Scandal shows hip-hop cannot thrive in China

By Ai Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2018/1/8 23:13:40

Does China have real hip-hop? The scandal of Chinese rapper PG One, his sexist lyrics full of dirty talk and implications of drug use, has triggered heated debate about American popular culture and may provide some clues.

PG One made his name overnight at the reality show The Rap of China last summer. The show also put hip-hop center stage in China for the first time. But what exactly is hip-hop? Many Chinese people have no clue.

Every cultural phenomenon is at all times related to the social environment where it develops. Breaking away from its original surroundings can mean possible deformation, or worse, no chance to survive.

Hip-hop was born in the African-American community of the US. Although slavery ended with the nation's Civil War, people of color there have still struggled with poverty, racism and gang violence for quite some time.

Emerging from such an environment, hip-hop was a tool for people to vent their anger, misery, complaints as well as outrage. It is often accompanied by drugs, crimes and violence. It's thus a culture of black people's defiance, a way to get discontent off their chest and look for hope.

Early hip-hop lyrics were full of four-letter words. Rappers tended to angrily rebuke social injustice. That's because they were undereducated, discriminated against and suffering in destitution. So they wrote what they thought, what they wanted and how they lived. The songs were real and resonate.

But when hip-hop landed in China, hip-hop skipped the hardship part to become a commercial product. Dressed in designer brands from head to toe, Chinese rappers frequently make fun of women or the weak. Like hip-hop artists in the US, they also enjoy using offensive, eye-catching words. Their pursuit of a strong, cool, personal style evolved into a vulgar performance.

Such a twisted facsimile of hip-hop could not survive in China. Will Chinese applaud a young man who comes from money crying "How I want a Ferrari" while driving a Lamborghini? It's as ridiculous as seeing someone sing about his "gangster life" in the big cities of China.

No one can transplant a cactus to Siberia or move polar bears to the equator. In this case, the living environment matters. Without a native culture for hip-hop, the cultural form can scarcely blossom in China. 

Posted in: OBSERVER

blog comments powered by Disqus