Beijing rap meets British Chinese guitar and scratch artistry

Details 21/2/2008 Categories East Asian Culture. Events.
Today, I witnessed a pretty good effort at presenting the freshly-imported Mandarin rappers from Beijing, Dragon Tongue Squad, with the collaborative jams of British Chinese scratch artist DJ Phat and guitarist Suki Mok. They performed at the Royal Opera House (Covent Garden), launching the Five Circles Arts Festival by Chinatown Arts Space.


I didn't know what to expect really. I think Hip hop has been around long enough to permeate through the world's non-black cultures and to establish its roots but its still early days, certainly in view of mainstream culture. But these guys know their stuff (at least in my amateurish knowledge of hip-hop, or even music per se).

DJ Phat, aka Kevin Quan, jams with Suki Mok, laying down beat samples from popular music, scratched in time with Suki's acoustic strumming. Suki alternatives between his acoustic and electric guitars with the pair of them effectively feeling like a warm-up act, introducing the audience to bite-sized pieces of music. Its hard not to wonder whether the crowd will eventually get up and dance.

When the Dragon Tongue Squad eventually thrust themselves onto stage, its with gusto, both physically and lyrically. I never expected to understand any of the mandarin lyrics, but the excitable rapping slowly turned me off. However, as relevantly stated during the post-performance Q&A, music is universal, and as the pace slowed, and tracks gave way to catchier beats, I got used to their verbal technique. Forget needing to understand a word, I could still appreciate their rhymes and timing, laced onto DJ Phat's constant beat-making.

Members of Dragon Tongue Squad, Kirby Lee, Crazy Chef and J-Fever (who incidently is China's national freestyle battle champion) had earlier stated that writing about controversial topics could get them into serious trouble in China, so they write about safer subjects like girls and money.

As the performance progressed, you got the feeling that this group of musicians understandably bonded during their week-long collaboration and the fun they gave off was complemented by the young hip-hop dance troupe blaZian, who provided physical energy throughout.

There's nothing wrong with all this positivity. But I had a slightly nagging thought about what could be if DTS were able to speak what they wanted without fear of retribution. (And what could be if I was fluent in Mandarin!) Could they do this behind closed doors - private clubs and underground parties? Hip-hop historically, seemed to be such a powerful, subversive medium for messages for the masses.

The Royal Opera House seems too mainstream to be underground, but nevertheless is probably as prestigious as it gets for overseas first-timers DTS. The thought of an establishment like the ROH hosting Chinese RAP, is interesting to say the least.

So, in the light of my nagging thoughts, I've comforted myself with the conclusion that this is hip-hop, Chinese-style, and that it doesn't need to tread the same path as other hip-hop cultures.

Well done Chinatown Arts Space!

Related links:

Chinatown Arts Space
Dragon Tongue Squad
DJ Phat
Suki Mok


These rappers/artists sure have talent...always nice to see the fresh ones come into the game. Posted by mmorpg on 12/03/08 at 10:09 PM

I like how they bring their skills together and utilized from one another. That's a lot to be said from an artist.


Posted by Charlie in Michigan on 17/03/08 at 07:19 AM

very good information. thanks 😊 Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 27/03/08 at 05:25 PM

Well done Chinatown Arts Space! Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/05/08 at 07:53 AM

COol! Thanks man. i like it. Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 22/05/08 at 08:50 AM

Really nice article! I like it. Thanks Posted by Guitar school on 31/05/08 at 01:02 PM

well dont know if the dragon tounged squad could make it international, but there good!
Nice post!
Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) in usa on 12/07/08 at 01:15 AM

This sounds like such a crazy mash up of sounds. I would love to hear a turntable get in there! Posted by Cashflow420 in San Francisco on 14/07/08 at 08:35 AM

Does anybody know if their planning on playing anywhere else around the country? Posted by Jonathan Meager in York, UK on 11/02/09 at 02:41 PM

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