Hip-Hop in Beijing

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4 Responses

  1. pacard says:

    Hi, it is great to think of authentic Chinese rappers! It would be interesing to find out, though, how they make this image, and how they practically maintain it, where for instance they buy their clothes, and what journey these did before getting there (probably, a global adventure). Is there a grammar of being ‘authentic’ rappers or blues musicians? What practical actions would this involve, I wonder?

  2. kiyallsmith says:

    I think the themes that Chinese hip-hop artists regard as authentic might match with American hip-hop artists as well. It is really interesting that the importance of social commentary translates across language, distance, and culture.


  3. bmckernan says:

    I really appreciate the feedback. I too am fascinated by this notion of what may be considered “authentic” hip-hop in China and how it relates to American hip-hop. The emphasis on social commentary certainly seems to be similar to notions of authentic hip-hop by American MCs as well. It would be really interesting to examine these claims to authenticity in a global comparative format, tracing out what authenticity “means” to different social groups (not just MCs, but also fans and perhaps label execs).

  4. jamnopeanut says:

    As a researcher here in Beijing, its great to hear interest in chinese hip hop, especially concerning issues of authenticity. Authenticity isnt a word that often comes to mind when most people (Western or Chinese) think of their impressions of Chinese hip hop–most think its simple imitation. Its especially true for a country without copyright laws, and a culture of DVD and videogame and rampant commercialism.

    …but like in any music culture, even one which draws many of its influences from the parent culture third party interaction (the internet, media, music videos, music and lyric translation), authenticity is a central issue within the community itself, and is quintessential to the creation of cultural product.

    If i were to compare notions of authenticity between countries, in the case of the United States, authenticity often relies on a participants particular socioeconomic status or racial identification. But in a racially homogenous population such as China, which has experienced 30 years uninterrupted prosperity since 1979, perceptions of chinese hip hop artist’s “authenticity” rely on behavioral and consumptive patterns. The case is somewhat similar to blacks in urban hubs during the great migration, where a behavioral change, ie. speaking “proper” and wearing a suit to the same menial labor job seperated them from their country cousins, not deterministically racial or socioeconomic criteria.

    Authenticity doesnt stem from concrete cultural or socioeconomic differences between patrons, (but how concrete are those differences anyway?)– but rather from a constructed identity–style and knowledge. Its all about which style you choose to display.

    To some, the difference in authenticity is outlined by the two terms Hip Hop and 喜哈 (xiha). 喜哈, the phoenetic translation of ‘hip hop’, has come to represent the gaudy, materialistic, ‘inauthentic’ arm of hip hop, while hip-hop, in english, is reserved for those who ‘keep it real’. Language, and the choice to rap in Mandarin is also quite determinant of one’s authenticity as a chinese rapper.

    For emcees in Beijing, authenticity is a matter both as simple as just spitting the truth when you’re on the mic–没有废话 (no bullshit)– and as complex as catering to different parties with the same music: your fellow artists, the materialistic masses, record labels, endorsers and in few cases the dreaded cultural bureau. Not to mention one’s own artistic standards.

    As you might expect, practioners of the other three pillars (graf, djs, b-people) have different notions of authenticity, but all which consider the questions of reconciling a foreign born art form with its local development, in particular and the artist-patron relationship in general.

    I hope we can continue the dialogue.

    Jamel Mims

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