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中国新说唱's not-so-subtle emphasis on the 新
singapore sunset
amw
I haven't read any hot takes in the English language press about this season's Rap Of China. I guess the novelty is gone now. The big topics of late are Luckin Coffee, climate change, the return of Google and the trade war.

So here's my hot take as a foreigner who is still trying to keep up with the talking heads segments, much less follow the lyrical content of the performances. This year's storyline is less about scrappy former gangsters becoming surprise hits on streaming sites while the Party scrambles to figure out what its stance on hip-hop should be. This year you can feel the weight of the censors keeping things harmonious.

Perhaps i am reading too much into it, but when three of the top 12 rappers are all from Xinjiang province, and at least one of them is an ethnic Uyghur who uses the catchphrase "i'm made in China", i feel the producers are deliberately going for a nationalist storyline. Don't get me wrong, those Xinjiang rappers are dope as fuck. Two of them in particular have amazing flow and definitely deserve their spots. But it feels suspicious that an entire province with less people in it than the city of Shanghai could have such a strong representation in a country with well over a billion people.

Then again, Hong Kong and Taiwan are even less populated than Xinjiang and they dominated the Chinese-language entertainment world for years.

It's kind of amusing that the judges on this show are Taiwanese Aboriginal, Taiwanese Han, Hongkonger and one Guangdong guy who grew up in Canada then became a K-pop idol. It's like... is there anyone from the inner provinces who makes any music at all?

Which, of course there is.

I am feeling a bit strange. Exhausted from work. Disinclined to do anything. So, pretty much the usual weekend for me.

Except this weekend i got an email from my mom saying she has cancer and is about to start chemo. So that's a thing. I feel like i should feel something but i don't. I am just tired.
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Do the rappers from non-Han ethnic groups rap in Mandatin or in their own languages?

Sorry about your mother. I hope chemo goes well for her.

That's a great question!

Both this season and last season the judges pushed back a little on rappers who struggled with Mandarin, although the diaspora rappers from America seemed to get further than the Chinese-born entrants. I think ABCs, CBCs and even Hongkongers to some degree are given more slack than mainlanders when it comes to language skills. Last season a fun Guangzhou performer copped a bit of an unfair elimination because she couldn't speak Mandarin very well, which was a bummer.

On the other hand, even the ones who are completely fluent throw local slang into their raps. I notice all the English slang, but from reading the 弹幕 (viewer-posted "bullet text" that constantly flies across the screen), I can see other languages are thrown in too. It's funny to see comments from Chinese viewers asking for someone from the same town as the rapper to explain what some local slang term meant.

As for the Uyghurs? I didn't hear much there besides one hook that surprised me by referencing Allah. They do have a few other videos on the streaming sites (outside of the show) where they rap in Uyghur, though, which is neat to see. The language sounds very different to Chinese.

So... I don't think the producers are trying to whitewash the ethnicity, but it's not front and center either. I guess, trying to be non-cynical about it, that does make sense for a nationwide show: you want the lyrics to be understood by as many viewers as possible.

It's strange to live here as the world discusses Xinjiang. The foreign press would have you believe that basically the whole province is a giant concentration camp. I know that's not true because one of my colleagues just went on vacation there. In the local press they celebrate the province as an exotic destination well-known for its fruit and nuts and bread. Everyone knows there is a terrorism problem, but there is a hope that economic development might improve things. The reality is probably somewhere in the middle.

Thanks for the words on my mom. I don't really know how to deal with this other than keep on keeping on. There isn't much I can do from here besides send her email and love.


Edited at 2018-08-13 01:44 pm (UTC)

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