China’s media regulator got the year off to a flying start by decreeing that TV programming should avoid any elements from hip-hop culture. What better way to hit back than with a song of the kind no one would be expecting?
As covered by The Nanjinger in January, the State Administration for Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of the People’s Republic of China (SAPPRFT) was taking particular aim at TV channels that allowed appearances by tattooed performers as on-air guests, with the hip-hop issue as almost an afterthought.
Head of A&R for Beijing-based music-services firm Outdustry, Marcus Rowland, speaking to Billboard, said, “This ban is the government saying what most of us always knew; that the government sees hip-hop as part of low-level society and not appropriate for mainstream audiences.”
But, here’s a thought. What if such a song came along that went the other way? One that showcases the beauty of China and speaks of the warm reception that visitors to the country will receive, whether in the mega cities or the villages? One that can help an international audience come to a better appreciation of China and its culture? Or help break the almost impenetrable barriers to the language? And dare we say it, one that contains not a single expletive?
Yet, that is exactly what has happened, with the release this week of the song “Nihao” by Cameroonian rapper Nassy Pro.
Throughout a colourful and masterfully-edited, accompanying video more reminiscent of Florida than China (that’s part of the allure, and why it works), Nassy Pro raps in English and Mandarin, name checking many of the places to which his time in China has taken him.
During an interview with The Nanjinger, Nassy Pro, real name Emmanuel Nji, spoke of the inspiration for the song. “I first came to China to study Chinese to help my family who do business with China. I lived in China for 2 and a half years studying Chinese and used all my holidays to travel across the country. After about seven trips to different touristic attractions in Shenzhen, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Beijing and Wuhan, I was so amazed with the wonder and beauty of this country and decided the best way for me to keep these memories is to share with the world my experience via music. This was the decision that kickstarted the #NIHAO Project.”
As musician and entrepreneur, Nji’s career spans 9 years, churning out an album and many singles, signed to the international African American label Bahood records. He started his own label, Ballers Entertainment, in 2015.
Of the government’s stance over the proposed ban, Nji says, “They have a point but it’s based on eighties rap which was gangster. [In] other words, violent. Nowadays, rap musicians use rap music to educate. Most rappers nowadays are philanthropist, have opened hospitals and built schools, just to name a few”.
“In other words rap music has evolved. And most rappers were not really violent, but used rap to express their grievances. I think if they take a closer look they will relax the law.”
Should Nji’s song get the exposure it deserves, there could well be an outside chance at just such a thing happening. At the very least, TV channels might stop blurring out the hip-hop style necklaces worn by performers on the non hip-hop show Super Brian, as reported by Time.
For himself, Nji also cleverly employs a devil’s advocate approach. “There are two ways of looking at it. Hip hop represents a culture and that culture isn’t some low-life. Hip hop has influenced society positively, just like other genres.”