Culture

Meet the Rihanna of China debuting on 'Crazy Rich Asians'

Aug 23, 2018

Already a quick rising star in China, rapper Vava is now heating up internationally, thanks to "Crazy Rich Asians."

The 22-year-old rapper is on the new movie's soundtrack, with her single "My New Swag."

Vava, described as the Rihanna of China in local media, first rose to fame as a contestant on the first season of "The Rap of China." The reality show spread hip hop fever across the country, but authorities shut it down by banning hip hop-related content from television for several months last year.

On the show, Vava rapped in both Mandarin and her native Sichuan dialect, and was the only female contestant to make it to the final four.

Since the show, she's been grabbing high-profile advertisement deals with luxury brands, as well becoming the face of Chinese hip hop across the country.

Image

The generation before us were rockers, but today we use rap to express ourselves.

“Chinese hip hop comes from rebellion in young people’s lives,” Vava said during an interview with Esquire Singapore. “I realized all my rapper friends went through a period of insurgency and that’s when they started rapping. The generation before us were rockers, but today we use rap to express ourselves.”  

Vava was born Mao Yanqi in the Sichuan city of Ya’an, in southwest China. By the age of 16, Vava had already decided to pursue a career in music, so she dropped out of school and started singing in bars to support her family.

Image
Photo: Vava's official WeChat account

During a visit to Shenzhen, a city across the border from Hong Kong, Vava met hip-hop producer Double G, who invited her to join his team in Shanghai. This encounter launched her career in hip hop. Double G has produced many of Vava’s biggest tracks, including "Know My Style" and "Shady Wit Me."

"My New Swag" was included on Vava’s debut album, titled “21”, which was released in October 2017.

We’re still finding our way, still creating and finding our own Chinese style of hip hop.

In the interview with Esquire, Vava said Chinese rappers are finding a way to blend their influences into their original American inspiration.

“Hip hop comes from the US, and let’s be honest here, we’re really just copying their style, but, in a sense, we are connected. We’re still finding our way, still creating and finding our own Chinese style of hip hop. We need to put more Chinese elements into our music. Already some rappers abroad are inserting Chinese elements into their music,” she said.

 

Adapted from an original article first published in the South China Morning Post.