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The Women Changing the Chinese Rap Scene: Top 3 Most Popular Female Rappers of China

These are the three Chinese female rappers to watch this year.

Gabi Verberg

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Over the past few years, rap has become a hot music genre in China. Although China’s rap scene is a male-dominated space, Chinese female rappers are now stepping up to the stage. These are the top women to follow in the PRC’s current hiphop craze.

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)

Image with VaVa Weibo account.

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.

Noteworthy:

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)

Image via 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.

Noteworthy:

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.

In that same period, she records a song with the popular Chinese rapper Jony J. and records a music documentary in collaboration with PUMA with a click-through rate of 30 million.

Lexie Liu has now signed with Asian hip-hop collective 88rising and has since released her first song Like a Mercedes (YouTube).

Noteworthy:

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

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Gabi Verberg is a Business graduate from the University of Amsterdam who has worked and studied in Shanghai and Beijing. She now lives in Amsterdam and works as a part-time translator, with a particular interest in Chinese modern culture and politics.

3 Comments

3 Comments

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    Angie

    September 18, 2018 at 4:28 pm

    Should be Austin, Texas. Austen is the last name of a famous author

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Backgrounder

How Chinese Kuaishou Rebel ‘Pangzai’ Became a Twitter King

He’s been called a ‘Twitter king’, but how did the unexpected online fame of this ‘Hebei Pangzai’ start?

Jessica Colwell

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Twitter has fallen in love with a Chinese farmer after his drinking videos on Kuaishou were cross-posted abroad and went viral. He has embraced his new fans and Western social media, arguably becoming one of China’s most successful cultural ambassadors of the year.

He describes himself as the “inventor of tornado beer drinking style” and as an “ordinary peasant from China.” ‘Hebei Pangzai’ only joined Twitter in August of 2019, but he already has a Twitter following of more than 111.6K.

Although his account is temporarily restricted by Twitter at time of writing (“due to suspicious activity”), his popularity is only growing. Some Twitterers, such as the China twitterer Carl Zha (@CarlZha), are even initiating a “#FreePangzai campaign” to restore the account of the “one true King.”

But where and when did the online fame of ‘Hebei Pangzai’ start?

Let’s begin our introduction to Pangzai with one tweet from March of this year, when Twitter user ‘Hunnaban Trenchboss’ posted a video from Chinese short video app Kuaishou (快手) showing a man – ‘Pangzai’ – wearing sunglasses and smoking a cigarette while preparing an incredible mixed drink.

The man in the video smoothly pops the cap off a bottle of beer with a chopstick, pours some in a large jar, then twirls the bottle and propels the rest of the beer in a tornado of force down his throat.

He follows that up by pouring in more beer, some blue liquor, an egg, some Pepsi, and a hefty glass of baijiu – which he dumps in only after lighting it on fire, igniting his finger, and coolly lighting his cigarette. He then chugs the entire concoction in a matter of seconds.

“How do I become as cool as this guy, The Coolest Guy?”, the tweet said.

The same video was shared again in August by a few Russian accounts, was retweeted by an American account, and then went completely viral, racking up millions of views and tens of thousands of retweets.

That video has now been viewed almost 12 million times on Twitter, and has inspired tens of thousands of fans who herald him as ‘king.’

The man in the video referred to as ‘Pangzai’ (胖仔, ‘chubby dude’) is Liu Shichao (刘世超), a 33-year-old farmer and small-time Chinese internet celebrity from a city called Xingtai in Hebei Province.

According to an interview with Technode, he found out about the video on Twitter when some of his new foreign fans opened Chinese social media accounts to find him and tell him about his overnight online fame.

“One message told me that I was a celebrity now in America,” he told Technode: “So I chatted with the person [who sent the message] for a whole day, with the help of translation software.”

Within two days of his video going viral, Pangzai had figured out how to use a VPN, opened his own Twitter account and started uploading videos.

He even posted a reply on the original viral video to alert everybody to his account.

Liu’s early response to his viral video on Twitter.

Since then, Liu ‘Pangzai’ has amassed over 111,000 followers and has posted many more videos of everything from drinking, to cooking, to exploring his countryside hometown.

But it was the drinking videos specifically that earned him his following, both abroad and in China.

 

IT STARTED ON KUAISHOU

“Pangzai epitomizes the typical Kuaishou account.”

 

Liu began his internet career three years ago on Kuaishou, a Chinese short video app massively popular among China’s lower-tier cities and countryside.

In contrast to the polished, celeb-heavy platform Douyin, which is most popular among urban youths, Kuaishou is a platform for the masses. Its users are known for their crazy antics and general disregard for personal safety.

Liu Shichao’s Kuaishou account has 354,000 followers, but the majority of his videos have been removed.

Pangzai epitomizes the typical Kuaishou account. Posting under the handle “Chubby Dude from Hebei” (@河北胖仔), he uploads videos of himself eating and drinking in eye-popping combinations, or sometimes smashing things – from bricks to unopened water bottles – with his bare hands.

Liu’s video of breaking bricks with his hands was also popular on Twitter.

