Young Chinese rappers inspire more young people to take social responsibility with their songs focusing on social issues

Photo: Screenshot of Bilibili

When it comes to rappers, most people’s impression is probably of gold chains, street wear and a straightforward desire for fame and fortune. Recently, a group of young Chinese rappers in their early 20s have broken this stereotype and hit the internet with songs focusing on social issues, arousing young people’s attention on the society and inspiring their social responsibilities.

Their songs focus on school violence, women’s issues, juvenile depression, aging and other social issues, showing China’s young generation has the courage to express themselves and care deeply about people around the world, experts said. 

Rap for others

The rap battle program in which they participated, named Rap For Youth shown on Bilibili, a Chinese YouTube-like video sharing website popular among young people in China, has had 370 million views and triggered heated public attention and discussion about young Chinese rappers’ social responsibility.

“I never imagined rap could be so warm and encouraging,” 24-year-old Liang Hansheng, from Jilin, Northeast China’s Jilin Province, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Liang loves these rappers’ warm heart toward vulnerable groups, noting that their songs are not full of dirty words or just showing off rap skills.

He was deeply touched by the song Malice from the world by 22-year-old female rapper Chen Jinnan, which offers encouragement for students suffering from depression.

Rather than complaining and anger, the lyrics describe the struggle and helplessness of students suffering depression in plain terms. Chen tells students that even if they are covered in thorns, someone will hug them with open arms.

The rap songs about school and online violence made Liang feel a stronger emotional connection with those who are suffering, and he began to think about how he could help those young people.

Ma Yifan, 26, from Beijing, who described herself as a weak girl told the Global Times that female rapper Yu Zhen’s songs have comforted her to a great extent and inspired her power as a woman.

Yu’s song She, she and she, composed for a Women’s Day Gala, described the story of a female doctor, a female student and a female lawyer. In the lyrics, Yu Zhen listens to their troubles, anxiety and worrisome as a friend and then encourages them to freely and bravely pursue their dreams. 

“This song is like a friend cheering me on. I know there are many girls working together with me,” Ma said.

Yu’s song encouraging women inspired Ma to pay more attention to women’s issues.

Ma was touched by Yu’s song that encourages women, which also made her to think about women of her mother’s age, who restricted by the labels “mom” and “wife.”

It seems that she should assume the responsibility of taking care of the family and be buried in trivial household chores. “My mom must have her own dream, but she devoted herself to raising me,” Ma said.

When Ma asked her mother why she cut her long hair, she said it was because being a mother was very busy and she didn’t have time to maintain it, which made Ma feel sorry for her mother.

“I hope every woman has the right to choose her own life and the courage to say no. As the lyrics said, cut your hair or not, make your own decision!” Ma noted.

These young rappers, with their own concerns and thoughts about social issues, speak up for other groups that need attention and care, Shi Wenxue, a Chinese film and cultural critic, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Compared with the direct expression of personal emotion, the works that bravely speak for themselves and others and inspire others to pay attention to social issues are more likely to resonate with the audience, Shi said.

Sixty to 70 percent of Bilibili platform’s audience is younger than 25 in first and second tier cities in China. The popularity of this rap program shows that young people are not only active in small culture circles but also resonate with people concerned about social issues and have a strong sense of social responsibility, Shi said.

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