Chinese hip hop
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|Media and performance|
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|Nationalistic and patriotic songs|
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Chinese hip hop (Chinese: 嘻哈; pinyin xīha) is a relatively new phenomenon; in Chinese music; “Hip-Hop as a movement (initially in Beijing) emerged around the year 1990 via British, Filipino and Congolese DJ's. ” Some of the earliest influences of hip-hop in came from movies such as Beatstreet(1984) and "Beat Dis, a Hip Hop History" which entered China on video tape via embassy workers or foreign businessmen and their families.
Origins and development
The first DJ's in China to play rap music on a daily basis were residents at China's first nightclub/club 'Juliana's' in Beijing during 1984. At the time there were no other clubs in mainland China but Juliana's was already receiving monthly deliveries of records from London featuring labels such as Sugarhill, Tommy Boy and Morgan Khan's Streetsounds.
In 1992 China got its first regular Hip Hop nights (Fridays/Saturdays) at Beijing's Kunlun Hotel 'Crystal Disco' <DJ's Florient Obesse, Carol (Lu Li Hong)>. 1994 saw the first nightly Hip Hop club open in China (DJ's Jiggz and Mel "Herbie" Kent) at Shanghai's 'Broadway' club in the port area. This was the first phase of HIP HOP in China, developed by DJ's, Rap enthusiasts and B-Boys - it flourished without mass media support, sponsorship or exposure.
Though no noticeable outside influence on Beijing or Shanghai's Hip Hop scene came from either Taiwan or Hong Kong due to Dj's not playing Cantonese or Taiwanese rap in clubs, the Ultimix and Funkymix labels were without a doubt the source of rap's initial popularity. Distribution was via Crossline Records, BPM of Shanghai and again Juliana's of London. Rap in China later became more mainstream in 2003 with the opening of Beijing's "Vic's" (initial design and installation by Mel "Herbie" Kent) and "Mix" nightclubs.
The first Chinese language song to feature rap style content was by rock artist Cui Jian in the early 90's though viewed as experimental as opposed to credible Hip Hop in the eyes of enthusiasts. Early Taiwanese rap groups such as The Party and TTM had limited success due to a market that was more ballad focused. In the late 90s Hong Kong's Softhard and LMF were influential though their Cantonese dialect was foreign to Mandarin speaking regions, while Taiwan's MC HotDog, Da Xi Men, and Da Zhi were more widely intelligible in mainland China.
Yin Ts'ang (隐藏) was the first group in mainland China to sign with an active record label - Scream Records, and release a full-length album, Serve The People (为人民服务)(2002), which was co-produced and engineered by Mel "Herbie" Kent. It also contained China's first Jungle/drum'n'bass track, also written by Herbie. The pioneering four-person rap group which consisted of MC Webber, Sbazzo, 老郑XIV, and Dirty Heff, continued on to make appearances at The 2003 Pepsi Music Awards, where they were nominated for Best New Rock-Rap Group and the China National Radio Music Awards, where they won Best New Group of 2003. In addition to full length articles by the LA Times, the China Daily, Music Magazine (China) and the NY Times, the group also made special appearances on CCTV-1, PBS, CTV and Stir TV (cable).
Chinese DJ V-Nutz (Gary Wang) notes: "I would say we don’t have a Chinese style yet. If you really want me to say, what is Chinese style, I would say it's young, local kids really enjoy Western things right now. Then maybe after 10 or 15 years, maybe they can have their own style." (Trindle, 2007 ). Hip-hop is often performed in English and many believe Chinese is not suitable; “people said, straight up, you can’t rap in Chinese, Chinese does not work for rap… Chinese is not suitable for rap music because it’s tonal.” XIV of the rap group Yin Ts’ang put it clearly. “I can tell you about what we don’t rap about: gangbangin', pushin' drugs, or the government, that’s a good way to not continue your career (or your life).” A big and important part of the localization of Chinese hip-hop “is encouraging Chinese rappers to rap in Chinese” (Trindle, 2007).
When Eminem’s movie, 8 Mile, came out in 2002 the art of freestyling was popularized in China. Movies have played a major role in fostering the growth of hip-hop culture in China; from the music itself to dance, the art of graffiti and style of dress. “In the wake of the Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989, interest in hip-hop waned as the government attempted to revitalize reverence for traditional Chinese culture and socialism” (Steele, 2006) and “the government still keeps a tight hold on radio licenses” (Trindle, 2007). However, there was considerable uptake of "Dakou CDs" - “surplus CDs created in the West that were supposed to be destroyed but were instead smuggled into China and sold on the black market” (Steele, 2006). The Lab is a “free studio to foster hip-hop culture and teach aspiring young MCs about the types of music that don’t make it onto the radio” (Trindle, 2007).
