What would you say if I told you that some of the most amazing things in rap music are happening in Asia?
My first encounter with Asian rap came actually from K-pop. Before there was BTS, there were 2PM and EXO. Both boy bands had very strong rappers in their lineup. They kind of sent the message that rap is now mainstream.
How mainstream, I hear you ask. Mainstream enough that 2PM would rap about water purifiers.
But we are not talking about K-pop today. You’re here to discover really cool Chinese rap songs.
No matter how much I would like to unpack the phenomenon that was MC Jin’s Learn Chinese, we’re actually going over the wall. Rap is one of those rare things that were not invented in China, but are oh so good at manufacturing.
Ok, no more puns. Pick your favorite pair of headphones and let’s listen to some cool beats.
|1||Made In China||Higher Brothers||Learn More|
|2||Gong Xi Fa Cai||Higher Brothers||Learn More|
|4||Mei Ni Ye Neng Huo Xia Qu||Jony J||Learn More|
|5||Raingang||Barry Chen||Learn More|
|8||020||Tizzy T||Learn More|
|9||The Flow of the Jiang-Hu||C-Block x Gai||Learn More|
|10||Hotpot Seasoning||Gai||Learn More|
|11||In Beijing||Hiding||Learn More|
|13||Trust In God||Ice||Learn More|
|15||My New Swag||VAVA||Learn More|
Top 15 Chinese Rap Song
Higher Brothers – Made In China
You probably got interested in Chinese rap songs after seeing this one on social media.
Made In China is exactly what you would expect a song with this title to be. It’s a list of all the things we “consume” that say their country of origin is PRC (People’s Republic of China). Then they move to all the cultural heritage that comes from this part of the world.
Its purpose in life? To face slap foreigners that slag off China, but not in an obvious party sanctioned way.
Higher Brothers – Gong Xi Fa Cai (Congratulations On Your Wealth )
Let’s stick with Higher Brothers for a minute longer.
China has a very interesting relationship with wealth. On one side, it’s desirable to be wealthy beyond imagination, but on the other side, we have a century of communism and its teachings. An industrialist is at the same time admired for their wealth and called a filthy capitalist.
Generational wealth is respected, and the nouveau riche is barely tolerated. Where do the Higher Brothers fall in with their music industry money? They don’t care as long as they can spend it on frivolous luxuries.
VAVA – Ego
If you have been around in the naughties and heard this song, I know what was going through your head. What’s going on?
But after two decades of Kanye’s and Cardis, couldn’t you imagine something like this topping the charts?
As far as the lyrics go, it’s a simple and classic posturing thing we can expect from most rap artists.
Those weird moments in the second half of the chorus? Maybe you should google Peking opera. Though, it will still be a bit confusing.
Jony J – Mei Ni Ye Neng Huo Xia Qu (I Can Live Without You )
Are you in the mood for a love song? Well, tough luck. Here’s a breakup song.
Jony J is the most popular Chinese rapper and one of those pretty-boy idols that have a gazillion female fans. This makes it interesting that he would release a song like this considering those fans like to pretend he is their celebrity boyfriend.
Luckily, the song has a great vibe and rhythm. The lyrics have a few classic Chinese idioms, but in the end, the message is clear: I can live without you.
Barry Chen – Raingang
Okay, were you around for Nana and Darkman? Strap in. I’m not saying that the video is a clear Chinese knockoff, but boy, I had a few flashbacks in the first 30 seconds.
This is how China does gangsta rap. Take the language out and you could believe someone from the Compton crew made this song.
And wait for it…
There it is. One for the money, two for the show.
Recommended: Top 10 Rap Songs About Fake Friends.
MaSiWei – Chengdu
Think of this as the heavily auto-tuned Chinese counterpart to Will Smith’s Miami.
Chengdu is basically rapper central. The atmosphere is a little lighter compared to other Chinese cities, there are lots of rich kids, and a lot of places where you can spend money.
MaSiWei inserts himself as one of the “it” people, out and about in his designer gear. Yup, it’s the classic rapper bragging. But the groove is awesome enough to forgive him for it.
