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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.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    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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China Memes & Viral

Chengdu Disney: The Quirkiest Hotspot in China

How a senior activity park in Chengdu was ‘Disneyfied’ and became a viral hotspot.

Manya Koetse

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How did a common park turn into a buzzing hotspot? By mixing online trends with real-life fun, blending foreign styles with local charm, and adding a dash of humor and absurdity, Chengdu now boasts its very own ‘Chengdu Disney’. We explain the trend.

By Manya Koetse, co-authored by Ruixin Zhang

Have you heard about Chengdu Disney yet? If not, it’s probably unlike anything you’d imagine. It’s not actually a Disney theme park opening up in Chengdu, but it’s one of the city’s most viral hotspots these days.

What is now known as ‘Chengdu Disney’ all over the Chinese internet is actually a small outdoor park in a residential area in Chengdu’s Yulin area, which also serves as the local senior fitness activity center.

Crowds of young people are coming to this area to take photos and videos, hang out, sing songs, cosplay, and be part of China’s internet culture in an offline setting.

 
Once Upon a Rap Talent Show
 

The roots of ‘Chengdu Disney’ can be traced back to the Chinese hip-hop talent show The Rap of China (中国新说唱), where a performer named Nuomi (诺米), also known as Lodmemo, was eliminated by Chinese rapper Boss Shady (谢帝 Xièdì), one of the judges on the show.

Nuomi felt upset about the elimination and a comment made by his idol mentor, who mistakenly referred to a song Nuomi made for his ‘grandma’ instead of his grandfather. His frustration led to a viral livestream where he expressed his anger towards his participation in The Rap of China and Boss Shady.

However, it wasn’t only his anger that caught attention; it was his exaggerated way of speaking and mannerisms. Nuomi, with his Sichuan accent, repeatedly inserted English phrases like “y’know what I’m saying” and gestured as if throwing punches.

His oversized silver chain, sagging pants, and urban streetwear only reinforce the idea that Nuomi is trying a bit too hard to emulate the fashion style of American rappers from the early 2000s, complete with swagger and street credibility.

Lodmemo emulates the style of American rappers in the early 2000s, and he has made it his brand.

Although people mocked him for his wannabe ‘gangsta’ style, Nuomi embraced the teasing and turned it into an opportunity for fame.

He decided to create a diss track titled Xiè Tiān Xièdì 谢天谢帝, “Thank Heaven, Thank Emperor,” a word joke on Boss Shady’s name, which sounds like “Shady” but literally means ‘Thank the Emperor’ in Chinese. A diss track is a hip hop or rap song intended to mock someone else, usually a fellow musician.

In the song, when Nuomi disses Boss Shady (谢帝 Xièdì), he raps in Sichuan accent: “Xièdì Xièdì wǒ yào diss nǐ [谢帝谢帝我要diss你].” The last two words, namely “diss nǐ” actually means “to diss you” but sounds exactly like the Chinese word for ‘Disney’: Díshìní (迪士尼). This was soon picked up by netizens, who found humor in the similarity; it sounded as if the ‘tough’ rapper Nuomi was singing about wanting to go to Disney.

Nuomi and his diss track, from the music video.

Nuomi filmed the music video for this diss track at a senior activity park in Chengdu’s Yulin subdistrict. The music video went viral in late March, and led to the park being nicknamed the ‘Chengdu Disney.’

The particular exercise machine on which Nuomi performed his rap quickly became an iconic landmark on Douyin, as everyone eagerly sought to visit, sit on the same see-saw-style exercise machine, and repeat the phrase, mimicking the viral video.

What began as a homonym led to people ‘Disneyfying’ the park itself, with crowds of visitors flocking to the park, some dressed in Disney-related costumes.

This further developed the concept of a Chengdu ‘Disney’ destination, turning the park playground into the happiest place in Yulin.

 
Chengdu: China’s Most Relaxed Hip Hop Hotspot
 

Chengdu holds a special place in China’s underground hip-hop scene, thanks to its vibrant music culture and the presence of many renowned Chinese hip-hop artists who incorporate the Sichuan dialect into their songs and raps.

This is one reason why this ‘Disney’ meme happened in Chengdu and not in any other Chinese city. But beyond its musical significance, the playful spirit of the meme also aligns with Chengdu’s reputation for being an incredibly laid-back city.

In recent years, the pursuit of a certain “relaxed feeling” (sōngchígǎn 松弛感) has gained popularity across the Chinese internet. Sōngchígǎn is a combination of the word for “relaxed,” “loose” or “lax” (松弛) and the word for “feeling” (感). Initially used to describe a particular female aesthetic, the term evolved to represent a lifestyle where individuals strive to maintain a relaxed demeanor, especially in the face of stressful situations.

