Hip Hop in China: Some thoughts on last night at Arkham

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Crawl thru the SmartShanghai trenches and you’ll find options. That’s good. A city this big needs options and competition – that’s the only way the scene and individuals can progress. For a long time, I couldn’t believe that Shanghai had only one weekly hip hop night (Come Correct every Wednesday at The Shelter – a night I’m affiliated with), then I saw this on the world wide web yesterday:

“Are u miss some purely hip-hop shit and the real dance floor? Who killed it?
We don’t give a f**k those fake hip-hop lover!
Now, all of this will be changed again! Since we decided to rock the city
in Hip-hop again!
Whether you were a O.G of golden age or a rookie of the new generation
You can’t miss every Thursday night’s Black Bubble Party at Arkham
Purely hipster hip-hop music all night
The hottest dance floor in town
Coolest party folks and chicks
Every thursday night!Black Bubble @ Arkham, See U!!!”

Well, they decided to rock the city so I went down and gotta say I was impressed with the turnout. At least 100 local kids down there, looking very fashion with lots of streetwear. Lots of fake chains/ropes, lots of Jordans (admittedly this is not unique to shanghai hip hop shows). But the vibe felt like 2007 when Windows Jing An used to play hip hop on Friday/Saturday nights before they swept up the African dealers and South-East Asian hooks. Not exactly an old-school Muse 1 vibe but pretty damn close.

The warm-up DJ’s music selection was aight, featuring everything from Slick Rick’s “Lodi Dodi,” 2 Chainz, and Kendrick Lamar to Beyonce “Crazy in Love” and DMX “Party Up.” But the programming (song order) and file quality were off. Way off at times, like Gang Star-into-Skrillex off, plus a lot of MCing and “put your hands up” -isms. I didn’t stick around long enough to see Choyce Kutz play though so maybe it got better. Who was there? Lots of rich Shanghainese kids, some of them some poppin or lockin I can’t tell the difference, but most standing around. Someone burned my girlfriend with a cigarette and didn’t apologize. A few foreigners were gettin down. Basically a fashion, fu er dai (rich second generation) crowd though, and not a particularly polite or friendly one. To be fair, hip hop and grime nights around the world aren’t exactly known for the politeness and good behavior of their patrons, and this is definitely not the only place I’ve seen rude peeps out lately, but bumping into peeps or burning them w/cigs back home and not saying sorry, at a hip hop night, would not go down well. Can’t do nothin’ bout it here though, especially as a foreigner.

Does hip hop objectively have more posers than any other scene?

Anyone who cares about the music scene in China wants to see more local kids coming out to shows and enjoying music. But one can’t help but feeling a little disappointed with the there-to-be-scene and so fashion crowd. I know cool locals who come out to nights who aren’t so fashion and just wanna hear good music and dance, and some cool kids who don’t go out at all. This fashionista problem isn’t unique to China and anyway, it’s hard to judge a club night on it’s first night, but that does set the tone. Maybe it will become a community vibe like Come Correct someday. I don’t know. Nights take a long time to build, and who knows if Arkham will even be open in six months.

Anyway, let’s be happy for the competition and options, and happy that a local crew  started a hip hop night in a venue where you can dance. That’s honestly refreshing in a town where most club nights are run by foreigners and big clubs like Muse and 88 suck. Maybe this will inspire someone else to be like “hey I like hip hop but I’m not so fashion” and start their own thing. You know, reactions.

Notes: Hip Hop Hijack does a weekly party at The Geisha (tip! it’s always a good spot to hit on Fridays and goes late) but that just became a weekly party fairly recently, after years of bigger one-off events, whereas Come Correct has been going on weekly at The Shelter for well over a year.