Lay – Lit
I’ll be honest, I almost didn’t include this one. The lyrics are the equivalent of, “Come at me, bro”. There’s even a choreographed dance routine.
But, the video. And the awesome blend of modern beats and traditional instruments.
Take it for what it is, something that you should experience at least once. You’ll walk away from a person who sneers every time a western rapper brags about how much they spent on their videos.
Tizzy T – 020
Have you ever wanted to hear what the n-word sounds in Chinese? Now is your opportunity.
This song is such a great find. If others sounded a bit off to you, check this out. Tizzy T has an awesome talent, not only in writing lyrics but also in delivering the words in a way you forget the language barrier.
They say rapping in Chinese is very difficult. Tizzy says hold my beer. Or maybe Coke instead?
C-Block x Gai – The Flow of the Jiang-Hu
No, it’s not that C-Block. Yes, I know I can take a few cheap shots, but I’m so strung out.
The easiest way to explain what Jiang-Hu is by saying it’s the outlaw world of martial arts. This is not your run-of-the-mill gangsta rap. This is millennia of traditions and convictions you will rarely find anywhere else.
The lyrics are mesmerizing. I highly recommend you read them even if you’re here just for the beats.
I have to give it props for being very gritty and actually a beautiful song at the same time.
Gai – Hotpot Seasoning
You had a taste of Gai in the previous entry, now it’s time for hotpot.
What I love about some of the Chinese rap songs is how they take silly concepts and give them an awesome groove.
This song is not a hotpot recipe (unfortunately) or something similar. It’s still all about classic posturing. But it’s fun, the video is fun, and there’s also some symbolism for those who will do the homework.
Hiding – In Beijing
An oldie but goodie. This song hails from the times before rap became mainstream in China.
Are those some white guys you’re seeing in the video? You’re very much right. Only one member was born and raised in China, one was Chinese Canadian, and the other two were American. How’s that for international cooperation?
But if you were looking for super edgy lyrics, look somewhere else. In Beijing really means things you can see in Beijing.
Bridge – Boss
I don’t know why I’m including this one. I don’t like it at all, but many kids do, so I have to?
I’ll keep this short because I will start sounding like a boomer if I don’t. If you like “rap music” all these white influencers have been releasing the last couple of years, you’ll love this song.
I don’t get it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t see something good in it.
Ice – Trust In God
I originally wanted to include another song by Ice, but changed my mind at the last minute. The other song is Aya if you want to check it out.
Aya is more fun, but Trust In God is more layered. Let’s start with religion being a no-no in China. Then add the battle between “God will provide” and “life is a hustle” sentiments.
It’s definitely something to unpack if you’re in the mood. If not, it’s still a blend of smooth beats and not-so-irritating auto-tune.
Gali – 70%
Did you know China has a rap competition? This is just one gem that came out of that show.
This one works for me on so many levels. First, it gives a nod to a lot of other Chinese rap artists who had a positive influence on Gali. Next, it’s a typical diss track that calls out everyone who has accused him of copying others.
And finally, the arrangement is ah-mazing. It builds up and builds up (for the 70% of the song), and finally lets you go with a breath of fresh air.
Recommended: Top 10 Russian Love Songs of All Time.
VAVA – My New Swag
Let’s wrap up with another entry from VAVA. Both the song and the video are everything most of you were looking for in Chinese rap.
The traditional elements are breathtaking, but let’s not forget all the stereotypes either. Triadlooking dudes carrying a palanquin – what’s more gangsta than that?
And that’s about all this song is about. It’s your classic rap posturing and VAVA claiming her crown as the Chinese queen of rap.
With some Beats products thrown into the mix. At least she didn’t forget about Dre.
And this is only the beginning. There is a lot more of it to go around.
I know that the language barrier is an issue for most, but there are so many Chinese rap songs you can enjoy without speaking a word of Mandarin or Cantonese.
If you want to hear more, I highly recommend checking out The Rap of China (contest mentioned in entry 14). Then you can explore from there and discover more artists.