Dana Burton, also American, arrived in China in 1999, made connections at a club in Shanghai and in time was allowed to play more and more hip-hop in the club. Hip-hop began to develop a following at the club and eventually a new club was created to play only hip-hop. Since then more clubs playing exclusively hip-hop music have emerged (Foreign Policy, 2007). Burton also started the Iron Mic competition in 2001; an annual rap battle which encouraged more freestyling and less karaoke style performances (Foreign Policy, 2007). Burton recorded:
"The few rappers I met [initially] were rapping in English. I’d say, ‘Let me hear you rap’, and they’d just do a karaoke thing, repeating a few lines of Eminem or Naughty by Nature. As an American that was so odd for me; you can’t say anyone else’s rhymes, you just don’t do that. But it’s the culture here. They like karaoke and doing someone else’s songs." (Foreign Policy, 2007).
Rappers of Chinese heritage have achieved renown success in the United States, the most recent of whom is the Miami-born, NYs 106 and Park hall of famer Jin, who raps in both English and Cantonese. Another Chinese American rap group was Mountain Brothers, based in Philadelphia in the 1990s; the group rapped in English. Florida's "Smilez and Southstar" under Trans Continental Records and Hong Kong-based hip hopper Edison Chen has also gained some popularity in the US.
One underground Chinese artist Hu Xuan recorded all of the tracks on his album in Kunminghua, the local dialect spoken in the area of Kunming (Go Kunming, 2007). "One rapper spits out words in a distinctive Beijing accent, scolding the other for not speaking proper Mandarin. His opponent from Hong Kong snaps back to the beat in a trilingual torrent of Cantonese, English, and Mandarin, dissing the Beijing rapper for not representing the people.".
As of 2014, popular artists and groups include N. Jersey Boy, MC Hotdog (哈狗帮), Sbazzo (from 隐藏), Young Kin, 噔哚 (Dumdue), 讲者 (Prosa), IN3 (阴三), Young Cee (from Bamboo Crew), 凤凰鸣 (PhoenixCry), Tim Wu, D Evil光光, AP Manchucker (满人), 老郑XIV (from 隐藏), MC Koz, Tang King (from Red Star), 天王星 (Uranus), 大狗, ABD, 嫩桃弟弟(Young Peach),大肆院, 龙门阵 (Dragon Tongue Squad), Sha Zhou (沙洲), JR Fog, Nasty Ray, 小老虎 (Lil'Tiger), GX6 Crew, the Uyghur minority group Six-City and the now-disbanded LMF.
Big Zoo is another famous rap crew in China. Being a group from China's "Dirty South," Big Zoo represents its city Chengdu, which is the capital of Sichuan Province. In their recorded songs, most of them are rapped in their own dialect, Sichuanese. Just like their Sichuan cuisine, Big Zoo's style is hot and spicy, but in the meantime, they seek to use rap as a tool to speak their thoughts and problems within the society. There are totally four members in the crew. Three of them are now studying abroad in France, America, and Australia. Sometimes they rap in French and English as well. Their bio can be found in Baidu Baike, which is Chinese biggest online encyclopedia. However, in 2008, Big Zoo hit its rock bottom when one of the crew members, Mow left the team. Ever since, the team stopped making music due to this incident and busy works from school. In the midst of 2011, rapper Free-T released his song "Diary of Life," signaling the return of Big Zoo.
In addition to an official Annual Chinese Hip-Hop Awards Show (中国嘻哈颁奖典礼) there are a handful of websites serving as platforms to promote hip hop culture in China.
The 1st and longest running hip hop video platform on the web is called ZHONG.TV and is founded by a Taiwanese Canadian Stanley Yang ( 杨学麟 ） aka 22k. The platform was founded in 2010 and currently host over 300 music videos from Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Pīlìwǔ 霹雳舞 (literally, thunder dance or breakdancing), is seen as a type of jiēwǔ (Simplified Chinese: 街舞) "street dance". Break dancing has been going on sporadically in China since the 1990s, but has never gained much attention. Again, Mel "Herbie" Kent was a leading proponent of Breakdancing while in the capacity of Resident DJ at Beijing's cavernous 3500 capacity "Oriental No.1 club" 1995-1997, where he would take to the stage and perform hand spins and crazy footwork, usually to tracks from "Ultimate Breaks" compilations. MC Dizzy and Herbie would also perform rap shows which were often televised by CCTV and BTV with Herbie performing turntablism duet-ting with composer Bian Liu Nian (Erhu) for a capacity 73,000 people at Beijing's Workers Stadium during the 2000 Student Olympiad closing ceremony/Beijing's Olympic bid. More recently, following the Korean Wave, Western-oriented Korean influence has played a role in Chinese pop culture development, particularly in Beijing. Each regional breakdancing (or Bboy) scene is slightly different. In Shanghai B-boying first became systematized with many local break dance schools (although often confusing uprocking and body popping with the actual act of breakdancing itself).
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- ZHONG.TV (Latest Hip Hop / Urban Video Platform)
- Angela Steele (Fulbright Scholar Researching Chinese Hip-Hop)
- Hip Hop in China (documentary)
- Mogo.com.cn: Music, Videos, Interviews and Concerts from Mainland, China
- Wiki-China Page on Hip-Hop
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