Now Hip-Hop, Too, Is Made in China (Updated)

From New York Times:

A week before Americans tune in to the Super Bowl, another televised mega-event will kick off on the other side of the globe. On Sunday more than half a billion people here are expected to watch the annual Chinese Lunar New Year gala. Organized by the state-owned China Central Television, the marathon event showcases the country’s musical diversity with an extensive lineup of Chinese pop stars performing hit songs. But one genre audiences are unlikely to see is Chinese hip-hop, despite its growing popularity among the country’s urban youth.

Over the last decade many students and working-class Chinese have been writing rap as a form of self-expression. Rougher and more rebellious than the well-scrubbed pop that floods the airwaves here, this kind of hip-hop is not sanctioned by broadcast media producers or state censors but has managed to attract a grass-roots fan base.

“Hip-hop is free, like rock ’n’ roll — we can talk about our lives, what we’re thinking about, what we feel,” said Wang Liang, 25, a popular hip-hop D.J. in China who is known as Wordy. “The Chinese education system doesn’t encourage you to express your own character. They feed you stale rules developed from books passed down over thousands of years. There’s not much opportunity for personal expression or thought; difference is discouraged.”


NPR also ran a story on Chinese hip hop in December 2007.

Ping Ke says that 20 years ago, when he was listening to rock music, the government wouldn’t allow it on the radio. He says that back then, the government tried to control the airwaves for propaganda, but now “it’s because of commercial reasons. For example, I have to do this and that just because my program has a sponsor.”

One person trying to nurture Chinese hip-hop is DJ V-Nutz — also known as Gary Wang, a Chinese DJ who recently opened The Lab, a nonprofit music studio meant to help Shanghai develop its own hip-hop style. Wang says he thinks the Shanghai hip-hop scene still has a ways to go.

“I would say we don’t have a Chinese style yet,” Wang says. “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.”

For more information on Chinese hip hop, see this Wikipedia entry and the research blog Hip Hop in China. To see some photos of the bboy scene in China, see pestanarui’s flickr collection.

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