Maybe it's not such a hip-hop world after all. China's growing community of rappers, DJs, and B-Boys might be evidence of the globalization of hip-hop that Jeff Chang explored in FP's November/December issue, but it may not be quite ready for prime time. As part of an Olympics-related cultural exchange, Bejing-based rappers Dragon Tongue Squad took the stage at London's Royal Opera House last night. The British press, to put it mildly, was not feeling it:
Mostly, they sang in Mandarin, although even they have admitted the language doesn't lend itself well to flowing rhymes. Handily, translated lyrics were circulated, so we knew that Dragon Tongue-ism contained the couplet "Learn how to be good at learning skills/ Learn how to communicate smoothly". Only once did they shine, and for all the wrong reasons. Chinese Food was a comic masterpiece - "Thai, Thai! Why, why?" went the chorus, possibly, while the verses listed authentic takeaway dishes.
It does sound pretty weak, but the Times' reviewer may have gone a bit far in her blanket indictment of Chinese hip-hop:
Rather than lift the lid on Chinese youth culture, a preposterous performance proved why most hip-hop consumed in that country is - and probably always will be - American.
The reviewer admits that a seated theater designed for opera may not be the best venue for a hip-hop show. It's also possible that Dragon Tongue Squad, who apparently mainly rap about food, are not representative of Chinese hip-hop as a whole. It wouldn't speak very well of American MC skillz if Soulja Boy was sent abroad to represent the entire genre, for instance. Plus, as FP's online readers already know, while Beijing's rappers may not impress the Brits, they totally own those punks from Shanghai.