Hip Hop Chops and Kicks: ‘Warrior’ Returns for Season Three

Inspired by the writings of Bruce Lee, ‘Warrior’ is back, empowered by even more dizzying heights of Chinese hip hop energy

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7:25 AM HKT, Thu June 29, 2023 1 mins read

Warrior returns today for its third season, and for hip hop fans, high-octane martial arts action isn’t the only thing to get excited about.

Based on the writings of Bruce Lee and executed under the watchful eye of his daughter, Shannon Lee, the series manages to tackle a huge breadth of themes. Yes, there’s kung fu, but the show’s representation of Asian identity is anything but stale.

The third season debuts today with three full episodes, following the continuing story of the Tongs, a crime gang in gritty, 19th-century San Francisco’s Chinatown.

Warrior deserves praise for many reasons. It doesn’t just realize Bruce Lee’s long-held TV show ideas — which were once watered-down to create David Carradine’s Kung Fu — it extends them into the modern day.

At the end of each episode, the credits roll to the beat of Chinese hip hop. It’s one of the most interesting soundtrack decisions you'll see on a mainstream series, and that kind of commitment to fresh perspectives and cultural crossover keeps viewers coming back in a way that Kung Fu never did.

“The IRON MIC WARRIOR compilation album is, simply put, my life’s work in music,” says Chinese hip hop pioneer Dana “Showtyme” Burton, who founded the IRON MIC rap battle and event series in 2002.

“Executive produced by yours truly, I was able to pair the greatest Chinese-American hip hop producer — Scott “Chops” Jung — with some of the most talented, innovative, and pioneering IRON MIC rappers.”

Burton has been a leader in China’s hip hop scene for decades, but as new interest floods in, he considers the Warrior collaboration to be a match made in heaven.

“This album blurs the line between the action-packed scenes of San Francisco’s Chinatown in the 1880s, and the tumultuous twists and turns of contemporary life,” he says.

“We’re exploring some of the most controversial topics — greed, crime, loyalty, brotherhood, ethnic tensions, Sinophobia, violence, and freedom — in ways that only hip hop can.”

That thematic synergy is true to the intent behind Warrior. It’s more than a crime drama paying homage to Bruce Lee’s vision — it’s an effort to push Asian representation into new territory, introducing Chinese art and identity to international viewers in a way that’s classic, but also innovative.

“These rappers are the truest warriors that I know in the world of Chinese hip hop,” says Burton. “And this is by far the greatest story ever told via the art form and culture that I brought to China over two decades ago.”

Season 3 of Warrior returns today on Max. The IRON MIC WARRIOR compilation album, featuring original remixes of songs from past episodes as well as exclusive previews of music from the show’s third season, is available to stream.

Cover image via Max

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Pour yourself a stiff one,