Urban China- Chengdu, the western heavenly city

Chengdu is known among Chinese people with the name of “heavenly city”, having on its side the advantage of being surrounded by a land in which nature in all its aspects is generous without a doubt. Abundance of natural resources, breathtaking landscapes, variety of vegetal and animal species (pandas above all!), and last but not least, beautiful women! Chengdu is pretty different from Chinese big cities and Beijing and Shanghai, lifestyle is much less frenetic and more on a human scale. Local people love to enjoy their free time with a lot of hobbies, one above all, the game of majiang. Aside of these optimal natural and social conditions, here we have a very important cultural environment which touches all the arts, from culinary to music.

In a context like this, one may think hip hop culture would be basically absent, on the contrary Chengdu’s rap is one of most interesting in all China, and it’s hip hop scene is one of most exciting of the Country.

The rapper Fat Shady

Talking about Chengdu rap we cannot fail to mention Fat Shady. About him we can say his flow is like local cuisine: hot, fat and spicy! The guy gained the attention of greater public joining tv show “Sing My Song” (中国好歌曲), a talent show similar to The Voice but which focuses on lyrics written and sung by contestants themselves. Fat Shady, born Cai Zhenhong, succeded in entering the final but without winning the competition. But this didn’t affected his fame: the song he performed on the tv show stage “I’m Not Going to Work Tomorrow”(Laozi mingtian bu shangban 老子明天不上班)  in which the emcee rails against the petty indignities of the working world  went viral among Chinese workers fed up with the daily drudgery of their jobs. “When I finished writing it, I was like, ‘This track bangs, the people are going to love it,’” Fat Shady said interviewed by The World Post.

A characterizing element of Fat Shady’s rap is the use of local dialect. This first of all shows a tie link between rapper and his local context and his people, the need to “represent” inherited from hip hop culture. This might be an obstacle to a wider spreading of this music, but the dialect is for a lot of Chinese, especially those from rural areas, is the mean of expression they use in daily life, and for this reasons is the most direct and spontaneous tool they possess. The same is for rappers, and maybe one of the reason a lot of non-Sichuanese speakers likes their music is exactly because this approach, straight and direct. Being authentic and talking about the “real” is a founding element of hip hop culture as well.

One who knows something about speaking the truth is Melo, born Xie Yujie, 25 years old, architect by day, rapper by night. On May 2015, when he heard that local authorities were about to shut down the app Uber, he went to the recording studio spitting all his anger into “Uber rap” song: “I can’t find a taxi, I take Uber,the bus doesn’t come, I take Uber, the subway is too crowded, I take Uber, the government is money grubber and crime inducer, motherfu**ing bitch!”. It didn’t took too much before the song was scrubbed from the Internet, and local police called Melo to the station, making him promise never to release the song again. But in the meanwhile the song has been running on Chinese social media for few hour, making gain Melo a little bit of fame.

Kafe Hu in action

Another noteworthy rapper in Chengdu goes by the name of Kafe Hu. His new album The Code of Lucifer is an endearing experiment of electronic sounds with  psychedelic influences and jazz/soul elements on the background. The result is a high quality product which reveals a striking originality and a great attention to details. A breath of fresh air for Chinese new hip hop, and single “The 21st Century Schizoid Man” is its perfect synthesis.

In conclusion, if you want to taste a super spicy huoguo, admire the local nature or discover the hottest underground nights of the city, Chengdu won’t definitely let you down!


Fat Shady – Laozi mingtian bu shangban (I’m Not Going to Work Tomorrow) live at Sing My Song:

Melo – Uber Rap:

Kafe Hu – The 21st Century Schizoid Man:

Source: “Meet The Chinese Rappers Bringing Hip-Hop To The Middle Kingdom”, The World Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/chinese-rappers-hip-hop_us_55ca6009e4b0923c12be783e

Fabio Nalin for Vivere Liquido