My mom never let me buy Doggystyle, Snoop Dogg’s first LP, back when he was Snoopy Doggy Dogg. This was during the post-LA riots moral panic about gangster rap and Snoop’s murder trial (not guilty!). I was eight years old with a brand new Sony CD player. Luckily, my cousin had all the good CDs, i.e. those with parental advisory stickers. We used to play that unicycle racing game on SNES and listen to Doggystyle. Remember this track from the first pressing of that LP? It didn’t appear on any later pressings due to sample clearance issues. What a gem.

Snoopy Doggy Dogg – Gz Up Hoez Down

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That was 1993, and in the 20 years since, Snoop Doggy Dogg has not only transformed into Snoop Dogg and then Snoop Lion, he’s made the top-selling porn video of 2001, coached youth football, and become a cultural icon, appearing all over TV and film, both as himself the actor and through others parroting his “fo shizzle bizzle” and other nonsequitors – he was a meme long before the meme era. He is a brand.


Was Snoop Dogg’s late-90s, early-2000s ubiquitousness proto-Gangnam Style? Is Snoop as important as Andy Warhol? How did brands, trends, and globalization collide to make Reincarnation happen? I dunno man, I ate taxi driver food at 2am and woke up hella sick.


Don’t know how many non-English social networking platforms Snoop Dogg/Lion posts on, but he’s all over Weibo, the Chinese Twitter. Bilingual posts from his Snoop_DoggCN account cover wide-ranging topics from Chinese holidays to sports to strange shout-outs and blatant attempts to get marketing data. Some are probably just re-posts from Twitter, but others are clearly for the Chinese market. Some tweets/posts are just straight up advertising.

After digging through Snoop’s Weibo page, here’s my picks, in no specific order:

1) “I’m Bob Marley reincarnated so faded – 我是Bob Marley的化身,他是最棒的”

2) [odd] “Shoutout 2 tha homeyz SOUNDGARDEN congrats on tha new album KING ANIMAL – make … – 支持我朋友Soundgarden,祝贺他们发行了新专辑《King Animal》.”


3) “My president is black – 我的总统是黑人”

4) “Charlie Murphy, ay fam need u on my show!! get at me – Charlie Murphy,我需要你来上我的节目!!联系我吧。”

5) [attempt to get marketing data?] “So many artists in China are dropping new albums in the next months – which one are you most excited for? – 许多中国艺人将在接下来的几个月里发行新专辑 — 你们最期待谁的呢?”

6) “Happy Mooncake festival from your Uncle Snoop Dogg! Eat a mooncake today!” and “Happy singles day in China – sorry I won’t be celebratin witchu, I have my lovel… – 中国的粉丝们,光棍节快乐 – 抱歉我不能和你们一起庆祝节日了,我有我可爱的老婆S…”


[SERATO FACE! prlly not even Serato, probably some proprietary Snoop Dogg DJ software that no one else can get, kinda like the Magic Johnson cure for AIDS that no one else can get...]


7. “Live in Korea wit 2NE1! – 和 @2NE1-YG 在韩国现场!”   (2NE1 is a major K-pop group and this shows the growing global reach of K-pop…compare this to 20 years ago when rappers were spitting anti-Korean lyrics).


8. “Get high wit me – 和我一起来嗨吧.” (this is the transliteration of “hi” and not the character that means “high” like uncle snoop means…)


9. “Also heard bout the stabbings in china – my heart goes out to those families as well. Sad day 2day”


10. “Lunch meat n eggs so good. – 中午吃的肉和鸡蛋好美味啊。” This looks like Hong Kong lunchmeat but in an American shape..what’s the cross-cultural significance of this? Is that paprika? What rare spices does Snoop Dogg/Lion have?


11. “My girl tchin taught me how to write my name in Chinese – how’s my handwritn?!”

12. “Whaddup china – love me some kungfu!! 功夫.”

