Rap of China is really boring this year so far, but luckily Rap for Youth has stepped up to the plate. The casting and editting is hilarious, and the arrangement and production level of this show is absolutely stunning. Each of the stages for the first round features at least one live instrument working with the rappers on stage, and many flawlessly combine Chinese instruments with the beats.
Here’s my favorite song of the round, a battle song that samples Eminem’s Lose Yourself while using Chinese drums. The chorus for this is ridiculously well-written, and the whole performance is perfect.
From round two, the only one that really made an impression on me so far is C-Low’s Piece of Tape 一块胶布, a reference to rock legend Cui Jian’s iconic Piece of Red Cloth. The song uses the singer’s father as a stand-in for SARFT and the greater cultural restrictions in China, calling for acceptance of his lover, hip-hop. I love that he opens with a traditional kuaiban, drawing attention to how rap is not dissimilar to traditional Chinese arts, but also how he wants to be free from the constrained flow of a kuaiban piece.
The erhu of foreigners became assimiliated into our culture, the trumpet of Persia is now known as suona;
The string instrument from the West became pipa, so I can’t believe we have no place in our home for her.
I only liked two of the rappers in this There once was a Lord 有一个霸王, but the arrangement and stage design for this is beautiful. While it samples Peking Opera and is the most “traditionally Chinese” sounding song, it is also a rare one that actually uses a Western instrument (the violin) as the focus. I want the instrumentals for this.
The Troubles of Love 恋爱的麻烦 is a 50’s rap musical with pipa.
A Simple Guide to Life on Earth 人间普通指南 combines the suona with 80’s disco.
Oh, and again, if you haven’t seen it already, two that I wrote about earlier:
Yu Zhen – She and she and she
Yu Zhen is the perfect mix of playful and inspirational on the stage of Rap for Youth as she tells the story of three professional women in difficult situations.
Sundae 圣代 – Horror on a Rainy Night
Sundae’s horror rap performance feels like a full-out MV on stage. The acting is top-tier as he plays both the bully and the victim on Rap for Youth.