Sichuanese rapper GAI is one of the most representative voices in the Chinese hip hop scene. His latest single, “Weiyuan Story,” dropped on February 16 and struck fans as profoundly touching.
The song is named after Weiyuan county in Sichuan province, where GAI grew up before moving to Chongqing to attend college.
RADII has covered GAI a lot, and this new single seems particularly genuine, especially given his pivot toward nationalistic and propagandistic music in recent years.
The rapper rose to fame in 2015 with the track “Gangsta,” a song about gang life in Sichuan, which censors quickly removed from the Chinese internet. He is known for his sophisticated lyricism and the regional flavor of his songs.
However, since bursting into the mainstream, GAI has steered towards a more nationalistic form of rap. He often utilizes traditional imagery, iconography, and sounds borrowed from Chinese traditional literature, art, and music.
Though the rapper was suddenly removed from a Chinese TV show in 2018, possibly due to government regulations on hip hop culture, GAI made a comeback by complying with censors and has since enjoyed commercial success.
Now he is commonly featured on mainstream media, but the choice to adapt his music also makes him a controversial figure within the Chinese hip hop community.
Compared to the recent and politically correct track “Dawn,” released on January 10 in line with China’s Police Day, “Weiyuan Story” is brimming with authenticity and feels like a breath of fresh air.
GAI on the set of the music video for “Weiyuan Story”
The track is a deep dive into the artist’s past and the struggles he faced in order to succeed. The lyrics convey his loneliness and confusion, enhanced by the flowing of time and the changes in spaces:
“Time after time, I went through difficult situations, but I didn’t give up, and I appreciate my resolution.”
The detailed description of Weiyuan county and the harsh experiences of his childhood, such as financial struggles and being bullied as a kid, resonated with fans. The hashtag for the song has received 46 million views on Weibo.
“This song is talking about every one of us who are young and work hard,” one user commented on Weibo.
“This is an earnest work,” another opined. “This song brings back the origin stories of many people who work hard and pretend to live a good life now.”
The dreamy beat and muffled auto-tune contrast the bitter reality narrated through the lyrics. In the beautifully shot music video, directed by Seanie P, GAI embarks on a journey through his past and engages in a dialogue with his younger self.
View this post on InstagramA post shared by Seanie p (@seaniepictures)
A post shared by Seanie p (@seaniepictures)
And the song is much more than just a superficial ode to hustling. The rapper reflects on what one loses during the process of growing up and going far, both physically and metaphorically.
“It’s hard to walk on a slippery road in the dark, where freedom may easily slip away,” GAI raps.
Despite its minimalism, “Weiyuan Story” feels refreshingly deep and is, perhaps, one of GAI’s most personal works yet.
Images via Weibo
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