13. “jus touched down n india n heard that tha US has more land, but indias got 4x more people – 刚刚抵达印度,听说美国的国土面积要比印度广,但是印度的人口却是美国的4倍”

14. “The Tao of Snoop – Snoop之道” + “Jackie Chan donated props from “Chinese Zodiac” to the National Stadium – who’s gonna hit that up? @成龙 – 成龙将电影《十二生肖》中的道具捐赠给了国家体育场“鸟巢” – 谁会去那参观?@成龙

and this one:

15. “Happy Chinese New Year of tha snake! givn my niece a red envelope! 新年快乐恭喜发财 shoutout to my girl t-chin for the chinese”


Actually Snoop doesn’t have that many fans on Weibo – just 77,000, compared to his 10 million+ on Twitter. In China, that’s less compared than 泸州MC石头, this guy (sorry for the lengthy ads):

This guy has 170,000 fans and brings a desktop PC to DJ with at his live shows. So how can we explain a legend like Snoop’s low-numbers in China? Look for some possible answers in an upcoming piece here about hip hop in China.

I wish this tweet made it to Weibo:

“Im takn over as tha CEO of Yahoo. Need sum of tha Snoop Dogg content ya digg. Nuff Said.”

Anyway, I can’t wait to play Doggystyle for my grandkids someday, and “Snoop Lion: Reincarnated” is a terrible symptom of the post-modern condition.

Event Review: MIDI Festival Day Three


Cyncism and hating aside, I had loads of fun at the 20th annual MIDI music festival. Always better to have a music festival than not. We got Century Park, rough uncles cursing and hawking cans of beer, mismatched tuna x sausage hot dogs, bands, DJs, the worst MCs ever, a mix of peeps, and a big sun. Mix that with cheap Jager plus a bottle of Soju and that’s a grand day.

Highlights were Chinese nu-metal band Twisted Machine, Conrank, and Beijing’s Nova Heart. A lot of hype surrounds Nova Heart, and I constantly get emails from their label FakeMusicMedia informing me of their tour-dates in Europe. They live up to the hype. With a simple arrangement of drummer, guitarist, and charismatic singer Helen Feng, (plus some synths and drum machines i’m guessing? couldn’t see), they played the best show of the festival. Wayyyy better than the Chinese “reggae” band before them, whose set was like a “coolest songs from every genre” CD only available through special TV offers after 3am. Like “hey let’s play a rockin ska song now! ” “How bout a blues tune? But let’s throw in some random instruments.”  This set was something a group of recovering drug addicts would rehearse for three months and play at a community center. This was like a bad version of my friend’s high school band 9mm, but played by grown fucking men, at a festival. Afterwards, I saw a pop-punk band with a ten-year old drummer at the JZ School Stage and that kid had more rock-and-roll in him than that whole “reggae” band.

I’ve been lost in electronic music and hip hop for a while, but I bet tweens in America rage way harder to brostep these days than rock. Chinese nu-metal rockers Twisted Machine brought back the spirit of nu-metal/ ragin’ late-90s music for sure, with snarled lyrics like “没人给你面子,别关他们的想法!” (No one gives you face, so don’t care what other people think). People danced, sang along, moshed, and ran around with giant flags. What’s up with the flags? At every Chinese music festival, some people just run around with big flags. Anyway, Twisted Machine sounded a lot like Limb Bizkit/other nu-metal bands, whereas Nova Heart were just in their own lane so they’re my pick.

As for the electronic stage, my good friend Conrank rocked out as hard as any of these bands but as a one man show – rapping, hypeman-ing, dancing, scratching, DJing, and getting crunk. He played much less drum and bass than usual and started off with Bone Crusher’s “Never Scarred”  then into a lot of original trap productions, some jungle, some knife-y dubstep that i didn’t mind, and more hip hop. All that while climbing and jumping on and around the stage, screaming, and never falling or missing a beat. It felt like dude could have had a heart attack at any moment. Wish the soundsystem was bigger, but only for his set.

Other thoughts on the festival. Hey it’s 2013 – don’t need some Eastern Europeans to walk around/dance on stilts dressed up “silly” or “high” at the show. Especially with the ?? DJ playing banging techno at like 3PM on a Sunday. Shit is mad corny. I’m happy to pay their RMB100/day salary to have them NOT dress up and walk around on stilts.

By the electronic stage, why did MIDI place [only???] three portable-toilets facing a road where cars hauling garbage and everything else, so that peeps wait ten minutes to pee while stepping out of the way for little and big cars passing by? Couldn’t have just turned them around 180 degrees so people could line up in the grass? Makes no sense.

