Fresh Daily: Jason Chu – “City of the North – a song for Beijing” (China/USA)
Jason “Grandmaster” Chu’s latest video City of the North is, as he puts it, “A letter to this city (Beijing) in all its difficulty, challenge, and unexpected beauty. It showcases a day in my life here, and the different faces and lives that intersect in this explosion of culture: the students, migrant workers, expats, old-timers, and more.”
One of three rappers that make up Model Minority that includes the Seattle-based Brothers Fung (Andrew “Inglish” and David “D-One” Fung), Chu is himself a recent transplant to Beijing (via New Haven, Connecticut), whose mixtape – “Model Minority Report” – was reviewed by hip-hop journalist Oliver Want in a 2011 LA Times article.
Chu’s rap career spans the better part of 10-years, having himself
The song itself inspired the following post by Chu (below), explaining the concept behind the song (lyrics also reprinted below). City of the North is featured on The Goodbye, Beijing. EP, which is now online for free download, featuring ONE CHILD and City of the North (both music videos that screened during the album release concert on April 21. The EP includes 3 other songs written and recorded in Beijing. Check it out at Jason Chu’s Bandcamp page!
Here’s what Chu has to say:
Leaving Beijing – leaving Asia – brings with it a mixture of emotions, from relief to a bittersweet sense of loss. As I reflect on this departure, I’ve been writing songs that talk about life here: both “the expat experience” and the local lives that I’ve come into contact with.
Last weekend, I filmed and edited a music video for one of these songs, City of the North: a letter to this city in all its difficulty, challenge, and unexpected beauty. It showcases a day in my life here, and the different faces and lives that intersect in this explosion of culture: the students, migrant workers, expats, old-timers, and more.
I hope you enjoy City of the North on Youtube, and share it with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, or by email; I’d love to receive comments about your experiences – the ways and places you too have lived, struggled, and grown.
Beat by Bent Lorentz, Jr.
Camera: Nathan Chester, Joseph Djima, Jr.
Extras: Jon Pettigrew, Julie Ip
Lyrics to City of the North:
I, started this rhyme as I waited for the train
On the platform, hearing instrumentals in my brain
My kicks dirty gray ‘cuz the air so foul
One hundred degrees out, so we pray for rain
The line pulls up, and it’s full as hell
Not to mention, these cats got a funky ass smell
LL might be somewhere ringin some bells
But as for me, I can barely even hear my cell
These are the middle class losers, beggars, students
Here, if you don’t got a car, you ain’t included
A place that turns flesh to stone, like Medusa
The ’60s, tried to make a ghost of Confucius
The car turns north as my head shuts down
Prepared to close doors like old John Brown
Done with the rhyme, and we’re almost out of town
And I almost missed my stop, I was busy with the sounds
Just another day in the city of the North
Some push foreign whips; some are just piss-poor.
Just another day in a city filled with schemes
Filled with teams who be dreaming of the cream, so it seems
I live in a city where the dust hits ya bones
Where to be heard, your words gotta use megaphones
Where everybody smokes and it’s killing them slow
Where you can sing out loud and nobody hears the tones
People tryna go hard, but they scared as hell
So they keep coming back like a carousel
no roots, so they move like a tumbling weed
Like police at the door while they bundling weed
They hear the knock outside and they stumble and flee
While I roam the city free like Grand Theft 3
There’s poison in the air, so he’s coughin up lungs
But he breathes in, the Spirit’s got him speaking in tongues
Coughed up some blood, guess he is a little scared
But he made it this far, guess he’s sposed to be here
A life well lived is a life without fear
Got more than 4 bars, am I coming through clear?
I run the rings like Sonic, blaze like the chronic
Gaze at the stars, see my fate like a comet
But the haze on the city every day from the morning
No colors, just greys, like the city was in mourning
They poured over slums to make way for the champions
Now they got clubs where before, there were stadiums
Got bums, from locals turned aliens
An unmarked grave for the brave who remained in ’em
I jumped off the train as I headed to the crib
and came face-to-face with a horse drawn rig
A man with blank eyes and a face like stone
Is this city mine, or his to call home?
Just another day in a city caught between
Tryna stay above water while we, chase our dreams
Some live and some die, tryna do their thing
Some live and some die, this big city, Beijing