and decided: BrAnT B has quit HHH, and will develop as a solo musician from today on…HHH supports our member’s decision, as the group that’s been by his side all the way as he grew up, and wish him a bright future.
BrAnT B has been active until today as a member of HHH, and he is always the little brother that everyone loves. He grew very quickly, and has become a capable artist with a new direction that he wants to try out. He brought this up, and we have discussed and decided: BrAnT B has quit HHH, and will develop as a solo musician from today on…
HHH supports our member’s decision, as the group that’s been by his side all the way as he grew up, and wish him a bright future.
BrAnT B has also changed his Chinese name, Bai Yaolong (白曜隆), to a new one, Bai Jingyi (白景屹), which might show his determination to forge a new path.
But at the same time, it’s not proving easy for the rest of HHH to make a clean break with the past. On March 28, the group hinted at an upcoming lawsuit involving MDSK, writing on Weibo:
Don’t overreact, the current lamp is not what it used to be. They know how to send a lawyer’s letter now. Counting down to when the trial begins.
(The character for “lamp” — deng (灯) — shares the same pronunciation with the name of MDSK.)
According to hip-hop centric Weibo account Only Here Is Hip-Hop, K9999 has said that HHH needs to pay 15 million RMB (about 2.4 million US dollars) in damages, as they terminated their contract with MDSK in a livestream that aired before Spring Festival. And following the “hip-hop ban” that’s been rumored since January, there are limited commercial opportunities for HHH to get on big stages, limiting the income that the underground crew can bring in.
Such limitations don’t necessarily mean that the future is bleak for all Chinese rappers however. In the promotion for Modern Sky’s upcoming Strawberry Festivals other hip-hop artists who’ve signed to MDSK are featured prominently, including Tizzy-T, KAFE HU and OB03:
Let’s just hope they got the memo to cover up all their tattoos.
Cover image: Sina Weibo
More background on China’s “hip-hop ban” here:
Rapper GAI Abruptly Removed from Reality Show Following Reported New Hip-Hop Ban
The Rap of China Exposes Generational Fault Lines Among Chinese Youth
After the “Hip-Hop Ban”, Chinese TV Turns to Street Dancing Shows
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