 

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The concept gained traction online in mid-2022 when a Weibo user shared a story of a family remaining composed when their travel plans were unexpectedly disrupted due to passport issues. Their calm and collected response inspired the adoption of the “relaxed feeling” term (also read here).

Central to embodying this sense of relaxation is being unfazed by others’ opinions and avoiding unnecessary stress or haste out of fear of judgment.

Nowadays, Chinese cities aim to foster this sense of sōngchígǎn. Not too long ago, there were many hot topics suggesting that Chengdu is the most sōngchí 松弛, the most relaxed city in China.

This sentiment is reflected in the ‘Chengdu Disney’ trend, which both pokes fun at a certain hip-hop aesthetic deemed overly relaxed—like the guys who showed up with sagging pants—and embraces a carefree, childlike silliness that resonates with the city’s character and its people.

Mocking sagging pants at ‘Chengdu Disney.’

Despite the influx of visitors to the Chengdu Disney area, authorities have not yet significantly intervened. Community notices urging respect for nearby residents and the presence of police officers to maintain order indicate a relatively hands-off approach. For now, it seems most people are simply enjoying the relaxed atmosphere.

 
Being Part of the Meme
 

An important aspect that contributes to the appeal of Chengdu Disney is its nature as an online meme, allowing people to actively participate in it.

Scenes from Chengdu Disney, images via Weibo.

China has a very strong meme culture. Although there are all kinds of memes, from visual to verbal, many Chinese memes incorporate wordplay. In part, this has to do with the nature of Chinese language, as it offers various opportunities for puns, homophones, and linguistic creativity thanks to its tones and characters.

The use of homophones on Chinese social media is as old as Chinese social media itself. One of the most famous examples is the phrase ‘cǎo ní mǎ’ (草泥马), which literally means ‘grass mud horse’, but is pronounced in the same way as the vulgar “f*ck your mother” (which is written with three different characters).

In the case of the Chengdu Disney trend, it combines a verbal meme—stemming from the ‘diss nǐ’ / Díshìní homophone—and a visual meme, where people gather to pose for videos/photos in the same location, repeating the same phrase.

Moreover, the trend bridges the gap between the online and offline worlds, as people come together at the Chengdu playground, forming a tangible community through digital culture.

The fact that this is happening at a residential exercise park for the elderly adds to the humor: it’s a Chengdu take on what “urban” truly means. These colorful exercise machines are a common sight in Chinese parks nationwide and are actually very mundane. Transforming something so normal into something extraordinary is part of the meme.

A 3D-printed model version of the exercise equipment featured in Nuomi’s music video.

Lastly, the incorporation of the Disney element adds a touch of whimsy to the trend. By introducing characters like Snow White and Mickey Mouse, the trend blends American influences (hip-hop, Disney) with local Chengdu culture, creating a captivating and absurd backdrop for a viral phenomenon.

For some people, the pace in which these trends develop is just too quick. On Weibo, one popular tourism blogger (@吴必虎) wrote: “The viral hotspots are truly unpredictable these days. We’re still seeing buzz around the spicy hot pot in Gansu’s Tianshui, meanwhile, a small seesaw originally meant for the elderly in a residential community suddenly turns into “Chengdu Disneyland,” catching the cultural and tourism authorities of Sichuan and even Shanghai Disneyland off guard. Netizens are truly powerful, even making it difficult for me, as a professional cultural tourism researcher, to keep up with them.”

By Manya Koetse, co-authored by Ruixin Zhang

Independently reporting China trends for over a decade. Like what we do? Support us and get the story behind the hashtag by subscribing:

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2024 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Music

The Chinese Viral TikTok Song Explained (No, It’s Not About Samsung)

The viral Chinese ‘Samsung’ Tiktok song is also not about cheating or getting back with your ex.

Manya Koetse

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Over the past few days, a Chinese song ‘challenge’ has been going viral on TikTok, with various TikTokers from America and beyond mastering the phonetics of a Mandarin song, lip-syncing it and delivering their own dramatic performance.

TikTok user Ajibola Olalekan posted the popular part of the song on March 16, receiving over 71k likes within two weeks, with various TikTokers using the sound for their own videos, some receiving millions of views (watch).

TikTok creator Emily, also known as Maverickmother, lip-synced the song from her car, writing: “Admit to your husband you were wrong and apologize or sing in Chinese..”

The popular video maker Azz (@theofficial_azz) also posted a video of himself singing the song, writing: “Admit you were wrong or sing in Chinese.”

