Purple Soul’s first release W.T.F. brings you back to the origins of hip hop (China)
by Fabio Nalin (for World Hip Hop Market)
It’s Friday May 18th, 01.00 AM, the dark and cavernesque dancefloor of the Shelter was getting more and more crowded of hip hop heads, while djs Ceezy, V-Nutz, Caution b2b, T-Plus and Drunk Monk were turning on the basement for the pre-show. JahWay is laid back behind the console, looking at the crowd. He’s slightly enlightened by a weak lamp, but you can recognize his characteristics features: tall, skinny, wearing a black bandana covering his voluminous dreads. Suddenly he stars to move, mic in his hand, walking out from the basement. His homies MC Jiezi and FengXiao come out from the dark too, and they together reach the middle of the dance floor, among the crowd.
“Shanghai where you at?” screams JahWay.
The fans starts shouting, creating a circle around the three rappers, while they are already dropping the first verse of “Dou Zhidao” (“They all know”).
Is that China? For a moment it really seemed to me to be… elsewhere. Maybe in New York, somewhere in Queens or Brooklyn… Or at least the image that I have in my mind of those places. The situation is so special, so underground, so hip hop, so real. The Chinese fans sprunging their heads up and down, hands up on the sky, shouting to every punch lines, face to face to the rappers, who kill the fat beats with rhymes that portrait the society, the government, the real life.
“Frankly speaking, those big leaders who brainwash our people and write off their minds, are dominating on my country,
The aim of this socialism let you cheating oneself”
From track “Long Dan Zi”
This is Shelter club, the place for underground music in Shanghai, literally under the ground, which really looks like an air-raid shelter! And those three Chinese rappers are Purple Soul, Beijing’s freshest hip hop group. They left the capital to pay a visit to Shanghai for the release of the debut album, entitled W.T.F. (What The Fuck).
Purple Soul consists of JahWay, from famous Beijing hip hop crew Yinsar, of Jiezi, Beijing’s most exciting new MC, and of beat maker FAC-D12 a.k.a. FengXiao. I read in the flyer: “In a scene polluted by fake, commercial imitators, Purple Soul keep themselves firmly rooted and bringing real life experiences and issue to the forefront of their music. Their debut album, W.T.F., takes things back to basics, with a 90’s Golden Age influence throughout but with a freshness that can bring around even the most jaded of hip hop fans. With guest appearances by MC Webber, J-Fever and Sub-Culture’s ChaCha, W.T.F. is one of the most exciting and consistent hip hop albums to come out China in recent years, and SVBKVLT are very proud to be part of its release.”
And actually, listening to their album, you can hear rhythms which may remind you of the chilling jazzy beats of East Coast rap of the first half of nineties, but at the same time is fresh and enjoyable. The unique Beijing accent and its stylish flow sounds always so good. “Long Dan Zi” is the soundtrack they choose for promoting the release tour. “Long Dan Zi” is also the Chinese name of Purple Soul, but it literally indicates the Gentian violet, flower used to produce an antibacterial and antifungal agent. Like if it was a metaphor of their music, which heals the wounds of their hard life, and at the same time wants to heal this “fake polluted” hip hop scene.
“Long Dan Zi, coming from the nature, living in the city
Body underground, home in the ghetto, living in the streets,
At that time I had no choices, only my fist
But if now I raise my fist is for the freedom,
Purple Soul, helps you stop bleeding and disinfect
Giving you a scar, so that later you won’t forget”.
From track “Long Dan Zi”
Who is Purple Soul then? This is what I asked Cha Cha, Chinese singer based in Shanghai, who, representing the group Sub-Culture and the label SVBKVLT, helped in producing and promoting the project. She also raps and sings in tracks “Close Your Eyes” and “Be Water”.
Cha Cha: “Purple Soul is very unique. Yinsar was the second generation of Chinese hip hip, Mc Webber and Yin Tsang group, was instead the first generation of Chinese hip-hop. Webber was a bboy in the beginning, and then he became a rapper. Then, so many Chinese people, young kids got into hip-hop. But hip-hop is very different because is not only about music, is not only about the feeling, the flow, is also including the background, the culture and also the lyrics. It includes you thinking, what you are trying to say to people, your attitude. But Chinese people who were into hip-hop, they can only see from MTV, in that moment, in the early ages there was no internet, and no information about good quality hip-hop, so young kids only see the tv and think, that’s really cool, they say, that’s hip-hop. Webber and Yin Tsang and the first generation of Chinese hip-hop, they showed Chinese people what Chinese hip-hop is, and not just give a model and you have to copy that, but something that you can follow, and after that you can develop you own stuff, but you’re starting with nothing, and you don’t even where do you want to go. So basically the first generation showed the youngsters the direction, how to write Chinese lyrics, how to make a good flow, how to make the life hip-hop, and how to represent our mind with the lyrics. So, this is really important.
