While hip-hop culture was created in America’s inner cities in the 1970’s and 1980’s, its reach has spanned the furthest corners of the planet. One can see the imprint of the four pillars of hip-hop on the street fashion in London, the underground break-dance battles in Brazil, the DJ competitions in Germany and the staccato rap flows of artists spanning all over Asia. But like in the States, many still consider hip-hop and its inner-city elements a danger to society. And it seems as if hip-hop’s place in the mainstream media may soon be coming to an end in select Asian nations.
China has recently made announcements that it has officially banned all aspects of hip-hop culture from the country’s television channels, according to the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of the People’s Republic of China (SAPPRFT), which is the nation’s top media regulator. In a statement made concerning the ruling, Gao Changli, director of the administration’s publicity department, outlined four new “Don’t” rules that must be upheld when content aired on Chinese television:
- Absolutely do not use actors whose heart and morality are not aligned with the party and whose morality is not noble
- Absolutely do not use actors who are tasteless, vulgar and obscene
- Absolutely do not use actors whose ideological level is low and have no class
- Absolutely do not use actors with stains, scandals and problematic moral integrity
The ban was instituted following the sudden removal of a prominent Chinese rapper named GAI from Hunan TV’s hit music competition show Singer, as well as his removal from the network’s highly popular Youtube page. But more and more occurrences of Chinese rappers being cut from various shows and platforms started making its rounds. PG One, a rising rapper was made to apologize for his latest hit single “Christmas Eve” by the Communist Youth League because of the song’s lyrics highlighting drug culture and insulting women. And one contestant on the show Super Brian, which has zero affiliation to hip-hop, recently blurred one of its contestants because of his “Hip-Hop style necklace.”
Rap culture has definitely seen an uptick in popularity for decades throughout Asia, as the new age of “SoundCloud Rappers” and Tumblr fashion have merged together creating a new generation of creatives in Japan, China, Korea and other Asian nations emulating what they see on American shores. Groups like China’s Higher Brothers, Korea’s Keith Ape and Malaysia’s Rich Brian (who changed his name from Rich Chigga at the top of 2018) have taken rap culture and inserted their own cultural nuances, creating an infectious new sub-culture that has given the Asian youth a voice in rap’s international arena. Hip-hop in Asia is no new phenomenon, as it has been incredibly popular in Japan since the mid-1990’s. Groups like Tokyo’s Teriyaki Boyz have been representing in the space for years, and due to co-signs from Pharrell Williams and A Bathing Ape founder Nigo, have managed to acquire an American fan base over the years, as well.
Fans of China’s rising rap scene are up in arms about the recent rulings from SAPPRFT, and have taken to social media to speak against it using Weibo, which can be compared to the Chinese equivalent of Twitter. No word as of yet as to how this will affect rising artists like Higher Brothers and PG One, but as Internet culture has been a key vehicle for upcoming rappers in the U.S., it looks to do the same there. Content house 88Rising has done a great job establishing itself as the platform introducing American rap to the Asian market and Asian rap culture to the world over the last year, bringing artists like Higher Brothers and Rich Brian to American computer screens. “A lot of people are wondering, ‘What is 88rising, exactly? Is it a YouTube channel? Is it a management company? Is it a record label?’’ said Sean Miyashiro, the Bay-Area native who created 88Rising in an interview with Pitchfork. “It’s actually everything. Our general ethos is that we want to push this shit forward. It’s not like, ‘Hey, we’re trying to change people’s perceptions of Asians.’ We’re just doing it by being alive.”