Is Chinese Hip-Hop’s Honeymoon Over? Rap Crew HHH Quits Modern Sky

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11:40 PM HKT, Fri November 17, 2017 2 mins read

I still remember how we celebrated the unprecedented victory of Chinese hip-hop two months ago, when The Rap of China, the country’s first hip-hop-based music reality television program, suddenly achieved huge successes both online and offline. Rappers like PG One, BrAnt.B (小白), Tizzy T, and twin brothers OB03 became superstars as they won battles and reached the finals of the show, which was produced by video streaming site iQiyi.

BrAntB and PG One in The Rap of China

The Rap of China, which accrued 2.68 billion clicks during its airtime this summer, significantly boosted the profile of Chinese hip-hop generally, and its breakout stars in particular, many of whom have signed record deals in the wake of the show:

One record company to enter the fray is Modern Sky, which has a number of sub-labels working across multiple genres and an international network of high-profile music festivals to give their artists exposure. Their latest venture, a hip-hop sub-label called MDSK, has been in the works since before The Rap of China aired, according to an album and tour plan released in July:

Modern Sky founded its hip-hop sub-label MDSK in November 2016. For the past half year, MDSK has signed groups of hip-hop artists and producers, and keeps signing more artists. All of this activity shows a determination to foster the growth of China’s hip-hop ecosystem.

MDSK-signed rapper Tizzy T performs in Manchester

One of MDSK’s recent signees is HHH (红花会; the name is from a classic kung fu novel, and translates to “united and unbeatable”), a rap crew from Xi’an that includes Rap of China contestants PG One and BrAntB. Soon after the season finale aired — and PG One claimed the title of co-champion, along with Chongqing rapper Gai — MDSK sent the full HHH crew out on a US tour, where they headlined sold-out Modern Sky festivals in Los Angeles and New York.

HHH in Chicago

Evidently, the underground rap crew and the globally ambitious Chinese music label didn’t work well together. HHH took to Weibo on Monday to announce a break with Modern Sky and MDSK (link in Chinese):

We’re very sorry to our fans, but HHH will not have any upcoming performances, since our record company did not comply with their obligations, never discussed with us execution of crucial details, and because our safety could not be guaranteed during our tour abroad. Additionally, we were not provided with an experienced agent. All of this troubled us greatly. We are leaving MDSK, this is what we have to do for our fans and ourselves.

Half an hour later, MDSK announced they’d received a notice the day before that HHH was leaving the label, saying that they “experienced a lot together” and “wish HHH a better future on the road of music.” The following day, MDSK canceled a planned two-day hip-hop festival in Hangzhou due to “uncontrollable line-up changes” and bad weather.

It seems to be a peaceful termination on both sides, and many fans expressed their understanding. However, there also are thousands of people online questioning the way MDSK addressed this “uncontrollable line-up change.”

“HHH would just be on stage for an hour or two, but you cancelled the whole music festival?” asked one Weibo user. “They were not gonna perform on the first day anyway. Don’t try to provoke other fans to be mad at HHH,” said another, with a third commenter adding, “HHH is not gonna take the heat for you.”

Fans also strongly supported HHH’s side of the split:

We’re done with guessing your schedule while the company never said a word about it. They are indeed indifferent.

You’ll shine no matter where you are!

All we can say for now is: good luck, Chinese hip-hop, and hang in there HHH. There’s always a long road to travel when capital becomes involved…


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