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Chinese Rap Wrap: Shanghai OG Cee Returns with New Doc, “Rap of China” New Crop Gets Battle Tested

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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/Crews to Watch

Shanghai rapper Cee (Chen Ran), member of pioneering (though now defunct) rap crew Bamboo (竹游人), recently released an autobiographical documentary entitled Bring Me Back. In the two-episode mini documentary — which is accompanied by an original soundtrack produced by Chengdu label Mintone Records — Cee tells his own hip hop history stretching back to 1997. It begins in Chinese hip hop’s early years, when Bamboo paved the way for the Shanghai rap scene, and charts Cee’s struggles after the crew disbanded.

In recent years Cee has tried to join jazz rapper Lu1 to seek a way back into hip-hop, and eventually returned to the more hardcore style of his earlier career. A dozen established rappers, including BooM, Jony J, AR, Wang Yitai, C-Block and more, salute Cee in the documentary. As a real OG who is still active in the music scene, he might be one of only a few who keeps trying different things and featuring with new rappers — and consistently gets great-sounding results.

Cee’s first studio solo album, which is coming out on July 3, was recorded at Metropolis Studios in London with Chengdu-based British producer Harikiri, a regular collaborator with Higher Brothers, Wang Yitai, and many other established rappers. This time, Cee will try his hand at Grime MC’ing.

Chinese Rap in the Mainstream

Rap of China came back for its third season on June 14, after its airing date was announced just two days prior. In the two episodes that have aired since, an audition of more than a thousand rappers at Shanghai’s Mercedes-Benz Arena showed that the hip-hop-themed reality show is seemingly aiming to present a more realistic competition this summer, where beefs and conflicts are given center stage.

Related:

Watch: We Asked “Rap of China” Hopefuls, “You Got Freestyle?”

So far, we’ve seen BooM (Huang Xu) challenge Beijing OG Sun Xu, asking the latter to hand his chain over to another contestant; freestyle master Boom (a different Boom, named Bao Yin) prove how a battle king uses words to fight; and Changsha rap crew C-Block and talented hopeful Key NG’s crew Walking Dead starting a group beef in the one-on-one elimination round immediately after the audition.

“It’s alright to have beef in the show, as long as it’s about music and it’s solved by music,”

the show’s producer, Chen Wei, told RADII in an interview on June 15.

When it comes to social media conflicts, it turns out that music doesn’t help solve much. Guangdong female battle rapper Rocket dissed the show’s “singing dancing rappers,” some of whom even brought a basketball to the audition and wore a chain to next round. Rocket’s post caught fire from fans of super idol Cai Xukun, who is famous for being a “singing dancing rapper” and who plays basketball as well.

Rocket on Rap of China

On the official promotion side, following the breakout popularity of slang words “freestyle” (2017) and “skr” (2018), this year’s keyword is: “punchline.” Lead judge Kris Wu has pledged to be a lot nicer to contestants this year, saying at a June 15 press conference: “My mindset is just like what I expressed in ‘Big Bowl Long Noodle’” — in other words, more playful and relaxed in tone. Nevertheless, the show seems hungry to manufacture a new buzzword: Kris dropped the word “punchline” multiple times on the show, and each of the 127 contestants who made it to the second round were required to post their explanation of the word and punchlines from their own tracks on Weibo.

Related:

Yin: Kris Wu Turns Humiliating Noodle Freestyle Into Studio Masterpiece

New Chinese Rap Releases of Note

Xi’an veteran rapper Pact, national champion of freestyle battle competition Iron Mic in 2013 and 2014 and founder of hip-hop label NOUS Underground, dropped his first album in three years, A Real Mother ****** , on June 16. Among the 15 tracks one can hear a diverse mix of musical styles paired with PACT’s never-rusted wordplay skills. The album is full of guest spots, featuring Xi’an-based Siiviba, Cream D, Kigga, and Nineone, as well as Shanghai R&B singer Akin.

Earlier this month, Shanghai-based Beijing rapper J-Fever dropped an experimental album, Beijing?, produced with his longtime creative mate, LA-based producer and musician (and china.wav performer) Soulspeak aka Kai-Luen. On the album J-Fever searches his memories about Beijing and what feelings the city has  brought him over the years, including memories about Yugong Yishan, a long-running live music venue that was shut down this year.

On the album’s final track, “3-Minute Forbidden City,” J-Fever describes a street scene and mental images associated with his hometown’s central landmark, before ending with the loaded question: “Is this Beijing?”

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Beefs and More

Beatmaker, mixer, and producer (Young) Mai launched an online training course for wannabe hip hop producers as part of the Behinders Education Program. The 798 RMB (about 116 USD) course consists of 13 classes teaching how to make a trap beat from scratch, and different ways to play with the human voice, such as auto-tune. The established producer has collaborated with rappers GDLF, After Journey, Jony J, Tizzy T, and C-Block, as well as pop singers and music-related variety shows.

In a recent livestream, he shared his theory about how to develop Chinese hip hop:

“I have been asked to be on some shows, but what is the point in that? I don’t need to be famous. I just want more rappers to be famous, to be popular, then to be rich, so that they will get money to pay producers for better beats.”

And finally: 3Bangz, a self-described “comedy rapper” from Chengdu best known for a song about Lanzhou noodles, has found himself on the wrong side of an internet mob. A few days ago, Kris Wu re-posted a People’s Daily Weibo post, in which the widely-circulated newspaper called for netizens’ help to find a wanted criminal who beat and kicked a woman on the street. 3Bangz re-posted Kris’ re-post, writing:

“OK the criminal is found — he is Kris Wu from ten years later, coming back to beat his wife who broke up with him”

It was definitely improper for 3Bangz to make fun of this tragedy, and wasn’t even funny to say the man in the CCTV clip looked like a ten-years-older Kris Wu… Anyway, 3Bangz deleted the re-post and later apologized, but the public’s fury has not yet ceased.

More Chinese Rap Wraps:

The Chinese Rap Wrap: Influential Hip Hop Collective CDC Falls Apart Amid Eminem Collab Rumors

The Chinese Rap Wrap: Edison Chen Returns as Three Hu Sparks Rap Battle Brawl

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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