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Where are They Now? “Rap of China” S01 Champs Hit the Silver Screen and Beef Online

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It’s been seven months since we reported on PG One, last year’s Rap of China co-champion, publicly apologizing on social media for his “improper” old songs before getting banned on all music platforms. PG One’s official Weibo account was also wiped clean in April.

Last season’s other co-champion GAI, meanwhile, was getting interviews with mainstream newspapers and was within spitting distance of appearing on CCTV’s Spring Festival Gala, the biggest stage in China, at the beginning of this year.

But then came the “hip hop ban”. Hip hop musicians are more or less banned from appearing on mainstream Chinese television, even now.

But as netizens living in 2018, who would watch TV anyway when there’s the internet (where Rap of China has recently returned)? Has the so-called “hip hop ban” really hurt rappers? The Rap of China season one co-champions offer an interesting case study, as both of them have been making some big moves lately.

For his part, GAI is starring in the first Chinese rap film, 爆裂说唱 (“Burst Rap”) along with Rap of China 2018 contestant Plan B (aka Xu Sheng’en). On August 2, GAI posted a few photos of the two leading actors and director Bao Beier, a comedic actor and a popular star in hit variety show Running Man.

The film is being billed in some quarters as a “hip hop Whiplash“, though that second picture might also invite some “China’s 8 Mile” comparisons for anyone fond of insisting on a Western precedent or reference point.

GAI may be trying to become a movie star, but he’s still prone to speaking frankly about what’s on his mind. On August 1, he took to Weibo to say, “I don’t want to have anything to do with a rapper who takes economics class.” The post was deleted a few minutes later, with GAI claiming that his account had been hacked.

But he was reacting to MC Guang, founder of Nanjing-based hip hop label Free-Out and former member of rap crew D-Devil, an active presence on the Chinese hip hop scene since 2003. MC Guang had a huge beef with GAI in February 2017, releasing a diss track at the time called “GAI爷只打字” (“GAI Just Types Online”). During the recent Kris Wu diss battle, he brought up the beef again on July 30:

Let’s skip discussing what level the song is at, but we should praise the attitude that he kept his word. It’s not about the traffic — we can see that Kris Wu is trying hard to demonstrate that he is a rapper. It’s better than only typing.

Really hope that GAI will hit back with his own diss —  I mean, even Kris Wu did.

Meanwhile, PG One, who was a member of Kris Wu’s team on last year’s Rap of China series, has been struggling to return to the public eye, both on Weibo and on his recently-opened WeChat public account. Two hours after Kindergarten Killer, a mysterious online diss king, released his track “Playing Pipa on the Back” on August 7, PG One released his first complete song in months, “Super Saiyan,” which features a rapper from northeast China called KIM23.

In the song, they fired shots at AR — the first rapper to mock Kris Wu in the recent epic diss battle with his track “The Emperor’s New Clothes” — adopting a posture of underground rappers who are very defensive of Kris Wu, Rap of China, and basically the whole Chinese hip hop industry:

 

Take back your flow / I heard your diss made some money bro / No wonder you have a dirty mouth / You are just an envious monster […] / Hip hop is a joke now that so many people are waiting to laugh at / It took 20 years to get onto the ground, but now the opportunity is rejected out of the door / How long will it take for the selfish and stubborn rappers to understand / Your obvious possessiveness is not the love for hip hop […] 

Why you so mad? / Can you develop it faster? / We’ll be all right / We will get it, but need a little more time / Defending our pride / There is no good or bad contributions to it / You better be polite / skr ~~~ Be quiet

Evidently, PG One is defending Kris Wu for his contribution to promoting hip hop culture in China. Just three days after being posted, the WeChat post with the track had been liked over 100k times (the largest number of likes that WeChat displays publicly), which is relatively rare for posts on the platform. The former champion still has a massive fanbase, and is still improving his rap skills.

It might be too early to evaluate Kris Wu’s contribution to Chinese hip hop, but for now at least it’s exciting to hear more Chinese rappers try and elevate their game with the time-honored tradition of a good old rap beef.

Cover photo: chuansong.me

Related:

“I’m Not an Idol, Call me a Rapper”: PG One Re-Emerges on WeChat

Tone-deaf Kris Wu Vocal Track Ravages Chinese Social Media

“Rap of China” Champion GAI’s New Music Video is a Desperate Attempt to Make Censors Happy

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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