Ok so the worst part of the electronic stage, aside from Donny from Donny Does China acting completely fucking retarded and crowd-surfing with a live duck (fuck that), the wackness level of the MCing was higher than any Beijing pollution index. See, there’s been a bit of a White Rapper Renaissance in The West. I’ve been living in Asia, but I still feel its effects. Now not only do a lot more white people think they can rap, they’re so confused and think an audience of hundreds at a music festival wants muttered lines like “I’m bout to be rappin all over town…” and “I don’t wanna see anyone cry.”

Dude, you’re “bout to be rappin all over town” ?? You’re on stage, at a festival, screaming at people to make some noise. What are you talking about?

See, the combination of The White Rapper Renaissance, plus sketchy designer drugs and cheap cigs, has lead some to believe that they can and should rap at a music festival. No no no. Stay off the pills, learn how to hold a microphone, and get some skills [end verse]. Actually, these kids couldn’t become good rappers even with Shaolin training so they should stick to backseats and living rooms and never rap at festivals. Shit basically ruined Steven Lorenz’s set but it’s like watching a car on fire because you can’t look away. Thank god Charlie was there to contrast some real MCing with the abundant wackness.

So including those rappers, the lowlight of the whole festival was unquestionably the culture-hub/cult “The Mansion,” with their “New World Party” shirts and “THE MANSION” stickers and flag.  Are you fucking serial? This shit is a real life B-movie yo. I could say more, but I digress. I’m almost grateful that The Mansion pushes these peeps away from central Shanghai and out into the suburbs. It’s like white-flight but for wack kids who think they’re doing something important.

So, rock trumped electronic this year for sure, and I almost wanna put Conrank in the rock category.

I hope someone more competent and sane runs the electronic stage next year.

Overall Score: 8 Nongfu Shans out of 10, because that reggae band sucked and I had to watch grimey kids from the Mansions put stickers on people. Ironic that kids who live in a mansion look like fright-train hitchhikers. Oh, and because I overheard some Western girl say “rock music? i don’t know how to dance to that.” Glad I was born in the 80s and lived through Limp Bizkit instead of some candy-ass Sufjan Stevens fake rock and roll.

Thoughts on Music in China Part One: DJ Sal


[photo by Cecilia Chan]

Last month I wrote an article about Shanghai’s music scene for Vantage Shanghai, a luxury lifestyle magazine for luxurious people like yrs truly*. During my research, I interviewed some old-heads in the scene to discover why most pop music in China sucks and where the music scene may be headed. Due to space considerations, I wasn’t able to use any long-quotes; a shame because I got some really insightful answers.

*Speaking of luxury, I’m DJing on a boat this Saturday night from 8 – 11PM. More on that right here.

I’ve decided to share some of these interviews here, starting with my friend DJ Sal. Perhaps you’ve seen him on Shanghai’s International TV Channel, where he hosts CityBeat, on his scooter around town with his girl, or behind the decks at Dada for his Papasuda parties. He’s a global mystic who’s lived everywhere from Pakistan to Toronto and Brazil, and one of the realest dudes I’ve ever met.

Question:  What is the state of mainstream music in China? How would you describe it to someone who’s never visited China? How does it compare to other countries? *Why* is it like this? Please share your experiences and examples.

DJ Sal: Like many pretentious DJ’s before me, I was quick to criticize China for being over-saturated with redundant, clichéd pop. Songs about holding hands, ballads exclaiming the sorrows of lost love, and an army of adolescent boy-bands reign supreme on the airwaves, Internet, and television.

But unlike countries like the United States, Brazil, and much of Western Europe, who grew and expanded alongside their pop music since the 1940′s with icons like Elvis Presley and the sounds of the Jazz era, China (especially mainland China) began it’s exposure to popular music in the late 80′s to 90′s. That said, China’s pop scene came predominantly out of Hong Kong, so even though the sounds of Jackie Cheng and movie/music sensation Andy Lou were immensely popular in Hong Kong, they didn’t actually reach the mainland until the early nineties after China’s opening in 1982 solidified. While much of the West and South America (and many DJ’s) see their golden age of pop music set somewhere between the 60′s and 80′s, the golden age of Mainland Chinese pop remains the early nineties. Point being, it’s a very young scene. The stars of “mainland pop” like Leo Qing, Ai Jing, Teresa Teng, and Na Ying, who were all both singers and songwriters, steadily rose in popularity throughout the early nineties, then came to sudden halt, replaced by the idol-based pop groups we see today. But what happened, where did they go, and how did a uniquely Chinese form of pop music turn into a sound-of-the-month, lesser-produced version of cliché western pop?

