En­ter­ing the arena

For­eign rap­pers in China laud pop­u­lar TV show ‘Rap of China’

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - NEWS - By Zhang Xinyuan

Arap­per him­self, Sa­muel Con­radie from South Africa was de­lighted when he came across the In­ter­net show Rap of China after ar­riv­ing in Bei­jing two months ago.

“It’s very good to see that China has

a tele­vi­sion show about rap. Be­fore this, I hadn’t heard Chi­nese hip-hop, and didn’t even know China had hip-hop,” said Con­radie. He has recorded two rap songs, one is about break­ing up with his girl­friend, and the other is about his lit­tle brother’s her’s drug prob­lem. “Peo­ple only knew that the US has hip-hop. China is bring­ing Chi­nese game to the table. Ev­ery country needs to bring some­thing to the table. From there, we can share and grow,” he said. Rap of China, a hugely suc­cess­ful In­ter­net-based re­al­ity show, has put Chi­nese hiphop mu­sic into the na­tional spot­light for the first time. The show’s Septem­ber 9 season fi­nale raked in more than 2.7 bil­lion views on the Chi­nese In­ter­net, Time Weekly re­ported in early Septem­ber. The 12-episode show was hugely suc­cess­ful, bring­ing un­der­ground Chi­nese rap­pers, such as HipHopMan, Tizzy T, PG One, Jony J and VAVA, to na­tional at­ten­tion.

China’s bud­ding rap cul­ture

Watch­ing Rap of China on his com­puter with his friends, Con­radie was ex­cited to see his fel­low Chi­nese rap­pers per­form­ing on stage. When the rap­per After Jour­ney shouted, “I am the best rap­per around the world,” Con­radie laughed. “I al­ways say that too,” he said. Con­radie en­joyed all the per­for­mances and espe­cially liked rap­pers Gai and PG One who both tied for first place in the con­test.

“The beat and mu­sic are good, and their stage pres­ence is very good,” Con­radie said. “They seemed very con­fi­dent. Rap­pers need to be­lieve that they are the best so that they can be con­fi­dent.”

He also ad­mired their lyrics after some­one ex­plained them to him.

“Rapping is about ex­press­ing your­self and telling your own sto­ries, and they are do­ing that. It’s good,” he said.

To Con­radie, China’s rap mu­sic is a mashup of global and local cul­ture. It has its own local char­ac­ter­is­tics, draw­ing on el­e­ments of the local Chi­nese cul­ture and his­tory.

For ex­am­ple, the lyrics of one of the songs were about a classic Chi­nese novel called The Water

Mar­gin. The novel is about folk he­roes’ re­bel­lion against the rul­ing gov­ern­ment.

“I like the lyrics, black rap­pers also rap about their his­tory of be­ing op­pressed and their de­fi­ance against that,” Con­radie said. “It’s important for one to know about one’s own his­tory. The past lays the foun­da­tion for the fu­ture, and we can learn from the past. It’s like how South Africans rap about sto­ries of Man­dela.”

An­other way Chi­nese rap mu­sic draws from local cul­ture is in its use of re­gional di­alects. Gai of­ten rapped in the di­alect of his home­town of Chongqing.

“The lan­guage is a part of a place's cul­ture and per­son­al­ity, and rapping in the local di­alect shows the rap­pers are proud of their home­town and can pro­mote their local cul­ture,” Con­radie said.

Aileen Lozada, a Columbian-Amer­i­can who has been liv­ing in China for six years, is a big fan of Chi­nese hip-hop her­self.

“Rap­pers in China draw el­e­ments from Chi­nese cul­ture. They re­vise from the old Chi­nese songs and his­tory, so they are mak­ing some­thing that says China,” Lozada said.

Yonka from South Korea, who opened a hip-hop dance stu­dio in Bei­jing a year ago, said that al­though the for­mat of Rap of China looks like Show

Me the Money, a South Korean hip-hop show, the mu­sic and con­tent are dif­fer­ent.

Korean hip-hop (K-pop) is in the form of a boy or girl group. They sing, dance and rap. It’s a mix, Yonka ex­plained. K-pop is com­mer­cial­ized. It has nothing to do with his­tory or ex­press­ing per­sonal sto­ries; it’s about cute boys and girls and cool clothes.

“Chi­nese hip-hop is dif­fer­ent be­cause most of the rap­pers were un­der­ground, and they are telling their own ex­pe­ri­ence and feel­ings,” he said.

In an in­ter­view with BBC this month, MC Hot­dog from Tai­wan, one of the judges from Rap of China, said that Chi­nese rap is not highly com­mer­cial­ized like in the US where the hip-hop is just about money and sex.

“What China of­fers is our long his­tory and deeply cul­tured lit­er­a­ture,” he told the BBC.

Tak­ing rap to the next level

Ac­cord­ing to a Bei­jing News ar­ti­cle, rap emerged out a need for black peo­ple in the US to ex­press their dis­ap­point­ment and in­dig­na­tion about racial dis­crim­i­na­tion, the wealth gap and other prob­lems in the US.

Photo: Cour­tesy of Sa­muel Con­radie

Sa­muel Con­radie, stage name Bboy Silent Sam, from South Africa par­tic­i­pates in a Bboy con­test on Re­union Is­land off the coast of the African con­ti­nent.

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