Dozens of hip-hop clubs have opened up in cities across the country, and thousands of raps and music videos by Chinese M.C.'s are spreading over the Internet. But making Chinese hip-hop is still a relatively profitless - and often subversive - activity. Some Chinese rappers address what they see as the country's most glaring injustices.
Shuo chang, the Chinese word for hip-hop, translates to "speak sing" and is a loaded term. It also describes a contentious subject for musicians, producers and fans in China. Hong Kong, mainland and Taiwanese pop stars who have their own spin on hip-hop dominate the mainstream here. Many tack high-speed raps onto the end of their songs, even ballads, and consider themselves rappers.Of course, fans of mainstream rap—clean, professional and uncontroversial enough to get played on Government-approved radio—would beg to differ:
Jay Chou, a popular pop singer turned rapper from Taiwan who has been featured in advertisements for Pepsi, Panasonic and China Mobile, is the archetype of a mainstream performer here. Clean-cut and handsome, he appeals to a sense of nationalist pride. His hit song "Huo Yuanjia" is based on a patriotic Chinese martial artist glorified in Chinese textbooks for traveling the country to challenge foreigners in physical combat. Fans of Chou vehemently assert that his music is hip-hop, while denigrating groups like Yin Tsar.
"I don't know what groups like Yin Tsar are trying to do," said Hua Lina, 35, an accountant. "They dress like bums, and sometimes they take off their shirts at performances, screaming like animals. Their lyrics are dirty - why would I want to pay to see that?"While the media in China is tightly controlled, and the internet is notoriously monitored by armies of censors, the country's music clubs are generally left alone, so those who don't mind reaching a small audience at a time can say more or less what they like.
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