Hip hop is a popular artistic subculture that originated in the USA. In China, hip hop has become a popular movement. Hip hop has significantly changed lives of many people in China and has become their way of expression. The introduction of new communication modes, migration and the use of Internet technologies have facilitated the wide spread of hip hop in China. The popularity of hip hop culture in China is caused by economic and social reforms introduced by the Chinese government, which opened doors to globalization and western culture. Data will be collected from hip hop supporters from the Baby Face club in Beijing, China by means of a semi-structured questionnaire interview. This will help to determine the supporters’ views on hip hop fashion, dance and music in China. Hip hop is particularly popular with Chinese youth. The majority of young people consider that hip hop music is their means of expressing their feelings.
Whether hip hop culture has a positive or negative influence on Chinese youth is one of the most debatable issues in the country. This paper will explore the effects of hip hop culture in China and what impacts it has on Chinese youth.
Hip hop is a musical form which originated in the Jamaican-American and African-American societies of the early 1970s. Since its emergence as a musical form, it has been widely accepted by a large number of countries, China being one of them. Definitely, hip hop has led to numerous changes in China. It has impacted the country socially and culturally, which has been considered to impact the country positively. This is because hip hop has merged into traditional Chinese culture (Edgar & Sedgwick 2005). This paper explores the impacts of hip hop culture on Chinese youths (The Associated Press 2002), which begins with issues concerning the language used, the behaviors of hip hop stars and supporters, and the dressing code which is commonly used by hip hop singers and supporters.
The modern media have greatly contributed to the popularity of hip hop music in society through introduction of a great variety of images, which have portrayed hip hop culture in a number of different spheres including dance, fashion, and music (Lachut 2009). This has explained the reason as to why the majority of hip hop followers are young people. This happens because the youth are more open to new cultural changes and tend to adopt them easily and readily (Rubin & Melnick 2001). Hip hop has been widely spread in China and the majority of countries throughout the world. This fact enables the researcher to focus on the discussed issue in media and cultural studies, since it is about the impact of hip hop and how it has influenced traditional culture of China and why the Chinese youth tend to so rapidly absorb this new western culture (Pang 2004).
The critics of hip hop culture have concentrated very much on negative aspects of this cultural movement ignoring some possible positive aspects, which can also come about as a result of the hip hop culture adoption. Young people who will be interviewed for this study will provide their opinions on hip hop culture and its positive or negative influence on the country and its authentic culture.
1.2 Research Aim and Objectives
The main objective and purpose of this quantitative research design will be to apply descriptive and correlational techniques in a non-experimental form to explore how hip hop has been adopted by the young generation in China. It will consider ethical issues that have arisen due to the widespread popularity of hip hop culture in China and its significant influence on the Chinese youth.
This study is very important because it considers the issue that has attracted attention of a great number of media and cultural analysts. This study will analyze the changes hip hop culture has caused in different spheres of life in China.
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1.3 Research questions
The main research questions of this study are:
- What are the positive and the negative impacts of hip hop in China?
- Has western popular culture through the introduction of hip hop music in China changed the cultural background of the country?
1.4 Organization of the Study
The dissertation has the following structure:
Chapter 1: This is the first chapter of the study, and it aims to provide an overview of the entire paper. It introduces the topic of the research and explains the aims and objectives as well as the value of the research.
Chapter 2: The second chapter is a Literature Review. The ideas developed and the research carried out by academic scholars on the topic of this study will be reviewed in this chapter.
Chapter 3: Chapter Three is Methodology: This chapter explains the type of the research design, data collection and methodology of the research.
Chapter 4: Chapter Four includes findings and results that have been got after the conduction of the survey.
Chapter 5: Analysis of the findings: The collected data are analyzed and the results provided in the previous part are discussed in this chapter.
Chapter 6: Conclusions and Limitations: This is the last chapter of the research, and it will discuss the conclusions drawn from the study. It will also provide implications and recommendations for future research.
