Talented rappers keen to spread word and break the stereotype

Li Ni, Bilibili’s deputy chairwoman and chief operating officer, said: “Rap music is popular among our users. We want the show to reflect Chinese rappers’ mindsets and their lives. We also want to break the stereotype about hip-hop music, which used to be associated with rebellion and profanities.

“This Western art form has been localized in China, with rappers talking about their lives and expressing their views on issues of public concern.”

Rap for Youth, directed by Yan Min, has made its mark by featuring young competitors whose music addresses issues such as mental health, campus bullying and prejudice against women.

A promising rapper to appear on the show is Zhong Qi, better known by his stage name TangoZ, who comes from Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province, and raps in the local dialect.

He won applause for one of his songs, Love Paradise, which is about the city. He wrote it in 2018, when he decided to take part in a rap competition staged by a local radio station.

“I wanted the opportunity to perform at an outdoor music festival-and I made it,” TangoZ said.

He wrote the song using a combination of the Hangzhou dialect and English because he wanted it to be different.

“There are rappers performing in dialects from Sichuan and Shaanxi provinces, but it’s rare for someone to rap in the China Hangzhou dialect,” he said.

“I grew up with the dialect, which has unique tones, articulation and rhythm. It’s very interesting to rap in it, which is different from rapping in Mandarin.”

He added that it is good to see more people who appreciate rap in dialect, which is keeping local culture alive.

Tang Huan, a fan of Rap for Youth, who is also from Hangzhou, said: “I’d never listened before to anyone rapping in the Hangzhou dialect, which is so cool. This rapper really cares about the culture.”

TangoZ, 32, first listened to hip-hop at middle school. A big fan of Taiwan pop star Jay Chou, he is impressed by the way Chou raps in his songs.

“I vividly remember learning to sing one of his hits, Nunchucks, and imitating his rapping over and over again,” he said.

After graduating from Civil Aviation Flight University of China with a major in air traffic control, TangoZ works by day as an air traffic controller in Hangzhou. He wanted to quit his job and become a professional rapper, but changed his mind because he could not make a living from it.

Although his parents have no idea about rapping, they support their son’s passion for the art form.

TangoZ, who now has some 50 original songs to his name, is good at observing life and committing whatever inspires him to lyrics.

“For example, when I take a bus and see people on the streets, I think of verses in the Hangzhou dialect and write down the good ones,” he said.

Before TangoZ took part in Rap for Youth, winning the competition was his priority. However, now he enjoys spending time with other rappers and focusing on new material.

“What I love about the show is that it not only showcases rappers’ skills, but also values the messages we deliver through our work,” he said.

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