Liu also gained notoriety, and a couple hundred thousand followers, from his mastery of the so-called ‘beer tornado technique’ (小旋风 xiǎo xuànfēng).

According to an interview with the BBC, he peaked at 470,000 followers on Kuaishou and was monetizing his online fame with some 10,000 RMB ($1420) per month.

Liu’s signature beer tornado technique features in the first video he posted to Twitter.

Unfortunately for Liu, China’s Cyberspace Administration announced a crackdown on vulgar and illegal content across multiple social media platforms in spring of 2018, with a focus on Douyin, Kuaishou, and its sister news company Jinri Toutiao. Kuaishou was pulled from app stores until it cleaned up its act.

It is unclear just how many videos and accounts have been removed as a result of the cleanup. We can get a rough idea from an announcement by Kuaishou earlier this year that in March of 2019 alone, it removed an average of over 11,000 videos and blocked almost 1,000 accounts every day.

The result for Liu was that his account was suspended for four months and the majority of his most popular videos, including the one that went viral abroad, were removed for promoting ‘unhealthy drinking habits.’

When you look at his Kuaishou account today, you won’t see many videos focused solely on baijiu and beer chugging.

The videos that remain on his account do include drinking (and his signature tornado move) but it is always accompanied by eating food or some other activity (such as sitting deep in a field of corn, munching on roast duck and dribbling baijiu down a corn leaf into a glass.)

In a video posted to Kuaishou, Liu pours baijiu into a glass from a corn leaf, before then lighting it on fire and chugging it.

Liu still has 354,000 followers on Kuaishou. His Chinese fans, like his foreign ones, marvel at his cool and collected manner as he eats and drinks all sorts of disgusting things.

Canned herring features heavily in his most popular recent videos, where he can be seen sipping the juice directly from the can.

In one of his videos on Kuaishou, Liu eating herring directly from the can, to the disgust of his fans.

“This has to be the most unaffected anyone has ever been by eating canned herring,” says one fan. “The flavor is disgusting! 99.9% of people who try this would vomit,” another online commenter replies.

 

AN UNEXPECTED TWITTER KING

“Liu is like many young men from the countryside of Northern China: open, friendly, humble, and genuinely excited to share his life.”

 

This year, Liu seems to have embraced his newfound international stardom with grace and savvy.

He uses Twitter’s in-app translation to help him communicate with fans and has been highly interactive on the platform.

Liu ‘Pangzai’ was also quick to open up a Paypal account and share it with followers, and has recently made YouTube and Instagram accounts to prevent scams pretending to be him. He has also collaborated with a Twitter fan to sell T-shirts online in America.

Many online fans have dubbed him ‘king’, perhaps the highest praise one can receive on the internet today.

But in contrast to the sunglasses and chill demeanor of his videos, Liu does not appear to be an internet celebrity overly obsessed with being cool.

Instead, he is like many young men from the countryside of Northern China: open, friendly, humble, and genuinely excited to share his life (and drinking habits) with the rest of the world.

Liu began using translation software to communicate with fans soon after joining Twitter.

After reposting all of his old drinking videos from Kuaishou, Liu started asking Twitter fans what they would like to see from him. Many responded that they wanted more about his life in rural China.

He has since followed up with videos showing him fixing a pipe with his friends, exploring his local market, cooking sweet potatoes, and, of course, a tutorial on how to master the ‘tornado beer’ technique.

Liu explaining on Twitter how to perform the tornado beer technique that helped make him famous.

Many have expressed concern for his health in light of his drinking habits, but he has assured everybody that everything he does is “within his ability” and that he doesn’t drink like that very often.

Liu is grateful for all the support and praise he has received from abroad. “It’s crazy to have all of these foreign friends all of a sudden,” he recently said in an interview with Deadspin: “I really have to thank them a lot. If I have a chance I will find them and we can drink together.”

Seemingly to that end, Liu has recently organized a party to be held near his hometown in China, exciting fans all over the world and spurring many to apply for passports and visas.

Once Liu began inviting people to his party, he changed the date and location in order to accommodate more attendees.

The date is set for December 14, 2019 in Zhuamadian City, Hebei Province; too soon for many to make it, but he promises another party in the spring. There is talk also of organizing a visit for Liu ‘Pangzai’ to go to America.

 

WINDOW INTO CHINESE SOCIAL MEDIA

“Liu’s growing notoriety abroad seems to have flown completely under the radar of the Chinese internet.”

 

Although there are many vloggers like Pangzai in China, he stands out on Twitter as some sort of window into Chinese social media, especially because this online world is usually so separate from the Western realms of social media.

The recent explosive growth of Chinese social media apps such as TikTok has not done much to facilitate this kind of cultural interaction between China and the West.

Although Tiktok is, in fact, a Chinese app (called Douyin 抖音 in China), there are actually two different versions of the same app in mainland China and abroad, meaning that the other ‘Pangzais’ of the Chinese internet still remain within the social media spheres of the PRC, rarely gaining fame outside of the Great Firewall.

In China, aside from his fans on Kuaishou, Liu’s growing notoriety abroad seems to have flown completely under the radar of the Chinese internet. He is mentioned only one or two times across Weibo, and searches for his name and handle on WeChat, Baidu, and various Chinese tech news sites bring up nothing.

