In the summer of 2015, my parents, in-laws, Aunt Coffee, Uncle Oil, Mark, and I were gathered around the TV waiting eagerly to watch The Voice of China Season 4 premiere. All of us were shocked by the first contestant Tifa Chen, a female rapper that rapped Nunchucks (双节棍) to thundering applause and was wanted by all four judges (Jay Chou, Wang Feng, Na Ying, Harlem Yu) for their team.
It was the first time I heard a rap song without cursing, money, guns, drugs, b*tch*s, or cheating. What impressed me even further was that Tifa Chen remixed Jay Chou’s original Nunchucks into an upbeat and lighthearted song about how playing with Nunchucks (a martial arts weapon consisting of two hardwood sticks joined together by a chain) made her feel invincible.
My parents, in-laws, Aunt Coffee, and Uncle Oil who pretty much only like ballads greatly disliked Tifa Chen’s rapping and weren’t shy about expressing it. It was the first time I realized that their approval didn’t matter. I love it and it’s enough.
There was something poignant about the Chinese rappers rapping about their yearnings and dreams for the future that reminded me that I too could dare to yearn and dream about things that were different from what my family wanted for me. Some of my favorites include:
杨和苏 KeyNG’s duet with Kelly Yu 于文文, 心跳 Heartbeat reminded me that it doesn’t matter if you think you are too stupid or untalented to chase a seemingly impossible dream because being alive means that anything is possible.
李大奔 嘘 SHUSH gave me the courage to speak up for myself against my elders and naysayers who tried to talk me out of pursuing my dream of becoming a writer.
Lexie Liu’s 佳人 awakened the part of me that desperately craves to be independent and to stand up against patriarchal ideas that are harmful to both men and women.
吴克群/张震岳/潘玮柏/ICE杨长青’s 新地球 New Earth warns everyone of a post-apocalyptic world where nothing is as before is likely in our future if we don’t do something now to prevent it.
SUBS’s 画 To Paint is about longing for a better world where people are equal, there is no need to fight for resources, and there is peace and harmony within one’s family and the world at large.
周延 Gai’s 威远故事 Weiyuan Story tells a bittersweet tale of how even though he achieved his dream of becoming the face of Chinese rap, he paid such a steep personal cost and lost so much of himself in order to transform himself from a nobody to an A-lister. His stage performance on Rap of China had me crying throughout because I felt his pain and sorrow, especially his anguished howls around the 3:25/4:33 mark.
早安’s 麒麟 Kirin/Unicorn fills me with the hope that one day I too can define and chart my own life’s path with my closest friends by my side. It is currently my favorite song and I’m likely going to listen to it about two thousand times or even more in order to rap it as it is the hardest rap song I’ve attempted to learn to date.
In listing out my favorite Chinese rap songs, I’ve realized that I love Chinese rap because it stirred in me yearnings I didn’t even know I possessed. My family raised me to play a supporting character in my own life and to center my life around my husband. It was Chinese rap that cheered me on in my journey to become a writer and gave me the courage to be the main character in my own life. For these reasons, I will probably love Chinese rap forever.