New York-based artist and musician Jie-Song Zhang is writing a series of blog posts and photo galleries for National Geographic exploring the underground hip-hop movement and youth culture in China. From the first installment:
To properly understand a person standing before you, it is necessary to understand the nature of this person’s origin – to be able to compare where this person is from to where this person has arrived. As I looked upon the face of the current underground Hip-Hop movement in Beijing, in the black pupils of its distinctly Chinese eyes, I would often see swimming cloud-like as memories do, the story of Hip-Hop’s birth in the United States.
Hip-Hop was a child born of hardship, delivered to the world from the womb of concrete surfaces that was the South Bronx of New York, in the mid 1970s. Hip-Hop was a child of black American parents, his blood a river from Africa, famously rich in those minerals that encourage rhythm, movement, and expression. Hip-Hop grew up and became known to the world, ultimately because he showed that it is perhaps those with empty hands and an abundant heart who have the most to give to humankind.
There are many different species of culture, but each one exhibits a plant-like growth in its spread throughout a society: the seeds of a culture work their way into the soil of those hearts that are fertile amongst the people, the roots form, and in time, the culture’s distinct physical characteristics blossom across the surface of those it inhabits. In the Beijing winter, I was witnessing a springtime for Hip-Hop, the flowering of over-sized jackets and baseball caps tilted sideways; of hypnotically nodding heads and exaggerated hand gestures; of a fresh outfit being thrown across the shoulders of a very ancient soul.
See also the photo gallery for the post.