Last month, the Chinese state media regulator—the mouthful that is the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of the People’s Republic of China (SAPPRFT)—announced plans to ban hip-hop culture and tattoos from television. It was an attempt to limit “tasteless, vulgar, and obscene” culture from spreading too far, as shows like The Rap of China began to crank out legitimate stars in the country, like rappers PG One and GAI. A new report from Billboard suggests that the show will likely be taken off the air, and discusses the future of Chinese hip-hop with some industry professionals from the country.
The consensus from multiple Chinese music heads seems to be that, well, no one really knows what the ban will look like. At least for now, the ban appears to be a limited gesture geared towards slowing the genre’s inevitable takeover by implicitly targeting stars that have the widest reach. Marcus Rowland, head of A&R for the Beijing-based music company Outdustry, tells Billboard: “This is not the Chinese government trying to ‘fully suppress’ hip-hop. The government exerts massive control over TV and it has decided that hip-hop isn’t acceptable at the highest level of mainstream media.”
Several professionals doubt its effectiveness, since hip-hop isn’t new to China’s mainstream—rapper Jay Chou has been a fixture in the country’s pop culture for a better part of the millennium. It’s just a reactionary move to curb less than “wholesome” artists of the reality TV circuit from expanding their platform. Rowland continues:
“From the government’s perspective, these rappers were quickly becoming major pop celebrities, and celebrities at that level are supposed to self-censor and be good role models, upholding Chinese/Communist values. This ban is the government saying what most of us always knew: that the government sees hip-hop as part of low-level society and not appropriate for mainstream audiences.”
But some industry figures are totally cool with the regulation, like Stephen Dowler, the head of independent dance music streaming service DianYinTai. He commends the state for trying to “project positivity while filtering out the negativity,” and adds, “During this process some will get caught up in the filtration, but I don’t mind the ultimate goal of trying to get more positivity out of hip-hop.” Sure?
Dowler goes on to predict that the TV ban will be a “temporary setback” that won’t slow the growth of hip-hop, but will push it to the underground and away from major endorsement deals.“Breakdancing isn’t going anywhere. Graffiti isn’t going anywhere. Any direct impact on TV and radio will be very likely short-lived,” he said.
If that’s the case, then you’d think the Chinese government would get creative in finding other ways to limit who it views as problem stars. Hip-hop will never die!