In the mid-nineties Chinese mainstream music underwent a drastic change. With the initial opening of China came the world’s largest multinational corporations, including music monolith Sony BMG. They absorbed the local labels and dismantled much of the Chinese music industry infrastructure, in exchange for a far more western industrial chain. That meant drawing focus away from the older one-man-show acts like Leslie Cheng (who ended up committing suicide) and Teresa Teng (who also died of a heart attack in 1994), and focusing their attention on saturating the market with factory-line-produced cash-crop idols like Mayday, Top Combine, and Jungle Ex Child.

If you were a DJ in the mid nineties, you would’ve also felt a similar change in popular music in the west, from the gangster attitude of early nineties hip hop and the self-loathing sounds of grunge, music became more formulaic to fit into the changing industry structure. In the west, pop literally went from the Roots, Beck, and Sound Garden to Brittany Spears, the Back Street Boys, and N Sync. That’s not to say the early nineties didn’t have its fair share of boy bands and pop idols, but there was certainly a drastic shift in the way the music labels began to push and market music.

Importing the factory-line method of producing pop music to China meant pop stars were created piece by piece to maximize potential consumer appeal. Plus, with China’s opening up, advanced Idol culture flowed in en-mass from Japan, Taiwan, and Korea, further pushing labels to emulate the market success of selling Idols as oppose to musicians. If you’ve ever lived in Asia Pacific you know that music is only a small part of being a pop Idol. So instead of writing and singing songs, much of China’s pop stars are instead scouted out through Internet competitions, reality television, and corporate events. Not having to write, compose, or produce their own music, suitable candidates are chosen primarily on looks, vocal range, compatibility, and obedience. The same can be said about Western pop music, but to a much lesser extent, and we feel it less because we’re able to turn to the vast array of musical options that have developed over the past 80 years. China’s young pop scene hasn’t has similar time to develop, and looks towards the West and Pacific Asia for strategies; Asia gave them Idol culture, and the west provided an efficient structure to produce that culture, it’s only natural that the music suffers.
But why is the content so redundant? Songs of love and break-ups seem to consume Chinese pop. Phrases along the lines of “Wo ai ni” and Wo ai ni de ai”, make up a large percentage of pop music in the country. Coming from the west, we sneer at the redundant theme of love in Chinese pop, especially when compared to the sexually charged, rebellion-fueled music of Hip Hop, Rock n Roll or whatever sub-genre of dubstep you’re currently listening to. But factoring in cultural context, it seems appropriate that the Chinese aversion for sexual discussion is also reflected in its arts. Couple that with the regulatory policies of the ministry of propaganda, and you’ve effectively rooted out any potential rebellious undertones. That doesn’t really leave you with too much to expand on. However, when interviewing Chinese pop musicians here at ICS, I’m beginning to come across more indie artists who are distinguishing their music in two categories; “love songs” and “music about life”. The latter could refer to anything from the tribulations of “working a nine-to-five”, to having to “cook their own dinner for the first time”. Admittedly still in the vicinity of warm-milk, it does show an expansion in content in the music of some of the up-coming indie-pop artists like Ellen Lou (Lou Kai Tang), Shanghainese hip-pop group Ding Da, and rock band Double Poom.

I hear Chinese pop everyday, and often voice my distaste for the redundant, formulaic, poorly produced crap that somehow makes it on repeat, playing way too loud in some tiny bookstore in some tiny nook in Xujiahui. But it’s a young scene, controlled by unstoppable giants, with near unlimited money and resources, and incredibly profit-oriented short-term goals that generally don’t involve creativity. Do I blame the artists? A little bit, yes, but I also understand that a lot of zeroes look good at the beginning of a 30 page contract. Do I blame the label? Absolutely, it’s their formula which is systematically eroding the art from popular music here in China, and arguably in most other places in the world as well.