Is This Chengdu Rapper’s Diss Track on “Stupid Foreigners” Racist?

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2:00 AM HKT, Thu August 17, 2017 3 mins read

Guess who’s back? Back again? Fat Shady’s back. Tell a friend.

Fat Shady, aka 谢帝, is back in the headlines for his controversial new song and music video, “Stupid Foreigners.”

The rapper originally shot to fame for his breakout performance on Sing My Song, an American Idol-style singing competition. The clip went viral, opening up the country’s eyes to the new wave of hip hop and trap music coming out of Sichuan province (and especially its capital, Chengdu), and solidifying his status as a leader of the new school. I would compare him to a Chinese Gucci Mane, in that sense.

His new video tackles an unexpected subject: foreigners in China, and how awful they are.

The song’s title in Chinese is “Gua Laowai” — literally, “melon foreigners,” an insult in Sichuan slang. The video opens on a disclaimer that makes a feeble effort to smooth over the impending storm of hate: “To be clear, foreign friends: respect. But to stupid foreigners: your mother’s c*nt.” From then on it just kind of devolves, but to be fair there are some fantastic lines in the song:

Wanna be something? Come wash daddy’s car. (He also suggests washing his Timberland boots.)

You were a loser in your own country, come to China to be taken seriously.

Whoever hangs out with foreigners is a c*nt. Girls that hang around them are stupid c*nts. They’re all f*cking idiots. Daddy’s gonna shoot you.

Fat Shady goes on to take shots at English teachers, foreigners who like kung fu, and tall foreigners who become models to seduce the beautiful women of his country.

The video has naturally received a mixed and fiery response. Foreign expats living in China are pretty riled up. Even friends of mine who have never paid the slightest attention to China’s music scene are sending me this video, the sting of their hurt feelings emanating out from my phone screen. The classic English-language city news outlets have all decried it as racist and xenophobic in their headlines.

Meanwhile, some Chinese social media users have posted in support of the video, while others have taken a stance against it.

“Finally someone said it,” one viewer commented under the video.

“You’re saying this while posing with foreign cars? Next time use Chinese products then,” writes someone else.

Chinese internet celebrity Li Hei Shuai (李黑帅), a black comedian from New York who speaks fluent Sichuan dialect, also chimed in on the conversation (link in Chinese):

This song is perfect, China really has so many wack foreigners. Everybody knows a few. That’s why I have so few foreign friends here. Most of them are hamabi.* Also… you guys gotta stop tagging me in this. This music video has nothing to do with me, I’m a Chongqing-ite. Fat Shady, keep it up!

Fat Shady responded:

Very true! Everyone pay attention to this! Don’t just go looking for an argument!

At the end of the day, no matter the argument, every hyperbolic nonsense rap video has a kernel of truth in it. The privilege of foreigners here in China is immense, and Shady is calling out real-life examples (though maybe exaggerated). If I had a nickel for every tall foreigner I’ve met who used to work at a cell phone store or in a mall, who now fancies himself a supermodel in China, I’d have at least a couple bucks by now.

The privilege of foreigners here in China is immense, and Fat Shady is calling out real, if exaggerated, examples

White dudes like myself, from America and Europe, are always complaining about how “uncivilized” China can be, then turning around and drunkenly pissing in the streets in front of someone’s grandmother. The history behind this divide goes back to the early days of foreigners in China, when the extraterritoriality laws of the 19th and 20th centuries provided a legal framework for foreigners to misbehave with impunity (Shady references this in the line, Go ask your grandmother about your genealogy / Ask her about the Eight-Nation Alliance, alluding to the foreign military coalition that squelched China’s grassroots campaign to reclaim their country in summer of 1900).

Shady references the extraterritoriality laws of the early 19th and 20th centuries, which provided a legal framework for foreigners to misbehave with impunity

Westerners can be quick to cry “No fair!” when they’re in a country that’s not their own, but the treatment of foreigners in our own countries can’t be said to be much better. In the UK, Muslims are facing more and more discrimination after Brexit, and the current president of the United States has been insulting the people of Mexico long enough to make Fat Shady blush. Even our own beloved rap music has had moments like this — who could forget the legendary Nas rapping on “Life’s a Bitch”: When I was young at this, I used to do my thing hard / Robbing foreigners, take their wallets, their jewels, and rip their green cards.

In any case, the beat is hard and the rap kinda slaps. Check out “Gua Laowai” here with English subtitles and tell us what you think.

* hamabi (哈嘛秕) — Our resident Sichuan slang expert Chen Yu says: “It’s a very rude word, it means stinky c*nt or something like this.”

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