Chinese hip hop
|Music of China|
|Media and performance|
|Music festivals||Midi Modern Music Festival|
|Nationalistic and patriotic songs|
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Chinese hip hop (Chinese: 中国嘻哈; pinyin: Zhōngguó xīhā) is a relatively new phenomenon in Chinese music. Some of the earliest influences of hip-hop in came from films such as Beat Street (1984) which entered China on video tape via embassy workers or foreign businessmen and their families.
The first DJ in China who played hip hop music on a daily basis was a resident at the first Chinese nightclub Juliana's in Beijing in 1984. At the time there were no other clubs in mainland China but Juliana's, which was already receiving monthly deliveries of records from London featuring labels such as Sugarhill, Tommy Boy, and StreetSounds.
In 1992, China got its first regular hip hop nights (Fridays/Saturdays) at Kunlun Hotel Crystal Disco in Beijing.
Yin Ts'ang (隐藏) released a full-length album, Serve The People (为人民服务) (2002). The album was co-produced and written by British DJ Mel “Herbie” Kent, while being entirely recorded in his home studio. The group was featured in full-length articles in the Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times.
Chinese DJ V-Nutz (Gary Wang) claimed, "[Chinese style is] young, local kids really enjoy Western things right now. Then maybe after 10 or 15 years, maybe they can have their own style."). Hip-hop is often performed in English and many[who?] believe Chinese is not suitable for the genre; "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."[who?] 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)."
"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).
Dana Burton, an American, started the Iron Mic competition, an annual rap battle which encouraged more free-styling and less karaoke-style performances, in 2001 (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).
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."
There is an official annual Chinese Hip-Hop Awards Show (中国嘻哈颁奖典礼).
From 2016, the Communist Party of China began supporting hip hop music as a new propaganda outlet. The Communist Youth League, a government-backed Communist youth movement, sponsored CD Rev, also known as Chengdu Revolution, a hip-hop group , released the song "This is China", in June 2016, and "No THAAD" in May 2017. Hip-hop groups have expressed their patriotism in rap songs. Media scholar Sheng Zou wrote, “the state-centric ideology is aesthetically evoked by co-opting popular cultural formats, maneuvering grassroots nationalistic expressions and appropriating symbols of both tradition and modernity. Hip-hop is thus localized and sanitized as a cultural medium of propaganda.”
Pīlìwǔ (霹雳舞) (thunder dance or breakdancing), is seen as a type of Hip hop dance (Simplified Chinese: 街舞) in China. Breakdancing has been going on sporadically in China since 1990s, but has never gained much attention. 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.
Rappers of heritage in China have achieved renown success in the United States, the most recent is the Miami-born, NYs 106 and Park hall-of-famer Jin, who raps in both English and Cantonese. In 2017, Jin competed in the first season of The Rap of China as "HipHopMan”.
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