Rap music has become a hot music genre in China over the past years. One of the reasons why Chinese hip-hop has recently seen a rise in popularity is the TV show The Rap of China (中国有嘻哈/中国新说唱). The rap competition, produced by iQiyi, is among the best-viewed entertainment shows of China over the past two years; some of its recent episodes have already received up to 240 million views on online video platform iQiyi alone.
The show is produced by some of China’s most famous producers, i.e. Chen Wei 陈伟, and its jury line-up includes famous singers such as Kris (吴亦凡), G.E.M. (邓紫棋), Wilber Pan (潘玮柏), or underground rapper Hotdog (热狗). In various rounds, contestants have to show they can freestyle to a beat, create their own songs, and perform in front of a live audience.
In the first season (2017), Sichuanese female rapper ‘VaVa’ was the only woman to make it to the last rounds of the show. In the second season (2018), it is female rapper Lexie Liu who is still going strong. These female rappers show that it is possible for women to break through in this male-dominated genre.
These are the top three Chinese female rappers to keep an eye on in 2018.
#1. VaVa (Mao Yanqi 毛衍七), @VaVaMiss (4+ million fans on Weibo)
Mao Yanqi aka ‘VaVa’ was born on the 29th of October in 1995 in Ya’an, Sichuan. Growing up with a mother working far away from home, and a violent father who brought home another woman, the young VaVa does not have an easy childhood. From the age of four, she is raised by her grandmother.
VaVa’s passion for dancing and singing already stands out during her elementary school years, as recruiters from a local art and drama college notice the third-grader’s talent and admit her to their art school. But because her family is unable to pay for tuition, the young VaVa cannot accept the offer and trains herself instead; at the age of 15, she drops out of school to work as an entertainer at a club and further develops her talent as a singer and dancer.
In 2017, the 22-year-old VaVa has her breakthrough when she participates in The Rap of China. In the second round of the show, she especially gains popularity when she performs Life’s a Struggle, one of China’s most famous rap songs. However, she changes the lyrics to reflect her personal childhood experiences (see link for lyrics in English), leaving all four members of the jury deeply touched, praising VaVa’s authenticity.
VaVa finally ends up as one of the final four contestants. A few months later, she brings out her first album, titled 21 (Spotify). Since then, she has gained fame within China and internationally; her new song My New Swag (我的新衣) is featured in Hollywood blockbuster Crazy Rich Asians, she is seated front-row at European fashion shows, and is the new face of sportswear brand Kappa.
Many of VaVa’s songs focus on her own image and ambition and self-image. In the song U Should Know My Name, she raps: “I am here from the underground. I never curse. I have a top-secret plan for my own future – rise to the throne, be prepared to kneel” (“I am here来自地下. 我从来都没有唱过一句骂. 对自己的未来有着绝密计划. 转身登上宝座吧女王陛下. 准备好了献上你的膝盖”). In People on The Move, she raps: “I climb and will never lose. You need to know that I’ll never give up. I pursue reality and the dream world, I’m the coolest when I do my thing” (“加持我登峰I’ll never lose。 要知道 我根本没想过退路。 现实和梦境追逐 做我自己才最酷”).
#2. Vinida (万妮达), @Vinida万妮达 (1.2+ million fans on Weibo)
Vinida was born on 29th of June 1994 in Fujian, Fuzhou. Because of Vinida’s sexy appearance and curvy body, she is sometimes compared to Kim Kardashian.
At the early age of 13, Vinida first comes into contact with hip-hop culture, and she later starts to experiment with producing her own music and joins the local underground rap group Freedom Plant Music.
Vinida gains more mainstream attention after her participation in the show Sing! China (中国新歌声) in 2016, after which state media outlet China Daily calls her “a rare sight on China’s music scene.” The young rapper later also participates in The Rap of China (中国新说唱), but is eliminated in the ‘battle round.’
In 2017, Vinida’s first album was released, simply titled Vinida (Spotify). Along with VaVa, Vinida was selected by Forbes China’s as one of the most influential artists in the music industry list ‘30 Under 30’ this year.
It’s often said that Vinida’s lyrics are characterized by a glorification of female power, as her two hits ‘Queendom‘ and ‘Run This‘, for example, also show. In Run This, she raps: “I focus more on my career, I have no time for your bickering. I collect diamond necklaces, I am only moving forward” (“更专注于事业 没空和你计较. 收集钻石项链 还在不断向前”).
#3. Lexie Liu (刘柏幸), @刘柏辛Lexie (450,000+ fans on Weibo)
Lexie, sometimes referred to as the ‘Chinese Rihanna’ by the media, currently is one of the youngest well-known Chinese female rappers. She was born on 21 December 1998 in Changsha, Hunan. Lately, she has become very popular through the television show The Rap of China (中国新说唱).
