China falls short of hip-hop hegemony

Maybe it’s not such a hip-hop world after all. China’s growing community of rappers, DJs, and B-Boys might be evidence of the globalization of hip-hop that Jeff Chang explored in FP‘s November/December issue, but it may not be quite ready for prime time. As part of an Olympics-related cultural exchange, Bejing-based rappers Dragon Tongue Squad ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
596282_080226_dragontongue2.jpg
596282_080226_dragontongue2.jpg

Maybe it's not such a hip-hop world after all. China's growing community of rappers, DJs, and B-Boys might be evidence of the globalization of hip-hop that Jeff Chang explored in FP's November/December issue, but it may not be quite ready for prime time. As part of an Olympics-related cultural exchange, Bejing-based rappers Dragon Tongue Squad took the stage at London's Royal Opera House last night. The British press, to put it mildly, was not feeling it:

Mostly, they sang in Mandarin, although even they have admitted the language doesn't lend itself well to flowing rhymes. Handily, translated lyrics were circulated, so we knew that Dragon Tongue-ism contained the couplet "Learn how to be good at learning skills/ Learn how to communicate smoothly". Only once did they shine, and for all the wrong reasons. Chinese Food was a comic masterpiece - "Thai, Thai! Why, why?" went the chorus, possibly, while the verses listed authentic takeaway dishes.

It does sound pretty weak, but the Times' reviewer may have gone a bit far in her blanket indictment of Chinese hip-hop:

Maybe it’s not such a hip-hop world after all. China’s growing community of rappers, DJs, and B-Boys might be evidence of the globalization of hip-hop that Jeff Chang explored in FP‘s November/December issue, but it may not be quite ready for prime time. As part of an Olympics-related cultural exchange, Bejing-based rappers Dragon Tongue Squad took the stage at London’s Royal Opera House last night. The British press, to put it mildly, was not feeling it:

Mostly, they sang in Mandarin, although even they have admitted the language doesn’t lend itself well to flowing rhymes. Handily, translated lyrics were circulated, so we knew that Dragon Tongue-ism contained the couplet “Learn how to be good at learning skills/ Learn how to communicate smoothly”. Only once did they shine, and for all the wrong reasons. Chinese Food was a comic masterpiece – “Thai, Thai! Why, why?” went the chorus, possibly, while the verses listed authentic takeaway dishes.

It does sound pretty weak, but the Times‘ reviewer may have gone a bit far in her blanket indictment of Chinese hip-hop:

Rather than lift the lid on Chinese youth culture, a preposterous performance proved why most hip-hop consumed in that country is – and probably always will be – American.

The reviewer admits that a seated theater designed for opera may not be the best venue for a hip-hop show. It’s also possible that Dragon Tongue Squad, who apparently mainly rap about food, are not representative of Chinese hip-hop as a whole. It wouldn’t speak very well of American MC skillz if Soulja Boy was sent abroad to represent the entire genre, for instance. Plus, as FP‘s online readers already know, while Beijing’s rappers may not impress the Brits, they totally own those punks from Shanghai.

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

More from Foreign Policy

A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Lessons for the Next War

Twelve experts weigh in on how to prevent, deter, and—if necessary—fight the next conflict.

An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse

Not planning for the possibility of disintegration betrays a dangerous lack of imagination.

An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.
An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.

Turkey Is Sending Cold War-Era Cluster Bombs to Ukraine

The artillery-fired cluster munitions could be lethal to Russian troops—and Ukrainian civilians.

A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol  January 8, 2009 in Washington.
A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2009 in Washington.

Congrats, You’re a Member of Congress. Now Listen Up.

Some brief foreign-policy advice for the newest members of the U.S. legislature.