Chapter 2: Literature Review
Many scholars have considered that hip hop has a positive influence on Chinese society. Not only does it represent the urban reality, but it has also stimulated people’s thoughts. This, in turn, has led to many social changes (Trindle 2012). Hip hop is not considered to be a response. It is a movement that is getting popular, since it helps to accomplish dreams and hopes of urban communities. On the other hand, some scholars’ negative attitudes to hip hop have been developed because of some typical behaviors which are practiced by hip hop followers and artists. The way they behave may sometimes seem offensive, sexist. The use of disrespectful language in hip hop songs is frowned upon because it is not a proper language that artists should use to communicate with their followers. These negative attitudes to hip hop culture have contributed to the fact that hip hop’s positive potential is underestimated, while hip hop can become a positive change catalyst (Notar 2006).
2.2 The Hip Hop Culture in China
Since the emergence of the Chinese Communist Party in 1949 when it rose to power, the government of China and its economic reforms opened the country to the rest of the world and western popular culture that had already gained popularity in many industrialized countries (Perkins 2011). Since then, Chinese citizens have been awarded the freedom to choose and make their own decisions as compared to the old times before the Chinese Communist Party had taken control over the country. Hip hop culture has been one of the new foreign influences widely adopted in China. The main reason why it has spread at a very fast rate in the country is that the majority of hip hop artists and followers are mainly young people who make up a large part of China’s population. Also, they are the generation that can adapt to rapid changes and innovations that western popular culture brings (Globalninja 2007).
The emergence of new modes of communication has enabled hip hop culture to penetrate the authentic culture of the Chinese at a very fast rate, which is also accompanied with rapid changes in technologies (Chang 2005). Technological advances, for example the Internet, have enabled easy worldwide spread of music, movies, literature, and also ideas. This has enabled the Chinese youth to share new ideas, information and experiences because they are free to communicate not only with citizens of their country, but also with people from different countries who have different cultures, languages, and customs (Price III 2009).
There are a large number of foreigners who are westerners and live in big cities like Shanghai and Beijing, which has greatly contributed to the development and the adoption of hip hop culture and rap music. This migration has also been the driving force which facilated the emergence of the Chinese hip hop culture in 2000 (Lachut 2009).
The Reasons for the Adoption of Hip Hop Culture in China
The development and adoption of the Chinese hip hop culture has been mainly driven by cultural and social factors. These factors also caused the hip hop emergence in African-American communities and in other countries like Japan and Korea. In the past, because of regulations of the Chinese government, the educational and political systems did not allow people to have freedom of choice or express their feelings and attitudes in any way. They were only given the state rules which they were supposed to follow strictly without any questioning or doubt. These state rules were used in political traditions, which had been long standing in the country. People did not have any opportunity for any personal expressions or even private thoughts because they were highly discouraged and were against the law of China.
In 1978, the social and economic reforms of China drastically changed the Chinese society of that time, which made the country a competitive international player. At the time, in China, the market economy allowed people to find jobs according to their qualifications; they were allowed to own property, which was highly encouraged. The social status of that time was largely based on wealth. Then, people could express themselves by making their own choices without being told what they were supposed to do. Finally, there was the social class system in which only a particular political or social network or group had all opportunities and best options. This explained the reason as to why there was a very huge gap between the poor and the rich in the country. This gap between the rich and the poor put young people under economic and social pressures.
Hip hop in China emerged as a cultural and artistic phenomenon. Also, it has been considered to be a source of social identity for young people in the country (Chang 2005). Hip hop in China has helped very much in the development of many forms of self-expression and new identity templates. Rap is a hip hop language. According to many scholars, it is a very strong and powerful tool which can be used as a form of self-expression. Also, it has socio-psychological and socio-cultural importance. The main reason why the majority of Chinese young people have got fond of rap and hip hop culture is because of the opportunity that it gives them to express themselves and their unique social identities (Fricke & Ahearn 2002).
