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.

SNOOP DOGG CHINESE SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE

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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.

Doggystyle-censored

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.

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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”

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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》.”

snooppanda

3) “My president is black – 我的总统是黑人”

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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。”

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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?”

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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…”

DJingSnoop

[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...]

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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).

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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…)

chinahappy

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

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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?

lunchmeatsnoop

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”

snoophongbao

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.