The 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.
After speculation that Kris Wu might not be a feature of the new Rap of China series, the judging panel for the show’s coming second (or actually the third) season was unveiled last week. The new series will actually feature the same stars as before, including MC Hotdog and Zhang Zhenyue, Wilber Pan and G.E.M., and yes Kris Wu.
But at least among the contestants who showed up to audition in Shanghai on April 25 and 26, we saw some unexpected faces from different rap crews from across China.
“Rap of China” Gears Up for Season 3 Despite Waning Interest
Changsha-based label Sup Music sent Damnshine and Key, two-thirds of star trio C-Block, after their crew mate Kungfu Pen went on a successful run in the show last year. Yet surprisingly, rap star Sio — a founding member of Sup Music — initially didn’t get the golden chain that signifies entrance into the next round beyond the auditions, a development that became a trending search on Weibo the next day as fans expressed their disbelief.
A geographically spread-out crew Walkin Dad sent Chengdu-based Key NG (who dropped his first album Coronation last month), Xinjiang rapper Fox, and their producer and beatmaker Cloud to join the iQIYI-backed competition.
Meanwhile, Kung-Fu Rap from Taiwan — a crew founded by Dwagie who came to prominence in Mainland China courtesy of a huge cross straits beef in 2007 — sent rappers Xiao Ren and BR, along with Taiwanese OG Machi Didi, though only BR made it through the audition.
3 of China’s Biggest Ever Rap Beefs
While we were saddened and surprised that one of the most popular Beijing rappers, Saber from DungeonBeijing, didn’t make the initial Rap of China, his crew mate MC Sweet will fight for the boombap team.
MC Hotdog claimed on Weibo that this year’s try-outs for Rap of China were “the most difficult audition in the history” as far as the judges were concerned, though they also had the right to change their minds.
On April 26, Hotdog gave his golden chains to Sio (possibly in response to the aforementioned controversy), Chongqing crew GO$H’s co-founder L4WUDU aka Wudu Montana, and Sun Xiao from Beijing Dragonwell. Sichuan battle king Boom and Xi’an veteran rapper Mercy both got into the next round as well according to social media posts.
The final season of Game of Thrones returned on April 14 and China was not immune from GoT fever. One result was that a hardcore rap crew called White Walkers and starring probably the most hardcore rappers in China — including Deformed Boi, DungeonBeijing, Shanghai-based rapper Pharaoh, and Sio — dropped a new music video entitled “Winter Is Coming.”
Elsewhere, veteran rapper O.E (Peace Over Evil), who used to have close collaborations with Xi’an rap crew NOUS and Beijing crew Purple Soul, dropped a boombap album called S.O.U.L. The record features collaborations with Kunming-based old school rap crew Mixed Impurities and the album is produced by members from another local Yunnan crew Dian Sheng Qi.
GAI’s latest single “Hua Xia” (an ancient name for China) continues the once-controversial rapper’s recent musical style — a combination of lyrics filled with Chinese poetic elements and traditional instrumental arrangements. The co-champion from the first season of Rap of China picked up an accolade from the Central Committee of the Communist Young League on Weibo for his latest nationalistic effort.
This year is the 20th anniversary of the founding of Hong Kong’s most famous rap crew LMF. To mark the occasion, a group of young Cantonese rappers including Dough Boy and Matt Force have rewritten the classic LMF hit “T.F.” and released it as the single “W.T.F.H.K.”, criticizing a host of new social phenomenon in present-day Hong Kong.
In a new iQIYI variety show I Am CZR (Singer and Songwriter) which started airing at the beginning of April, Taiwanese rap OG MC Hotdog is one of the first eight contestants invited to take part. The show places an emphasis on original works, challenging the participants to come up with new songs in various scenarios or including certain elements.
In the second episode, Roy Wang, a member of teenage boy group TF Boys, surprised the audience with a trap song “Yao Bu Dao Tai” — a phrase from Chongqing dialect meaning “awesome” (watch below; wait for it — the trap bit kicks in after a bit of piano balladry). Wang’s trap transformation saw him beat MC Hotdog in the competition round voted on by the audience. Chengdu rap star Wang Yitai is also set to get on the stage along with other musicians from different genres later in the show.
While some pop idols are trying to be rappers, some rappers are turning into new pop idols. Zhang Yanqi, the Chongqing battle champion of hip hop competition 8 Mile in 2017, rapped his track “20” in a Tencent-produced idol-making show Chuang Zao Ying 2019, which is like a Produce 101 for boys and features award-winning Taiwanese rapper Stanley Huang as a judge.
The disconnect between OG rappers and new idols, and their fan groups, also reared its head recently via hip hop culture festival YOLO, which took place in Guangzhou on April 13. At the event, some fans who favored more pop rappers and didn’t know anything about OGs like Purple Soul or J-Fever were accused of showing disrespect to the performers on the stage, and therefore sparked a wave of criticism of worshipping idols instead of the music and the culture.
After freestyle battle contest 8 Mile Underground was recently canceled due to the difficulty of putting on such an event in the current cultural climate, the team behind the respected competition has been trying to find another way to offer a stage for hip hop musicians who keep it real. On April 25, they launched their solution: an internal beta testing version of a new app, “8 Mile”. The launch was coupled with a call for rappers and beatmakers to submit works for future exposure.
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