The International Rise of Chinese Rap (And Its Controversies)


Hip hop as a music genre, style, and dance form has covered a lot of territory since its emergence in the '70s. Once a subculture used as a multicultural and artistic expression amongst inner-city Black folks in the United States has now turned into a popular genre that international youth consume and even attempt to make their own. This rise of hip hop in other nations (and by non-black folk) is a highly controversial development, even when other groups marginalized by white people take the matter into their hands. Despite the debates surrounding cultural appropriation and the authenticity of rap, popular media such as reality television show The Rap of China make us realize that Chinese-language rap is gradually taking a spot on the radar (whether you are for or against it).

A few artists attempting to honor the legacy of hip hop as a black American creation while infusing their own style, culture, and twist to the genre include Sichuan's own Higher Brothers, Boston-bred rapper Bohan Phoenix, Beijing producer Howie Lee and Mandarin/Sichanese rap talent VaVa. While four-person crew Higher Brothers have a trap-like sound which they use to tell stories of urban Chinese youth culture, China's big name female rapper VaVa shares intimate stories from her upbringing with a more commercialized sound. Bohan Phoenix actually uses his influence growing up in the U.S. and carries his love for hip hop with him into Sichuan (where he moved to at age 11). Then there is Howie Lee who dabbles in rap and electronic music and creates his own unique, underground sound. Head here to read more about China's growing rap influence directly from the artists through their conversation with DAZED and listen below.

Words: Vanessa Feder