Musicians (from left) Chang Chen-yue, MC Hotdog, Kris Wu, Gloria Tang Tsz-kei and Wilber Pan compose the jury for the upcoming new season of The Rap of China. (PHOTO PROVIDE TO CHINA DAILY)
When the first season of The Rap of China, a reality show on hip-hop, was premiered through streaming media platform iQiyi last June, it attracted 3 billion views within three months.
And rapper jargon became buzzwords overnight although hip-hop was once considered as a music genre with limited appeal in China.
The Rap of China is scheduled to be aired later this year, but dates are not yet final
However, Chinese rap which took off like a rocket with the show then suffered a setback.
This was because of Christmas Eve, a song written in 2015 by rapper PG One－one of the winners in the first season of The Rap of China－was criticized in January by the official media and the authorities for lyrics about drug use and insulting women.
Then, all music by PG One, whose real name is Wang Hao, were removed from major online music platforms. And the future of Chinese rap was in doubt with fans wondering if The Rap of China show would have another season.
Now, however, the show is back, with a new image.
Last week, in a studio on the southern outskirts of Beijing, the recording of a new season of The Rap of China began.
The show is scheduled to be aired later this year, but dates are not yet final.
Meanwhile, the producers of the show will not call the program "season 2" of the The Rap of China, and its Chinese title will change from Zhong Guo You Xi Ha (China has hip-hop) to Zhong Guo Xin Shuo Chang (New type of rap in China).
"It's a new show," Chen Wei, the vice-president of iQiyi and chief producer of the show, claims. "The mission to prove that China has hip-hop was completed last year.
"Now, the next mission is to give rap more Chinese characteristics and thus reflect the Chinese spirit in the new era."
The competition arena for the upcoming reality show. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)
Last year, 778 people registered as competitors for the show. But this year the number is more than 10,000.
The preliminary selection was done in five regional competitions and covered more than 100 universities in China. Now, 71 contestants will participate in the final round.
Interestingly, though PG One's name was not mentioned at the briefing on the show, Chen says a new policy has been introduced to vet competitors. And, as a result of the new guidelines, the competitors' social network accounts and previous music works will be checked.
"Also, when we talk to the contestants, we will try and figure out their world view ... to check whether they match the tone of our program."
Despite the restrictions, Chen feels a ban on bad language will not affect creativity.
Also, he says that as the online space is also a mainstream media channel now, there needs to be more social responsibility as there are many teens following the show.
Che Che, the director of the show, says that the upcoming season will "rectify reputation for Chinese rap".
In last year's program, a genre dubbed as "drama-like reality" was introduced, in which multiple storylines were designed within the talent show to appeal to a wider audience.
But Che says that this year more focus will be placed on lyrics, beat, and music.
In a related development, some netizens wanted Edison Chen, a Hong Kong rapper and actor, to be brought on board, but Che ruled it out, saying: "(Edison) Chen does not fit the program."
Edison Chen was in an eye of storm in 2008 for a sexually explicit photo scandal, and his rap is deeply rooted in the so-called "street culture" of the West.
Speaking about the upcoming program, Che says: "I want to tell people rap can be full of positive energy and sunshine. It can be a genre that combines Chinese culture and cutting-edge pop culture."
In The Rap of China show last year, some rappers performed in local dialects. And Che says that such performances will be more common this year.
In another development, Kris Wu, a Chinese-Canadian actor and singer, who was a judge in last year's show, has returned this year with an extra title: chief music supervisor. And he will be rejoined by three others who were judges last year－musicians Wilber Pan, Chang Chen-yue and MC Hotdog (the stage name of Yao Chung-jen)－all from Taiwan. Hong Kong singer Gloria Tang Tsz-kei is the new addition, based on big data analysis of iQiyi users' preferences, to give women a place on the panel.
As for the kind of musical fare the judges are expected to see, Heaven and Earth, Wu's single released online on June 6, is probably a good example of what Chinese-style rap is expected to be.
Wu's lyrics encourage young people to pursue their dreams and the song's video features traditional Chinese aesthetics.
READ MORE: Rapper PG One's songs taken offline
The new show also aims for bigger global influence. And some of the finalists are from overseas Chinese communities in North America, Australia, and Malaysia.
Explaining the move, Wu, who is also in charge of finding talent from North America, says: "It (the move) is to discover fresh blood and provide an arena for Chinese living abroad. And such communication will also help our culture spread overseas and nurture a fan base for Chinese rap among foreigners."
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