What is Real: Authenticity and Localization in Chinese Rap Music

Hanmei Tan, Chutima Maneewattana


This study explores the changes in “keeping it real”, the spiritual connotation of hip-hop culture during the localization of Chinese rap music. Data were collected through the following two qualitative research methods. Firstly, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 20 rappers and producers in Changsha, Chengdu, and Chongqing cities. Secondly, ten livehouse performances were attended and observed. The main research findings suggest that the interpretation of the connotation of “real” is closely related to a specific living context and that reflection on the understanding of “keeping it real” cannot be proceeded from a single or essentialist perspective. In the process of localization of rap music in China, the transformation in the connotation of “real” is the result of not only the hybridization of Chinese and western cultures, but also the power discourse struggle under the interference of commercial capital. 

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