From the streets of the southern Bronx, United States in the 1970s to Guangzhou’s hip hop scene today, hip hop culture has proven its long standing stamina – transcending different cultures and languages.
With the arrival of hip hop on the shores of China in the 1990s, generations of Chinese hip hoppers have been able to explore their society, makes sense of the growth of foreign influences in China, and create a mirage of what the future could hold.
Fast forward two decades later and many see Guangzhou as the place where Chinese hip hop began. Unlike in Europe where it came as a conglomerate of artistic forms – break dancing, DJing, graffiti art and MCing (rap) – the roots of hip hop in China came in small separate pockets, many didn't even realize that these four elements were interwoven.
One foot in the past and one foot in the future
After launching the first Chinese hip hop street culture website in 1998 that lasted until 2006 in Guangzhou, Yang Zhiqi aka Dickid has been dubbed one of the pioneers, catapulting hip hop into the Chinese stratosphere. He has kept the thread between the four elements vibrant, resulting in gaining credence from his peers and those they came after, who he calls the second generation of hip hoppers.
Dickid: One of the pioneers of Guangzhou’s hip hop scene
According to Dickid, hip hop has continued to flourish despite the Chinese media claiming differently. Just this year the local government has allotted space for hip hop culture to be taught to youths: on the third and fourth floors of the Guangzhou Youth Cultural Palace you’ll find hip hop dance studios, a place to do graffiti art as well as a stage for performances.
But commercial opportunities are limited in Guangzhou, unlike in Beijing and Shanghai, and this is difficult for those who “what to make it.”
“Kids want to get things done too fast so they always try to get them done in a short time. They also want to see their result in a short time. It never really gets to the point that ‘it’s not good enough.’ But they always try to start to make money. That’s one big problem,” Dickid said.
Time is of the essence – use it wisely
Commercial success is what Guangzhou Cantonese rapper Bosi wishes to achieve. But these days, he has hit a wall and is experiencing a period ] he calls “卧薪尝胆” or revival.
Bosi’s fans keep his creative fires burning
After writing, producing and performing rap materials since he was 14, he is currently on a leave of absence in the hip hop scene in Guangzhou. But his full-time work along with finding his own identity has left him in a rut. “I’m still looking for it,” he said in a videophone interview. “I feel that I’m not different [enough] or outstanding (sic).”
In the past, his work did have an impact on some of his listeners, resulting in keeping his creative fire burning even if it is now a pint-size flame. But for Bosi, the risk of fading away is possible when the goal of becoming an established artist seems so far away.
Like Bosi, RebelMan is on the same path in striving to gain notoriety through his talents as a rapper. RebelMan came to Guangzhou to pursue his passion and these days, he produces P-Funk music, a mixture of funk, soul and rock music that was once popular in the 1970s. With fellow rapper, Madprole, he created the ‘Mr. Monster’ rap group under the label of “Chee Production,” spearheaded by Dickid himself.
“In the very beginning, I thought that hip hop was very cool,” RebelMan said. “But the more I know about it, the more I want to share what the culture is about through my music and my dancing. The culture has allowed me to see the meanings of a true life, how to play life and to live life. And in return, you find out more about awesome things. Don’t be fans of current stars… They are hypocrites and they are sissies! (sic).”
Attracting international influence
German hip hop culture promoter Akim Walta aka Zebster is a graffiti writer and music producer. Zebster first came to China in 2007 on business, which led him to the hip hop talents in the country. He met Dickid in 2009 due to his involvement with a hip hop culture project in Shanghai Expo 2009. Similar to Dickid’s entry into the hip hop world, Zebster first took interest in the culture 30 years ago – changing his life for the better, he said.
His NGO ‘From Here to Fame,’ allows him to venture out in the streets to find and to help promote talents in the hip hop scene. He has attended jam sessions in Guangzhou and helped Dickid showcase his graffiti talents at the Guangzhou youth cultural palace.
Individualism in China is often overshadowed by the idea of conformism. But to find creativity, the older generations need to pass on their knowledge to the young, as well as support the next generations to blossom in their own way and to reflect the changing tides of ideas in modern day China.
Now having been introduced to the guys behind hip hop in Guangzhou, it is time to start dancing. Here is a list of dance studios and venues that promote and play hip hop in Guangzhou.
Hip Hop Dance Studios:
1) Guangzhou Youth Cultural Palace View In Map
Add: 3/F, South Gate, 312 Beijing Lu, Guangzhou
Website: www.gzqg.cn (in Chinese)
Getting there: Take Subway Line 1 to Gongyuanqian Station, Exit E
2) Time Out GuangzhouView In Map
Add: 13/F, 17 Zhongshansan Lu, Guangzhou
地址: 广州市中山三路17号，新城市教育 13层，
Getting there: Take Subway Line 1 to Martyr’s Park Station, Exit B2
3) Passion Dance Studio View In Map
Add: 5/F 172 Linhe Zhonglu, Tianhe District, Guangzhou
Tel: 020 8393 6388
Getting there: Take Subway Line 3 to Guangzhou East Railroad Station, Exit F
1) Guangzhou Youth Cultural PalaceView In Map
Add: 4/F South Gate, 312 Beijing Lu, Guangzhou
Website: www.gzqg.cn (in Chinese)
Getting there: Take Subway Line 1 to Gongyuanqian Station, Exit E.
2) C:Union View In Map
Add: 115, Shuiyin Lu, Chengshihui, Tianhe District, Guangzhou
Tel: 020 8704 7357, 020 3584 0144
Getting there: Take Subway Line 3 to Linhexi, and exit
3) Loft 345
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Keywords: Hip hop in Guangzhou Hip hop in China Guangzhou’s hip hop scene
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