At only four years old, Lexie already starts practicing playing the piano and dancing. She has her breakthrough at the age of 16, when she particpates in a South-Korean Kpop show; two years later, she is also invited to perform at one of the South by Southwest (SXSW) festivals in Austin, Texas.
Lexie Liu has already announced her second single, titled ‘Mulan‘. It is scheduled to be released after Liu has finished her adventure at The Rap of China, but she has already released just one sentence from the upcoming song: “Just as the beautiful victory accomplished by the legendary Mulan, I also hope that I, accompanied by you, will be able to leave a memorable story behind” (“就像传说中木兰打了一场漂亮的胜仗，这次，我希望也能在你们的陪伴下，留下一段被铭记的故事”).
By Gabi Verberg
Edited for clarity by Manya Koetse
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China’s Top Mobile Gaming Apps
China has the largest mobile gaming market in the world. It’s an exciting market not just for game-lovers, but also for those into marketing and advertising.
One of the key drivers behind this online gaming environment is the fact that China is a mobile-first country. China’s average mobile user owns a relatively cheap but high-performance mobile phone, which enables them to play mobile games. As the quality of China’s smartphones keeps on rising, so are the possibilities and developments within China’s mobile gaming market.
The Chinese gaming industry is flourishing, but also highly controlled. Online games are allowed to be imported
To gain more insights in this enormous market, we list five of the mobile apps that currently play an important role in the mobile gaming industry. We made our selection based on the data from the Android app stores Tencent, Baidu, Huawei, and Zhushou360. We tried our best to give you a representative overview of a variety of apps that are currently most used in China, but want to remind you that these lists are by no official “top 5” charts.
This article is part of a series of five articles, listing popular Chinese apps in the categories of short video & live streaming, news, health & sports, and knowledge & education. We’ll list the other categories for you below this article, but let’s move over to review these popular mobile gaming apps now.
#1 PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds 绝地求生
PlayersUnknown’s Battleground (PUGB) is a so-called ‘sandbox style’ survival game, which basically means that gamers are allowed to freely roam and change the game, that does not have a set storyline, and that they are required to do all they can to survive as long as possible by eliminating its competitors.
In this online multiplayer game, that is called a Fortnite rival, players are placed together with up to 100 other players on an island. As the game proceeds, the battlefield gradually shrinks, putting more pressure on its players. The users have to assemble weapons and other necessities, and in doing so, need to kill their competitors and take their possessions. The last person left is the winner.
PUBG, which is currently the most popular mobile phone game app in China, was created by the South Korean Bluehole. In 2017, Chinese gaming giant Tencent launched the mobile app version of the game. The Chinese version is not entirely the same: it has been adapted to make sure it aligns with ‘socialist values.’
At the moment, there are two versions of PUGB games: Exciting Battlefield (刺激战场) and Full Ahead (全军出击). The games Exciting Battlefield and Full Ahead subsequently ranked most and third most popular game app in the Chinese Apple stores in 2018, with Exciting Battlefield reaching 14,9 million daily active users at the end of 2018. Currently, Exciting Battlefield still ranks the most popular game app in both the Tencent and Zhushou360 app stores.
#2 Honor of Kings or Kings of Glory 王者荣耀
Honor of Kings is a game developed and published by Tencent which was first launched in 2015. The game is a multiplayer online battle arena game, where players have to team up for a five-to-five battle.
Every user can personally assemble their hero and equip it with certain features such as appearance, powers, etc. The goal of the game is to destroy the opponent’s base.
In 2018, Honor of Kings was the second most popular game app in the Chinese Apple store with 53,8 million daily active users in the last quarter. This year, the game especially rose in popularity during the Chinese Lunar New Year: in the week from 4-10 February, Honor of Kings reached 92 million daily active users.
But the game’s popularity isn’t limited to China. In 2017, Tencent launched an international adaption of the game called Arena of Valor. The game was adopted as one of the games at the eSport Demonstration Event at the 2018 Asian Games, where the Chinese team won the gold medal.
#3 Speed QQ / QQ飞车
Speed QQ is a 3D game that combines both casual and competitive racing. The game has three kingdoms: wind, fire, and fantasy.
In each kingdom, there are different kinds of races, and players can move up levels if they beat other players. In the end, the strongest player of all will be crowned ‘king.’ To prove their skills, the best players of each kingdom can also race against each other in races played on racetracks on the border of the several kingdoms.
The game can be played by either a single player or multiplayer, with a maximum of six players.
Speed QQ, just as Honor of Kings and PUBG, is a game by Tencent – it is the world’s largest game distributor by revenue. Speed QQ was first launched in January 2008 as a PC version, and it was not until 2017 that the mobile app version was released.