2.3 The Characteristics of the Chinese Hip Hop Music
The Chinese have been noted to adopt the American hip hop style, which has been transformed into a new form. It can be explained by the fact that the Chinese rapping has a rhythmic structure which is considered to be special and unique. When hip hop was adopted in China, the artists used English as the language of communication with their fans. However, in the course of time, the Chinese hip hop adopted the use of local Chinese dialects and language (Fricke & Ahearn 2002; Neer 2011). Chinese hip hop artists normally rap on issues concerning their unique native culture, love, food, or even other personal struggles which help in expressing their emotions (Cook 2000). The Chinese hip hop is a type of a pop culture phenomenon which can be mainly found in the country’s clubs and on the radio.
2.4 The Social and Cultural Impacts of the Chinese Hip Hop Phenomenon
Hip hop culture has helped in the process of forming popular culture in China, the Chinese entertainment culture, corporate marketing, fashion and dressing modes, and popular music (Neer 2011). Hip hop culture is believed to have originated in America (Pang 2004). When hip hop was adopted in China, it had to also adapt to the social reality in the country. In China, the definition of race is very different from the definition of race in America; there are no similar features between racial practices of the two countries. In China, there is a high level of economic and social inequality, since the country faces a great number of economic and social problems. These problems have been known to originate in the capitalist economic systems, which used to be earlier practices in China and led to serious problems in the country (Perkins 2011).
The kind of hip hop which has been adopted in China is not as aggressive as it is in America, since it has become a unifying force which has positive effects and is mainly focused on Chinese culture values and traditions (Crawford 2001). This can be explained by the fact that the main purpose of hip hop is to be able to serve the interests of the country. The Chinese hip hop is widely known to express intimate emotions and love. The majority of hip hop artists have tried a lot to merge Chinese culture into western popular styles of music. The artists mostly campaigned for peace, love, and emotional sincerity, unlike hip hop artists in America whose lyrics and images generally rebellious and aggressive (Neer 2011).
The Chinese hip hop has been considered to be a political and social tribune, which is also very similar to the American hip hop (Watkins, 2005). The hip hop in China has provided new fashions, which are very attractive. The artists generally wear bright colorful loose clothes, which is a typical characteristic of hip hop fashions and dressing modes. Also, hair coloring has become a popular trend among young people in China. These new trends in fashion enabled the Chinese youth to express themselves through the way they dress and look (Tang 1996).
The hip hop dance in China also functions as a Chinese sport called the Tai Qi, which has been considered to make people healthy and strong. Besides being a dance style, hip hop also helps young people to keep physically fit; it increases their stamina and makes them active and resilient in their daily life and performance. Thus, being similar to sports, hip hop definitely has a positive influence on young people’s life.
Hip hop dancing in China has been very popular in the majority of nightclubs like Babyface and Tanghui in Beijing and other night clubs in Shanghai. This proves hip hop’s popularity with young people in China. These nightclubs are places where young people get to learn how to dance to hip hop music. Older women and men ranging from 45-70 years of age have also been noticed to enjoy dancing. However, the majority of those who enjoy dancing are young people, aged between 18-40 years (Lachut 2009).
Hip hop has developed creativity in many young people. This is because hip hop artists use proverbs and metaphors in their lyrics, which also enable them to communicate their messages to their supporters through these proverbs and metaphors. This shows how creative they can be, since they have to think of how they can communicate better to their listeners without creating the wrong impression. They also have to think of how they can appeal to their listeners to follow their roots.
The hip hop culture in China has been considered to become one of the most important western popular cultures, which has widely spread among the majority of Chinese youth. Hip hop DVDs, brochures which advertise numerous hip hop nightclubs, CDs with hip hop music, and fashion magazines devoted to the hip hop style of clothes are available in the country’s leading bookshops, video and audio shops, and also in supermarkets. There are also activities like the Chinese Hip Hop Festival (Lachut 2009), Hip Hop Dancing Class, and Chinese Hip Hop Awards, which are widely practiced and supported in the country showing the popularity of the hip hop culture in China (Lachut 2009).
Hip hop has been made possible in China after a thirty-year period, which was termed as closed-doorism. This is because the country’s early political systems did not encourage people to express themselves, while later they were encouraged by the Chinese Communist party. Hip hop has been considered by the majority of Chinese youths as a means of expressing themselves, which explains the reason as to why it has been highly adored in the country and has so many fans and artists who are mainly young people (The Associated Press 2002).
