Yin (音, “music”) is a weekly RADII feature that looks at Chinese songs spanning hip hop to folk to modern experimental, and everything in between. Drop us a line if you have a suggestion.
While MC Jin might have been the first Asian rapper to break out in American hip hop as a bona fide, mainstream star (and while Jin’s star continues to rise in China), it was Christopher Wong Won who first broke through rap’s bamboo ceiling. Under the stage name Fresh Kid Ice, Won co-founded seminal ’80s rap group 2 Live Crew, who were known for their First Amendment-challenging raunch on tracks like “Me So Horny” and “Pop That Coochie” (that’s the PG13 version).
Back in the ancient days of the Reagan-era culture wars, when the US president was more likely to warn the country about the dangers of rap music than casually drop the p-bomb himself, 2 Live Crew’s sexually explicit lyrics really freaked a lot of people out.
Fresh Kid Ice didn’t depart too radically from the 2 Live vibe on his first solo album, 1992’s The Chinaman, which included tracks like “Long Dick Chinese” and “Freak ‘Em Down”. It also included some less racy fare, however, like the in-the-pocket slapper above, one of three singles released for the album.
Won passed away in 2017 after a decades-long career that included his discovery and mentorship of fellow Floridian rapper Flo Rida and a collaboration with ICP. As we take this month to dig deep into the history of rap in China, it feels appropriate to acknowledge a pioneer who blazed a trail for Asian rappers on hip hop’s home turf.
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The History of Rap in China, Part 1: Early Roots and Iron Mics (1993-2009)
Cover image: Rolling Stone
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