China’s latest baffling crackdown: vulgar rap music

Homeboys turned dissidents.
Homeboys turned dissidents.
Image: chinnian/Flickr, CC-BY-2.0
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China’s latest media cleanup doesn’t concern social media dissidents or pornography, but something even more innocuous: macho rap songs from 10 years ago.

Last night the Ministry of Culture published a notice demanding online music platforms remove 120 songs from their libraries. According to the ministry, the songs in question “promote obscenity, violence, crime, or threaten public morality.”

Those are harsh words for a bunch of dated tunes geared toward 14-year-old boys. An overwhelming majority of the banned songs are from hip-hop artists that espouse the chauvinistic, party-loving ethos typical of the genre.

For example, in3, a Beijing-based hip-hop group, has the dubious honor of authoring 16 of the banned songs. The first one listed, titled “Hello Teacher” when translated into English, is a predictably brash take on going to class. Over throbbing beats, the lyrics lash out at squares like teachers and school authorities:

A few of the songs on the list are relatively mainstream, like rapper MC Hotdog’s ode to Taiwanese women. Others are songs from relatively unknown artists that went viral on the internet. But all of them lean toward the vulgar. Titles include “Little Girl’s First Time,” “I Want To Make Love,” and “This Fucking Society.”

Crackdowns on digital entertainment occur semi-regularly in China, and content that’s sexual in nature has been a frequent target over the past few years. Earlier this year authorities fined search giant Baidu and web portal Netease for allegedly permitting the spread of porn on their sites. While machismo-drenched rap songs might not qualify as pornography, such distinctions are seemingly irrelevant in the eyes of the Ministry of Culture.

China’s internet companies tend to swiftly comply with directives such as these. But the internet is a porous place, and self-policing seldom guarantees a spotless cleanup. Ironically, by issuing the notice and the 120 song titles to the public, the ministry piqued curiosity among China’s music listeners. Sina Weibo users are currently passing around download links to in3 songs (registration required, link in Chinese).

Image by chinnian on Flickr, licensed under CC-BY-2.0