It’s been one hell of a year to say the least, particularly for those of us based in China. We’ve seen ‘The Tweeter in Chief’ launch (and then halt) a trade war between the world’s two leading economic powers, Fan Bingbing disappear and then reappear (with a major fine to pay) and another record-breaking Singles’ Day haul for Alibaba. To wrap up 2018, our editorial team has put together a list of the year’s most unforgettable viral stories, recounting major occurrences that defined the worlds of sports, tech, arts, fashion and food. Here’s to another year of eclectic, weird and wonderful life in China, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
It's been a wild year for Chinese hip hop. Here’s a countdown of the biggest hip hop stories that came out of Greater China in 2018.
Patriotic Chinese rap came back in a major way this year. While on the one hand we had CD Rev spitting bars against anyone who dared to diss China, we also had tracks like this one: ‘Guangdong Zhengxie Freestyle.’ Guangdong People’s Political Consultative Conference, a provincial advisory body, took beats from Dr. Dre and spun their own yarn about the successes of the consultative conference over the past five years, creating an off-kilter track that helped contribute to 2018’s vast hip hop tapestry.
9. Mayor of Taipei, Ko Wen-je, Busts a Rhyme
We are no strangers to the Taiwanese music scene, being fans and admirers of the potent artistic pool on the eastern island. With that being said, we were still surprised to see Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je drop some beats back in October. The track, named ‘Do Things Right,’ features crackling percussive work and epic autotune, and is possibly a reference to the Spike Lee movie of (almost) the same name – Do The Right Thing. The 59-year-old mayor, dressed in sensible slacks and a shirt, implores viewers to do things right. Now there’s a good message.
Screengrab via YouTube
Kris Wu had quite the year; going from being an endlessly meme-able judge on The Rap of China, to releasing his first solo album, Antares. He also hit headlines in February of this year when he performed during the Super Bowl Live Concert, becoming the first Chinese person to do so in blisteringly cold Minneapolis weather, gaining props from the locals as he played two of his best known songs at the time, ‘Juice’ and ‘Deserve,’ to a freezing crowd. Considering what was to come later in the year for Kris Wu, this was just the tip of the iceberg in a year of highs and lows for the ex-boyband member.
7. Lexie Liu Gets Signed by 88rising
The newest addition to the burgeoning roster of Asian collective 88rising, Lexie Liu came out of the woodwork this year with a flurry of excellent releases. Having risen to fame as the last surviving female contestant on this year’s The Rap of China, Lexie Liu was introduced to a global audience with ‘Like a Mercedes’ back in June. The track turned heads with its bilingual vocals, cyberpunk music video and heart-clenching vaporwave synths. With new songs like ‘Sleep Away’ and ‘Nada’ coming thick and fast, we feel that the future will be very kind to Lexie.
6. ‘Skr’ Takes Over the Internet, Leads to Beef, Diss Tracks and Memes Galore
Kris Wu came into The Rap of China’s second season with a new – and bizarre – addition to his vocabulary. He used the term ‘skr’ to praise all and everyone who impressed on the show, gaining more than a little backlash from bemused fans. We must admit that even we had a chuckle, but one Weibo account took it to the next level by dissing Wu’s use of the term. The Antares singer fired back with a diss track called... SKR (what else). What a time to be alive!
In the midst of a very contentious international situation between China and Sweden earlier this year came a brief moment of humor, as nationalist rap group CD Rev (specifically a group member by the name of Pissy) came out with a diss track that included the simple but ultimately catchy refrain “Hey Sweden, Hey Sweden.” In classic diss track fashion, they also leveled their criticism at the Scandinavian country at large, taking aim at Swedish brands like Ikea, Eriksson and, in a turn for all the English teachers out there, English training school, EF.
In the wake of a very badly worded lyric by US rapper Lil Pump, famous for songs such as ‘Gucci Gang’ and ‘Eeskeetit’, Chinese rappers and musicians came out in force to fire back at the song in question, ‘Butterfly Doors.’ The controversial line states, “They call me Yao Ming, coz my eyes real low (ching chong),” while the Floridian pulled his eyes back in discriminatory fashion. Amongst those taking offence to the mumble-rap star’s offensive comments were CD Rev (again), China Mac and Higher Brothers, among many others. Pump later issued an apology via his Instagram.
Kris Wu’s debut album release, Antares, came out to wild fanfare in the US, storming to the top of the country’s iTunes Chart, before accusations of cheating began rolling in. With Kris’ fans caught up in a social media battle with the diehard fans of another globally known popstar, Ariana Grande, Wu saw his numbers drop off fast. The conversation quickly turned to the illegal use of VPNs by Wu’s China-based fans and he subsequently missed out on one of the top spots on Billboard’s Hot 100 list, all the while becoming a household name in the US, might we add.
2. PG One Apologizes for Vulgar Lyrics in Track, ‘Christmas Eve’
Screengrab via YouTube
After storming his way into the TV-watching public’s consciousness after a winning run on the first season of The Rap of China, PG One was forced to apologize after being slammed for the use profane lyrics on his track ‘Christmas Night,’ released all the way back in 2015, by The Communist Youth League. The rapper referenced sex, drugs and rock and roll in true rap/rockstar fashion, only to be reprimanded for encouraging teenagers to use drugs and abuse women.The rapper later had his Weibo account deleted and fans have heard little from him since, besides a brief attempt at a comeback via WeChat earlier this year.
1. China Bans Hip Hop Culture and Tattoos From TV
Screengrab via YouTube
Just as we were gearing up for another year full of diss tracks, hip hop fans were blindsided all the way back in January as reports emerged that hip hop culture and tattoos were to be banned from TV. The news broke as The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of the People’s Republic of China apparently made statements during a meeting back in January to the effect that artists who appear on TV should not be hip hop musicians, should not have tattoos, should not be representatives of non-mainstream culture and should not be decadent. While the ban did not succeed in putting the breaks on the second season of The Rap of China, or the countless other hip hop tracks that were released throughout the year, it did serve as a warning for TV companies and rappers trying to cash in on the highly lucrative musical genre.
For more 2018 Year in Review coverage, click here.