Exploring the Artists Shaping China’s Hip Hop Future

Chine hip hop

If you grew up any time from the 90’s onwards, then hip hop will have always been a part of the world you live in, like the internet, mobile phones and the fact that Madonna is famous. But like the internet, mobile phones and the fact that Madonna is famous, hip hop was only really brought to a global consciousness in the late 80’s, further solidifying itself as a worldwide phenomenon in the 90’s, then unthinkingly became integral to all of our lives by the turn of the millennium onwards. Except for Madonna being famous actually, she tried her hardest to stay relevant but since falling off the stage in the 2015 Brit Awards has had to thankfully disappear from the shame. But I digress.

In the 90’s, while the rest of the world was nodding their head to Dr. Dre, Tupac and Biggie, China was faced with a western culture blackout. This meant that hip hop’s often explicit lyrics didn’t make it through to Chinese ears until a decade later. But from the early 2000’s till today, China has warmly embraced the genre, and now, along with the help of pioneers like Beijing’s Nasty Ray and his Natural Favlour nights, YouTube (or Youku, the Chinese equivalent) channels dedicated to Chinese speaking hip hop like Zhong.TV and the more recent emergence of the incredibly popular ‘Rap Of China’ Pop Idol style reality internet program, there is more native hip hop artists doing their thing than ever. To introduce you to the best of the scene, we’ve listed our current top five Chinese speaking rappers.

 Higher Brothers

Chengdu, the provincial capital of the Sichuan province, is home to some of the best in Chinese hip hop at the moment, and most of them come under the larger umbrella of Chengdu Rap House, of which the Higher Brothers, AKA Masiwei, DZ, Psy.P, and Melo, are members. With lyrical content that swiftly moves between the poetic and the ‘dangerously obscene’, they are widely considered to be one of, if not the most respected Chinese hip hop groups going at the moment.

Purple Soul

Chengdu, the provincial capital of the Sichuan province, is home to some of the best in Chinese hip hop at the moment, and most of them come under the larger umbrella of Chengdu Rap House, of which the Higher Brothers, AKA Masiwei, DZ, Psy.P, and Melo, are members. With lyrical content that swiftly moves between the poetic and the ‘dangerously obscene’, they are widely considered to be one of, if not the most respected Chinese hip hop groups going at the moment.

MC Little Tiger

MC Little Tiger AKA J-Fever AKA Zhao Hong, is a legendary rapper, one credited with being a part of the creation of a hip hop scene in Beijing. Having made a name for himself as a freestyle battle rapper, winning the prestigious Dragon vs Tiger award two years in a row, he is now bringing his jazz and funk infused hip hop sound to a select number with the release of his new album, Juliana, of which only a few hundred presses were released.

With a colourful lyrical style that tells stories and paints pictures through vivid imagery, he is one of the most considered and thought provoking rappers in China today.

TY

Definitely the most explicit rapper on this list, his songs, which feature a lot of overt drug references, are frequently banned for ‘trumpeting obscenity, violence, crime or harming social morality’. Although that makes him instantly sound absolutely amazing, unfortunately for him, it’s a very dangerous to be playing, and many rap groups before him have been shut down for similar offences. Still, he’s not been arrested yet, so may as well enjoy it him while he lasts.

 

Sean ZH

Another Beijing resident with a fast paced and precise 90’s style flow and a classic, sample laden beat style, Sean ZH’s approach to the genre is typical of the city's refusal to move past what many perceive to be hip hop’s defining decade. Having also collaborated with artists like Scope of the Vancouver based Cloudy Tunnel crew, he’s not afraid to spread push his sound into new territories both geographically and audibly.

Fat Shady

Another misfit from the infamous Chengdu Rap House crew, Fat Shady gained national notoriety when he performed his song, ‘Daddy Ain’t Going To Work Tomorrow’, about the tedium of the daily working life, on a national singing competition similar to ‘The Voice’, and it’s lyrics instantly struck a chord with an overworked population. His album, ‘People, Society, Money’, brings a far more modern edge to Chinese hip hop, and is solely focused on the trap sound that is gaining more and more popularity in mainstream clubs across the country.