By Admire Kudita
For a genre that was pioneered by New York’s youth some 40 or so years ago, Rap has proved to be the most enduring and highly mobile art forms in human history.
The genre has now become ubiquitous to a point of becoming embraced by Chinese youth and China is a country of over one billion citizens. There is a reason why global music corporations are beginning to sign Chinese artistes. In terms of languages, Mandarin is the most widely spoken language in the world ahead of English. Numbers do not lie.
Kris Wu, a youthful Chinese rapper who raps in both Chinese and English, has recently been signed to Universal record label, becoming stable mates with the likes of rap royalty such as Kanye West and, wait for this, Eminem, a white rap artiste, whose background mirrors to some extent the common narrative of black rappers who grew up in difficult circumstances and are raised by single mothers in tough American neighbourhoods.
In 2017, Kris Wu who made his initial foray into music as a member of K-pop boy band EXO, which he left to embark upon a solo career in 2014, was a judge on a hip hop Chinese television contest called The Rap of China. The hit show garnered three billion views over its June to September duration.
According to Universal Music Group chairman and chief executive Lucian Grainge: “Kris is an incredibly talented recording artiste, songwriter, actor and entrepreneur. I’m thrilled that he is joining the UMG family and honoured that we will have the opportunity to build upon his remarkably successful career.”
On his part Kris said: “It’s a pleasure to be part of this collaboration with Universal Music Group. I’m enjoying the opportunity to share my vision of music. As a singer-songwriter and producer, the album I’m working on now is being elaborately produced and I will keep working to deliver more beautiful works to my audience around the world.”
Meanwhile, in Africa and Zimbabwe specifically, rap is an art form that continues to grow in influence among young people and also the most competitive. The recently released nominees list of the Bulawayo Arts Awards, the rap category has five nominees, which is one of the most eclectic nominees list local music industry watchers have seen in recent times. Cal Vin, an award-winning music producer and artiste, returns to the list he won in the first edition of the awards last year alongside T1NDA (Tawanda Denda) a Christian rapper, Asaph (a conscious rapper reminiscent of the United States rapper Tupac Shakur) Muse and Msiz’ Kay. These artistes are gifted lyricists, whose range of thematic concerns perhaps reflects the zeitgeist of a generation which has made rap music their own.
Ultimately, when Jamaican immigrants Kool Herc and KRS ONE started off as rap music exponents in New York’s underbelly over a generation ago, they may not have imagined just how many mutations the genre would have and just how far their musical creation would travel. Rap today is more than a musical form, it is an integral part of a global youth sub culture warts and all.