TV host and content creator Mark Odea took things a bit further and put on a dramatic performance of himself lip-syncing the song, writing: “I didn’t realize this song was in English.” According to his interpretation of the song, the lyrics go like this:

Woman cheat
So true in shit sun sun
Would you lie? you shout It’s over Ya
But you are now women itchy
Loud loud itchy ya
Woman cheat send some d
Ching eat chang

While some think the song is about cheating or getting back with your ex, others also refer to this song as the “Chinese Samsung song,” because they believe the singer is singing about ‘Samsung.’ It’s actually the word cāngsāng (沧桑) they’re hearing, meaning ‘great changes’ or ‘ups and downs.’

The Chinese song in question is “This Life’s Fate” (今生缘) by the Beijing-born singer Chuan Zi (川子, real name Jiang Yachuan 姜亚川, born in 1969). Released in 2009, it is one of his most famous songs, which is about life and friendship.

The part of the song that has recently gone viral on TikTok is as follows:

我们今生注定是沧桑
Wǒmen jīnshēng zhùdìng shì cāngsāng
哭着来要笑着走过呀
Kūzhe lái yào xiàozhe zǒuguò ya
朋友啊让我们一起牢牢铭记呀
Péngyǒu a ràng wǒmen yìqǐ láo láo míngjì ya
我们今生兄弟情谊长
Wǒmen jīnshēng xiōngdì qíngyì cháng

“Our lives are destined to be full of change
We cried when we came [into this world], let’s leave with a smile
My friend, let’s remember very well
We’ll always be like brothers in this life”

By now, the Tiktok trend of foreigners pouring their hearts into mastering a song they may not even understand has also attracted attention on Chinese social media, where many netizens are enjoying the spectacle.

“The feelings of a ‘straight guy’ are just universal,” one top commenter writes (the word used is ‘Zhinan’ 直男, originally referring to heterosexual males, but then came to refer to an entire category of men in China).

“They may not get the exact meaning of the song, but the emotion is there,” others say.

The song, filled with nostalgia, contemplates life and death, emphasizing our shared journey and finding solace in companionship.

If you want to master the entire song yourself, here are the full lyrics (see full song here):

我们今生有缘在路上
Wǒmen jīnshēng yǒu yuán zài lùshàng
In this life, we are destined to be on this journey

只要我们彼此永不忘
Zhǐyào wǒmen bǐcǐ yǒng bù wàng
If only we never forget each other

朋友啊,让我们一起牢牢铭记呀
Péngyǒu a, ràng wǒmen yīqǐ láoláo míngjì ya
My friend, let’s remember very well

别在乎那一些忧和伤
Bié zàihu, nà yīxiē yōu hé shāng
Don’t mind about all that worry and pain

我们今生注定是沧桑
Wǒmen jīnshēng zhùdìng shì cāngsāng
Our lives are destined to be full of change

哭着来要笑着走过呀
Kūzhe lái yào xiàozhe zǒuguò ya
We cried when we came [into this world], let’s leave with a smile

朋友啊,让我们一起牢牢铭记呀
Péngyǒu a, ràng wǒmen yīqǐ láoláo míngjì ya.
My friend, let’s remember very well

我们今生兄弟情谊长
Wǒmen jīnshēng xiōngdì qíngyì cháng
We’ll always be like brothers in this life

朋友啊,让我们一起牢牢铭记呀
Péngyǒu a, ràng wǒmen yīqǐ láoláo míngjì ya
My friend, let’s remember very well

我们今生有缘在路上
Wǒmen jīnshēng yǒu yuán zài lùshàng
In this life, we are destined to be on this journey

只要我们彼此永不忘
Zhǐyào wǒmen bǐcǐ yǒng bù wàng
As long as we never forget each other.

朋友啊,让我们一起牢牢铭记呀
Péngyǒu a, ràng wǒmen yīqǐ láoláo míngjì ya
My friend, let’s remember very well

别在乎,那一些忧和伤
Bié zàihu, nà yīxiē yōu hé shāng
Don’t mind about all that worry and pain

我们今生就像梦一场
Wǒmen jīnshēng jiù xiàng mèng yī chǎng
This life is like a dream.

有你陪喝醉了又何妨
Yǒu nǐ péi hēzuì le yòu héfáng
What’s the harm in getting drunk together with you

朋友啊,让我们一起牢牢铭记呀
Péngyǒu a, ràng wǒmen yīqǐ láoláo míngjì ya
My friend, let’s remember it very well

凡尘过后终了无牵挂
Fánchén guòhòu zhōngle wú qiānguà.
After this mundane life, there will be no worries

朋友啊,让我们一起牢牢铭记呀
Péngyǒu a, ràng wǒmen yīqǐ láoláo míngjì ya.
My friend, let’s remember it very well

By Manya Koetse

Independently reporting China trends for over a decade. Like what we do? Support us and get the story behind the hashtag by subscribing:

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2024 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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