New reforms introduced by the Chinese government created economic and social inequalities. Also, these reforms increased young people’s interest in hip hop and made this music style extremely popular among them, since hip hop was one of the few ways through which young people could express themselves. Hip hop’s rapid popularity has also been caused by the appearance of new communication technologies, as they have helped hip hop artists and their supporters to communicate effectively within a very short duration of time.
Although hip hop culture originated in the United States, it has gradually spread throughout the whole world. Hip hop has changed greatly because of its merging with so many cultures, educational backgrounds, political environments, and economic conditions, which differ from one country to another (Shapiro 2005). Since the emergence of hip hop culture, it has been widely accepted mostly among the youth from different regions, which has been an inevitable outcome. Hip hop has been widely accepted in China and it has influenced the authentic Chinese culture in a number of ways through dancing, fashion, and music.
The adoption of hip hop in China has had many cultural and social implications of the diverse American culture, which has gone through a lot of global influences. Mainly, hip hop culture in America is about experiences of the socio-economic classes which are oppressed, inequalities in society, and social realities. This can explain the reason as to why so many nations around the world have accepted and adopted hip hop culture.
3.1 Research Design
This research is mainly based on a primary research method which will be conducted at Babyface Club which is located in No.143, Xizhimenwai Avenue, Xicheng District, Beijing, China. The club Babyface is a very busy and popular place in the city of Beijing where it has a hip hop room, which is considered to be a party place for all Beijing clubbers and party animals. The club is known to operate from 8.00 pm up to midnight, which is the reason as to why so many young people go to the club after they complete their daily chores.
I asked some of the hip hop supporters if they were willing to participate in my study, in which I would explain the importance of the Chinese hip hop culture and the western popular culture. The majority of the participants were very much willing to help by giving me all necessary information that I would really need for the research and expressing their views on the hip hop culture in China. Only a small number of hip hop supporters were not willing to take part in the interview for personal reasons. They agreed to participate in the interview only partially, since they were not willing to complete the whole interview.
All the young people who agreed to participate in the study were required to fill in an informed consent form (Appendix B) to admit that they were above the age of 18 years and that they accepted to participate in the survey by their own free will. This is to make sure that the respondents were not forced to take part in the interview and that there was no third party who was involved in the decisions of the respondents. Also, this was done to make sure that the respondents were independent in their ideas and opinions, since they were supposed to give their own independent and unbiased opinions. This improves the accuracy of the data collected.
After the participants have filled in the consent form, the interview process begins with the respondents answering the questions which are asked in the interview form and the answers are recorded on a voice recorder. I will ensure that the participants’ privacy is fully protected through the full identity protection to all the respondents.
3.2 Sample Frame
The study selected hip hop fans and supporters from the club Babyface. The target populations were young people who are above the age of 18 years. A total of 87 participants out of the 100 respondents who were contacted responded to the survey, which showed a very high response. This high response, in addition to the information gained from the interview sample, gave the team confidence that the data and feedback contained in this report are both significant and highly representative. Fifty-one participants were male with thirty-six of them being female, which showed that men’s interest in hip hop was higher than that of female one.
3.3 Data Collection Method
Data will be collected by means of semi-structured questionnaire interviews (Appendix A), which will be composed of 5 questions. The semi-structured interview is considered to provide the best results in this case, since the questions are fixed and the respondent gets to answer the questions according to their own opinion and perception. The researcher can come up with other questions in case there is a need to explain to the respondents all the questions which are not very clear in order to be able to get all the details necessary for the study.
The method of collecting data from these semi-structured interviews is appropriate for the scope of the project because the data will be got straight from the respondents themselves, which means that there will be no third party who could lead to erroneous data. The data will be collected from supporters of hip hop culture, who will be selected randomly irrespective of their sex. The semi-structured interview is designed to take approximately 10-15 minutes to be completed. All interviews were conducted with the interviewer asking the questions and recording the responses on an audio recorder.