Years on the circuit Four
Sounds like Alternative hip-hop with electronic and Dirty South influences.
Influences ‘My recent favourite is Lil Durk’s Signed to the Streets 2, which is a Chicago rap album. I listen to a lot of Chicago rap; I’m not particularly fond of old music. I also really like this guy called MC Yung Lean. I think he’s pretty interesting, maybe because his lyrics are close to mine in style. His clothing and flow are also very creative.’
Style ‘Most Beijing rappers focus more on lyrics, and use older types of flow; their ideas are a bit more conservative. I want to do something more American. Like I might do an American-style accompaniment or use an American accent to sing in Chinese. I want to do something more professional. As for flow, I like to switch it up – like sometimes I’ll slide words in between beats. I’m a big fan of American southern rap, so some of that has snuck into my flow, like switch-ups in tone or a faster flow. My lyrics are quite rough, I write about stuff like sex, funny stuff, and things I imagine – things that only exist in my imagination.’
‘I’ll be impartial, wake myself up / Around me scores of police whistles / If you don’t listen, careful, I’ll take your life / Pay attention to expression, my instructions / All issued for my purposes / The entire city’s schedule set by me’ (from ‘Purple Swagzz’
Years on the circuit 16
Sounds like Classic hardcore hip-hop.
Influences ‘The person who’s inspired me most is Deng Wei, who’s a local Chinese musician. When I write my own songs, I don’t try to imitate him, but I do follow in his footsteps. His music is so artistic and poetic that nobody really understands him. I myself can’t totally understand him, but his work has still influenced a lot of my own creation and feelings. My flow and rhyme are influenced by guys from the early ’90s.’
Style ‘I’m more of a northern-style Chinese rapper, though I have my own unique style. My lyrics are pretty abstract – I don’t use them to describe concrete incidents; I write more about life, humanity, art, reality, fantasy and all those things put together. My musical style is also very broad. I like pop songs, but I also like underground music. I’ve tried a lot of different genres, like reggae, pop, funk, dubstep, drum ’n’ bass, jungle and others. I try to incorporate all of these into my own music, so I have multiple styles, not just one. Many people think of me as a hiphop MC, since I was one of the earliest in China, but I do more than hip-hop.’
Sample lyric ‘This is not the first time, why can’t we get closer / This is not the first page / Those that hinder our steps directly / This has become so real / Covering our visions of hope / This must not be/ I am the world of my own sorrow’ (from ‘This is Not the First Time’).
The crowd pleaser
Years on the circuit Nine
Sounds like Accessible, California-style ska-rap with rich instrumentals.
Influences 'In China, a lot of hip-hop music is just imitation. I think almost all foreign rap singers have had some influence on me.’
Style ‘I usually try not to define my style. I feel like all kinds of rhythms have the potential to be developed into a style. Jazz, blues, rock... they could all be used for rap. There is a lot of open space for personal expression, so I don’t think I have a really fixed style. My songs are mostly about the lives of people in my generation, the difficulties they meet, their sentiments, their joy – their psychological worlds. My favourite song that I’ve written is “Fly Freely”, because it represents the experience of children who received a Chinese style education. I don’t want children after our generation to be treated unfairly – to be restricted, trapped, stuck. That’s why I wrote that song.’
Sample lyric ‘Growing up, every child has a dream, and each child his own path / Give him a clean sky in which to fly / Don’t worry about him losing his way or making mistakes / Maybe he simply doesn’t need your help / He’ll find his dream, his ideal road’ (from ‘Fly Freely’).
The underground star
Years on the circuit Ten
Sounds like Classic East Coast hip-hop.
Influences ‘It’s hard to say, but if I had to choose a favourite album, it’d probably be Mobb Deep’s 1995 album The Infamous, because every track is awesome. There are a lot of MCs who’ve influenced me a lot, like Lord Finesse, Big L, Nas, 2Pac, Notorious BIG and DJ Premier, who’s not an MC but is my favourite producer.’
Style ‘I’d say my style veers toward original hip-hop and the Beijing style. My lyrics and flow are influenced by ’90s East Coast style, but I use the Beijing flavour to tell Beijing stories. My lyrics are mostly about what I experience and what I see, about common people who live in this city.’
Sample lyric ‘Half past eleven at night, changing traffic lights / The last train at night, without noticing, one more stop has gone by / On the street, there’s nothing I want to see / I saw some shadows of criminals, with one glimpse of my eye’ (from ‘Tuanjiehu’).
Additional research by Yinxue Zhang.