And Yinsar people, they see Webber has a hero, because they really got a big important from him, his power, his mind, his lyrics and his live performances, that give you a kind of power, so you can see, Yinsar is the second generation of Chinese hip-hop, so you can see the shadows on the first generation, they bring something new but they still come inside of that shadow. Purple Soul is the thing I wanted to see, it really makes me excited. They know what they really want to say, their lyrics talk about their own life, about what they think, what they think about the world, the society, everything, and they don’t pretend to be gangsters with the gun on the pocket, and calling everybody “nigger”, is not like that. Purple Soul is a group that make see that hip-hop is growing, and really hits the next step, because you can see that, after Webber, after Yinsar, so many new rappers came out, so many new producers came out, but you don’t feel excited, because you know is something that Yinsar already did, there is nothing new, nothing different from them. They want to do some cool music with hip-hop, but they need something more.
Purple Soul really showed me this thing, those rappers are really low profile, they are not like gangsta rappers, and walking on the street like “look at me, look at me”. Is good music, their flow is great, they have fantastic lyrics, and the attitude is great. Underground is the future of something that you can see in the cultural growing, that’s what makes me so excited. They are ghetto kids, they come from really poor family, they have no money, some of them haven’t finished school, they cannot find a job because they don’t have a good education, but they are local people, they live with the family, they don’t really have a lot of things to do, how want they make life better? Young people think, oh, I have to go to work, I need to do some business, or I rob the bank, or something like that. But they make music. They say, I have nothing in hand, I have my mind, I have no money now, but I use my mind to make money, I don’t do anything bad, I still think what I think but I make money with it, that’s amazing to think. And why they want to make money, because they want to go out from Beijing, start to move, go to different cities, meet with different producers and rappers, start doing collaborations. That’s fantastic!”
“A poor boy living in a rich people city
He tries to use his determination to resist to the materialism,
But the reality, is so damn real
If you don’t have a job you don’t have money so you don’t have nothing to eat”
From “Qiong haizi” (Poor Boy)
Cha Cha: “So, that’s the thing, Purple Soul. I’m really proud of them. They are really still catching the soul of hip-hop, and keeping it real, that’s the most important thing, the thing that I like the most of them.”
“Purple Soul is preserving this attitude,
Dj, Mc, graffiti and your dance steps”
From track “Long Dan Zi”
Cha Cha: “The live show wasn’t that busy, one thing because there was a big “competition”, I mean, those big parties at Friday night, and the other thing is that Shelter is a kind of club which is mostly attended by Western people and conscious people, Chinese people are always about the 40% of the presents. That night we promoted as Chinese underground hip-hop night. So was aimed to Chinese local people. So a lot of people who don’t really understand Chinese language might get really bored. But, is really weird, I don’t know why there are always a lot of Western people! Every time we have a good Chinese local hip-hop artist here, actually … my Western friends really like listening to this hip-hop, I think maybe is because of the flow, or the style. But I think is very special, because the live was sung in the middle of the dance floor, the vibe was really good, they are really good performers, so I think it was good, even if there wasn’t a lot of people, but I think that was the perfect night for this kind of things”.
W.T.F. is definitely one of most interesting hip hop release in China in recent times, together with Webber’s return album Ghetto Food, released in 2011. Purple Soul album was distributed during live show at Shelter, and its price was included in the entrance fee, it means that it was sold at the funny price of 50RMB (8.09 US dollars). We sincerely hope that the first and second generation of Chinese hip hop will keep on fighting for their dreams, making good music and inspiring young people. Big up guys!
Title track and of W.T.F. Album and promotional video “Long Dan Zi”: http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XNTQ0NzQ1ODgw.html
Live tour promotional video: http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XNTU0MDU5MTcy.html
Purple Soul performing “Poor Boy” live: http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XNTYyMzc4MTcy.html
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