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.
One month ago, unchallenged torchbearers of Chinese hip hop on the global stage Higher Brothers dropped their sophomore album. Five Stars is the follow-up to Black Cab, the group’s dark horse debut record, which won praise for its groundbreaking balance of American trap sensibility and authentic Chinese flavor. The second album is an important and unprecedented checkpoint for the Brothers, the world’s first truly international Chinese hip hop act.
The group produced a Herculean effort, delivering a 12-song list of high-energy bangers, and pulling together an insane roster of guest features — ScHoolboy Q, Denzel Curry, Ski Mask the Slump God, and Soulja Boy all make appearances. Even so, the album received only a lukewarm critical response (to be fair, those critics are mostly white dudes in Brooklyn).
These are the circumstances in which Masiwei — “clearly the leader” of the group, per above — has dropped “Super Saiyan Broly”, a stone-handed slapper that’s suspected to be aimed at critics of the album.
The track (released on independent Chinese platforms as part of a mixtape entitled A Few Good Kids, rather than through the group’s label 88rising) is a lyrical firestorm, and it’s exactly what you’d expect from a top-tier rapper who’s fresh off the pressures of a group album. Masiwei delivers a nonstop stream-of-consciousness verse over heavy 808s and a drunken, atonal trap melody. He completely foregoes any semblance of a hook, choosing instead to shoot from the hip:
If you think I’m not great then come at me/ I’ve counted 3, 2, 1 and you’re still not up/ my own name is a luxury brand/ chain on my neck so I don’t need a tie
Chinese rap novelty aside, Masiwei’s flow — shifting subtly and then obviously at just the right moments — is on par with any major new-school artist in the game right now, rapping:
You didn’t buy my mixtape/ this right here is daddy’s style/ me? I’m feeling fantastic/ daddy’s out here in this Chinese rap game
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It’s admittedly refreshing to see Masiwei get back to his roots. The multidimensional artist has been showcasing his creative flexibility for some time now — watching his rise, we’ve seen Masiwei produce soulful trap beats, support catchy hooks, and “play low” in his four-man group like an expert jazz drummer.
But at the end of the day, the thing that sets Masiwei apart has always been his actual, high-level proficiency in the skill of rapping (and he knows it, mentioning at one point, when I’m on the mic it feels like Rakim).
Masiwei is a true student of the game, and “Super Saiyan Broly” comes at just the right time to remind us that the rapper’s spot in the limelight is more than just hype.
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