This week we watched Asia Rising: The Next Generation of Hip Hop (2019), a documentary delving into the rise of Asian hip hop music.
As the internet has gained prominence, the assimilation of cultures has been widespread (Athique and Baulch, 2019). In Asia, as more people started to use the internet to explore different genres of music, American hip hop was introduced to the region.
Now, not only were people listening to this completely new genre of music, but it was all in English as well, so they were consuming this music that was so far from what they were used to.
I was fascinated hearing some of the Asian hip hop artists saying that they learnt English from hip hop music, often blissfully unaware of the profanity that fills the songs in that genre specifically.
I love that some of these artists learnt English through listening to American rap #bcm320— Emily Murphy (@emilymurphy997) September 7, 2021
For most of these emerging Asian hip hop artists, this wasn’t the worst thing, yes they might have accidentally dropped the F-bomb at an inappropriate time, but it wasn’t a massive deal.
However, Indonesian-Chinese rapper Rich Brian was not so lucky. Rich Brian taught himself English through music by the likes of Childish Gambino, Macklemore, Tyler the Creator and 2Chainz, and when he started to make his own music, he had to create a stage name. He initially went with Rich Chigga.
Learning English from hip hop music means you are going to be interacting with offensive language, however, you won’t understand the context behind some of this language and the racist beginnings of where these words come from.
Tough situation when you learn English from the internet and through listening to music filled with offensive language, without understanding the context and history #bcm320— Emily Murphy (@emilymurphy997) September 7, 2021
There are so many amazing possibilities for integrating cultures in music with the accessibility of the internet (Athique and Baulch, 2019), but I think it’s important to also acknowledge its limitations and the risks involved. Rich Brian admitted his naivety and fixed his mistake and I think that is ultimately what we can hope for.
Athique, A. and Baulch, E., 2019. Digital transactions in Asia. New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.
Manley, P., 2019. Move Over K-Pop & J-Pop, C-Pop Is On The Rise. [online] Trend & Chaos. Available at: <https://trendandchaos.com/move-over-k-pop-j-pop-c-pop-is-on-the-rise/>
Martin, M., 2019. The Creative Economy 102 – Say hello to the creative industries. [online] EU Startups. Available at: <https://www.eu-startups.com/2019/10/the-creative-economy-102-say-hello-to-the-creative-industries/>
Newstead, A., 2018. Rich Brian has the curious success story you wish you had. [online] triple j. Available at: <https://www.abc.net.au/triplej/news/musicnews/rich-brian-profile-the-curious-success-story-you-wish-you-had/9547004>
Saito, A., 2017. Moe and Internet Memes: The Resistance and Accommodation of Japanese Popular Culture in China. Cultural Studies Review, 23(1).