#4 Identity V 第5人格
Identity V is a so-called asymmetric warfare game, meaning that the game is a wargame between individuals or a group of players and their hostile opponent.
The horror game, designed in gothic art style, is a one-versus-four multiplayer game. Later in the game, players can decide whether they want to play either the hunter or one of the four survivors.
However, the game is mainly a survivor-based game. The player first enters the game as a detective who receives a mysterious letter inviting the player to investigate an abandoned estate and search for a missing girl. As the player is searching for clues about the missing girl, a hunter will try to catch the player and strap it to a rocket ready for blast off. This is where the three other survivors come in; those are the ones who can free their fellow-survivor from the racket. But if they are too late, the player will be fired off and lose.
Identity V is the newest game app in our selection as it was launched in April of last year by NetEase. Despite its short period on the market, the game gained significant success. The app was the fifth most popular game app in Chinese Apple stores in 2018, with over 26 million downloads.
#5 Mini World 迷你世界
Mini World is a 3D sandbox style game, allowing its users to roam around in the virtual world of the game.
Mini World, also called a block art game, allows its players to build their world by moving around blocks and placing other elements. They can do this alone, but they can also invite friends and create a dream world together. The game closely resembles the Swedish game Minecraft (我的世界), which is also available in China.
Mini World was first launched in December 2015 by a Shenzhen based company. A couple of years later, the game was available in both Android and Apple stores. In 2018, Mini World became the fourth most popular game app in China with 3.7 million daily active users in the third quarter.
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Here Comes Trump the Chinese Opera, Starring Mao Zedong and Kim Jong-un
In “Trump the Opera”, Trump sings and plays ping pong.
“Enjoy this ‘one country, two systems’ creative freedom,” is one of the slogans promoting a new Hong Kong opera production that features US President Trump – played by the same actor who also played Mao Zedong – and North-Korean leader Kim Jong-un, presenting a story revolving around the modern history and current situation of China-US relations and international politics in the form of traditional Chinese art.
The opera, titled “Cantonese Opera Trump” (粵劇特朗普) was written by Fengshui master and playwright Li Kuiming (李居明), who likes to mix up traditional opera with creative new storylines. In this production, ‘Trump’ allegedly will not just be singing; he’ll be playing ping-pong, too.
Promotion posters for the show have attracted the attention of some Weibo netizens, with some calling it “unimaginable.”
This opera is the 34th production made by Li Kuiming, who has some 1,4 million fans on Weibo. Three years ago, Li made headlines for his controversial Chairman Mao opera that explored the private life of Mao Zedong and also featured a scene in which Mao comes back from the dead to talk to Chiang Kai-shek.
The current opera is a sequel to the 2016 production, featuring the same actor, Long Guantian (龍貫天), as President Trump. The role of Kim Jong-un will be performed by Chen Hongjin (陳鴻進).
The press conference for the new opera took place on March 1st, just after the Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi ended without a deal. The actors taking on the roles of Trump and Kim, however, posed together shaking hands.
Despite the somewhat controversial theme of the opera, the Singtao Daily writes that Li Kuiming’s production “avoids politically sensitive topics as much as possible.”
“Through this opera, I want to analyze China-USA relations,” Li told reporters: “China and the US have had very good relations for a long time (..), Nixon’s  visit to China marked the friendship between the two countries. At present, the China-US friendship has turned into a struggle.”
Li called it “a gift from heaven” that he was able to get performer Long Guantian to play Mao Zedong previously, praising his “enormous flexibility” in the roles he is able to take on. “For [his] role of Trump, I’ve read many books and thoroughly researched the life and thinking of Trump.”
One reason for the opera to stir some discussions on Chinese social media, is the fact that its promotional poster states that the “three roles” of “Trump, Trump, and Mao Zedong” are all performed by the same actor (Long Guantian).
The name of ‘Trump’ is written in two different ways on the poster, causing much confusion among netizens, who write: “I thought there was only one Trump?!” (To understand more about the two Chinese names of Trump, check this article). It is not clear if there will indeed be two ‘Trumps’ starring in the production or why the poster mentions the name of Trump two times.
The Mingpao newspaper reported that Li has high hopes for this production, quoting: “I have a friend who knows Trump, and who suggested bringing this opera to the White House so that Trump can enjoy it. We could translate it. If I’d ever be invited, of course, I wouldn’t say no.” He also added that he “wouldn’t have the courage” to perform the opera in North Korea.
The opera will be performed at the Hong Kong Sunbeam Theatre from April 12 to April 15. “I guarantee it will be good,” Li says: “If it wouldn’t be good, I wouldn’t put it on stage.”
By Manya Koetse
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