Sunday, 21 January 2018


disclaimer: i am no expert on hip-hop in china. i just have an interest in hip-hop and china. 

On June 24, 2017, The Rap of China (TROC) debuted on iQiYi. Despite accusations of plagiarising Korean rap reality show Show Me the MoneyTROC was an immediate hit. It reached 100 million views within 4 hours of its release and by the end of the month had accumulated over 1.3 billion views. At the end of the show, many contestants signed to major record labels. They made appearances on popular television programs such as Happy Camp and performed at New Years Eve concerts. It seemed like hip-hop was finally becoming mainstream in China. But within weeks or even days of these milestones, the movement appears to be slowing to a halt. 

On New Year's Eve, Li Xiao Lu (wife of Jia Nai Liang and mother of Tian Xin) was spotted going to PG One's apartment. She did not leave until the next morning. While both parties have denied anything inappropriate happened, tabloids have posted explicit photos supposedly of PG One and Li Xiao Lu having sex. Jia Nai Liang initially expressed his trust in Li Xiao Lu but has since unfollowed PG One on weibo and posted a message blaming himself for being too busy to spend time with Li Xiao Lu and Tian Xin. 

Only days after this scandal, PG One was forced to apologise for the lyrics in his song 'Chrismas Eve'The song, which was released in 2015, was criticised for insulting women and promoting drug use. While PG One voluntarily removed 'Christmas Eve' from Chinese music streaming services such as QQ Music, Netease Music and Xiami, his inadequate apology where he blamed the offensive lyrics on a misunderstanding of hip-hop culture due to the influence of "black culture/music" has resulted in all his songs being removed.

PG One’s consecutive scandals have resulted in fellow hip-hop artists suffering from collateral damage. Despite their inoffensive lyrics, Triple H (花会), PG One's rap crew has also had all their songs removed from major Chinese music streaming services. Most recently, Al Rocco's appearance at a Chong Qing concert was cancelled and VAVA’s appearance on Happy Camp has been completely edited out. There appears to be a blanket ban on hip-hop artists as the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of the People’s Republic of China (SAPPRFT) considers new guidelines to regulate their appearance.

The importance of playing by the rules of the Chinese government has been recognised by many hip-hop artists. But this may not be enough. Despite a change in attitudes over the years where he went from rapping unapologetically about his past brushes with the law to rapping about the importance of reflection and change to rapping about his patriotism towards China, Gai was forced to withdraw from Singer 2018*.

With the constant censorship of rising Chinese hip-hop artists, will the genre become mainstream?

Yes, but it will take time. While opinions are divided, many netizens do support the censorship of celebrities who promote unlawful and immoral behaviour. Due to a lack of exposure, many individuals, particularly from the older generation, have a negative view of hip-hop. They believe it promotes rebellion, promiscuity and materialism thus they support the censorship of hip-hop artists. These negative stereotypes have only been confirmed by PG One's scandal and apology which may have been their first mainstream exposure to hip-hop artists. 

But not all Chinese hip-hop artists share PG One's misunderstanding of hip-hop culture. A fellow contestant on TROC, Sun Ba Yi, was known for his businessman demeanour and socialist lyrics. While he was criticised for being inauthentic to hip-hop, he argued he was being truly authentic by rapping about his values as a core foundation of hip-hop is to "keep it real". His most recent single 'Brilliant China' contained lyrics taken directly from the Communist Party of China's doctrine. I am not suggesting hip-hop will only become mainstream in China if it's used to spread propaganda but hip-hop and the conservative Chinese culture are not mutually exclusive. 

I have read that Gai was forced to withdraw due to complaints about past songs with vulgar lyrics. If this is true I think it's a shame he was forced to withdraw. Unlike PG One, Gai has demonstrated through his songs and lifestyle that he has matured. His change in attitude has been gradual and organic, not the result of sudden fame and a desire to become mainstream. He is known for having a steady girlfriend (not sure if this provides any cred) and has constantly demonstrated filial piety. Since winning TROC he has provided for his parents allowing them to retire and travel.