Liu is a rare example of genuine soft power coming out of China. A pure, grassroots man of the people with strong cultural appeal who sincerely enjoys sharing his life and his culture with the rest of the world. His tweets are full of affection and appreciation for his fans, as well as frequent prompts for followers to share their own lives and customs of their home countries.

To watch his introduction to Twitter and rise to fame is to see the best of the internet: cultural interaction, genuinely shared delight, and mutual admiration inspired by hilarious antics caught on camera.

His Twitter fans express their hope that Twitter Support will soon lift the temporary ban on their ‘Twitter king.’ To them, it’s perfectly clear: this online king is nowhere near dead, long live Pangzai!

Follow the #FreePangzai hashtag on Twitter.

Update: Panghaizi is out of Twitter jail!

 
Want to read more about unexpected online celebrities from China? Also see:
The Story of Two Farmers Who Became Internet Celebrities;
The “Vagrant Shanghai Professor”;
From Farmgirl to Fashionista: Weibo Celebrity Fairy Wang.

 

By Jessica Colwell
Follow @whatsonweibo

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©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Celebs

“Living a Nightmare” – Chinese Beauty Guru Yuya Mika Shares Shocking Story of Domestic Abuse

Famous makeup artist Yuya Mika shared her story in a video that has since gone viral on Weibo.

Manya Koetse

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First published

Chinese famous makeup vlogger Yuya Mika has come out and shared her experience of being physically abused by her former boyfriend. Yuya’s story – told in a documentary-style video that is now going viral – does not just raise online awareness about the problem of domestic violence, it also shows the raw realness behind the glamorous facade of China’s KOLs’ social media life.

Fashion and makeup blogger He Yuyong, better knowns as Yuya (宇芽) or Yuya Mika (@宇芽YUYAMIKA), has gone viral on China’s social media platform Weibo for sharing her personal story of suffering domestic abuse at the hands of her ex-partner.

On Monday afternoon, November 25 – which is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women – Yuya, a KOL (Key Opinion Leaders/online influencer) who has over 800,000 followers on her Weibo account, wrote: “I’m a victim of domestic violence. The past six months, I feel like I’ve been living a nightmare. I need to speak up about domestic violence here!”

With her post, Yuya shared a 12-minute documentary-style video in which she tells how she has been abused by her partner of one year, with whom she has now separated.

The short doc does not just tell Yuya’s story, it also features the experiences of her former partner’s ex-wives, who allegedly also suffered domestic violence at his hands.

Besides the shocking accounts of the women, the video contains also footage of Yuya’s ex-boyfriend trying to violently drag her out of an elevator – a moment that was caught on security cameras in August of this year.

Yuya identifies her former boyfriend and abuser as the 44-year-old artist and Weibo blogger ‘Toto River’ (@沱沱的风魔教), who was married three times before starting a relationship with the famous beauty blogger.

The two met each other through social media, and Yuya initially fell for his talent and kindness. But, as she says, his perfect social media image soon turned out to be nothing but a fake facade, and the nightmare began.

The beauty blogger explains that the domestic violence went hand in hand with mental abuse, with Yuya being brainwashed into believing she was lucky to be with a man such as her boyfriend.

As the abuse became a regular occurrence, Yuya tearfully explains how she sometimes could not work for a week because her face was too bruised for shooting videos.

Yuya also writes on Weibo that she shares her story so that the experiences she and her ex-boyfriend’s former wives suffered will not happen to other women, and to warn others from ending up in a similar situation.

Meanwhile, the Weibo account of Yuya’s former boyfriend has been closed for comments.

Yuya Mika is not just popular on Weibo and video ap Tiktok. The beauty guru – famous for doing imitation makeup of celebrities and famous icons such as Mona Lisa – also has over 750k fans on her Instagram account and thousands of subscribers on her YouTube Channel, where she posts makeup tutorials.

Yuya Mika as Mona Lisa.

Yuya is part of the company of Papi Jiang (aka Papi Chan), a Chinese vlogger and comedian who became an internet celebrity in 2016. On Tuesday, the Papi Jiang company also responded to Yuya’s video, saying they fully support the makeup artist in coming forward with her story.

At time of writing, Yuya’s story has been shared over 425,000 times, with a staggering thread of more than 280,000 comments on Weibo.

Many commenters respond in shock that the tearful woman in the video is actually Yuya, as the makeup artist is usually always smiling and shining in front of the camera. Other Weibo users express their hopes that Yuya’s ex-boyfriend will be punished for what he did.

With over 160 million views, the hashtag “Yuya Suffers Domestic Abuse” (#宇芽被家暴#) is now in the top five of most-discussed topics on Weibo.

Over the past few years, the issue of domestic violence has received more attention on Chinese social media, especially since China’s first national law against domestic violence came into effect on March 1, 2016. More women have come forward on Chinese social media to share their personal experiences with domestic abuse.

According to Chinese media reports of Tuesday afternoon, local authorities are currently investigating Yuya’s story.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions from Miranda Barnes
Follow @whatsonweibo

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