The 10 Biggest Moments in Chinese Hip-Hop in 2017

By Erica Martin, December 23, 2017

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201712/year-in-review-logo.jpgThose of us living in China might have been spared the tumultuous drama that our US counterparts have experienced in 2017, but like always, the Middle Kingdom has had its own fair share of attention-grabbing headlines. From the boom of shared bikes to a presidential visit from The Donald, our team has put together a list of 2017’s most unforgettable viral stories, recounting major events 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. 

For more, follow our full 2017 Year in Review coverage. 

Hip-hop was a huge deal in the Middle Kingdom in 2017, thanks in part to the breakout success of the reality show The Rap of China. We've counted down some of the biggest moments in China's hip-hop scene this year.

10. The Rap of China Starts Streaming

The Rap of China
Reality TV show The Rap of China debuted on iQiyi in June. China's hip-hop fans poked fun at the show for being too hokey and commercial, but The Rap of China was essential to catapulting hip-hop to mainstream popularity in the country, pulling several underground artists (including Chongqing rapper GAI, who won first place on the show) out of obscurity and clearing the way for them to become superstars.

9. Western Media Discover Chinese Hip-Hop

Hip Hop in China
A crescendo of fawning media coverage of hip-hop in China culminated in an October New York Times’ story titled: ‘With Dreadlocks, Rhythm and Flow, China Embraces Hip-Hop.’

8. Pharrell and Kris Wu Rap About Singles' Day

Kris Wu and Pharrell Williams
Pharrell became the reluctant face of Singles’ Day in November by performing the ‘hip-hop’ song ‘Double 11’ onstage with none other than Rap of China judge Kris Wu for the Singles’ Day Gala at Shanghai’s Mercedes-Benz Arena. The song was widely mocked for regrettable lyrics like "you can do it, keyi" and "change the world with renminbi."

7. 'Gua Laowai'

Gua Laowai
Chengdu rapper MC Fat Shady, a The Rap of China contestant, dropped the music video for his track ‘Gua Laowai (‘Stupid Foreigner’) in August, which caused an uproar and immediately went viral.

6. MC Jin Eliminated from The Rap of China

MC Jin Hip Hop Man
In August, Chinese-American rapper MC Jin, who made history in the US back in 2002 when he became the first Asian-American rapper signed to a major record label, was eliminated from The Rap of China, where he had entered under the pseudonym HipHopMan. 

5. Al Rocco's Diss Track

Al Rocco
In July, popular Shanghai-based rapper Al Rocco was dismissed from The Rap of China in the first round for rapping in English. He proceeded to pen a diss track against the TV show.

4. 'Made in China'

In June, Asian-American music company 88rising debuted a reaction video in which Western rappers like Migos commented on Higher Brothers’ song ‘Made in China.’ The video topped a million views in less than a week. In November, an 88rising tour featuring superstar Rich Chigga and Higher Brothers, sold out all dates throughout China within hours.

3. Higher Brothers Burst onto the Scene

Higher Brothers
Chengdu rap group Higher Brothers dropped their debut album, Black Cab, in May. In July, they embarked on their first major China tour, selling out most dates. 

2. The Rap of China Season Finale

Gai wins The Rap of China
The season finale of The Rap of China aired in September. Chongqing rapper GAI was announced as the winner along with PG One, and was immediately signed to a major label.

1. 'Can You Even Freestyle?'

Kris Wu meme
"Can you even freestyle?" (a loose translation of ‘Ni you freestyle ma?’) was a term coined by Kris Wu while he grilled a Rap of China contestant after a performance early in the season. The internet just about exploded in response, with an outpouring of memes mocking the pop star, including several compilation videos proving that, Wu, in fact, cannot even freestyle. 

For more 2017 Year in Review coverage, click here.

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