Are you old enough to remember “We are the World” or “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” These were efforts in the mid-80s to raise money for famine relief in Africa. The idea was that teaming up a group of musical superstars would bring a lot of money and attention to issues that otherwise wouldn’t get it. Those efforts were pretty successful. Over a few years, “We Are the World” raised over $50 million (in 1980s dollars) for various relief efforts.
China is trying to revive the idea of a musical supergroup, but in this case the music is rap and the cause is, well, communist propaganda.
100%, a new hip-pop single created by 100 Chinese rappers from all over China, such as the Xinjiang Uygur and Tibet autonomous regions, hit the internet over the weekend. The new cipher not only excited rap music fans, but also allowed netizens to see how pop culture can arouse young people’s patriotism in China.
The song’s title does not just refer to the 100 rappers involved in its creation but also marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
“The song is more like expressing love for China, but not really telling the ‘history,’ you know? Hip-pop is all about being real and true to your beliefs, which means it is even more suitable for such patriotic emotions, because that’s real,” Stonie, a rapper in Chengdu, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
There’s a description of the song’s content here and it sounds even more cringeworthy than I would have imagined:
Titled “100%,” the 15-minute, autotune-drenched single is an ode to the country’s past and present, praising China’s hard-won peace and peppered with a chorus of “China Rising” in English. The song was released Sunday on popular streaming platform NetEase Cloud Music but has yet to make it to any music charts…
The track is sprinkled with patriotic pride and immense nationalist sentiments praising the party and hailing China’s rapid economic development through the years.
“From impoverishment to brilliance, I have no regrets that I grew up in a Chinese family in this life,” raps one of the artists JR Fog.
“We used to look forward to the Red Army, a spring breeze all over the earth. Keep tradition in mind, achieve socialism, as the red flag stays in my heart,” another artist Colan continues.
You can try to listen to the song here but it’s not working for me.
There’s a YouTuber whose real name is Matthew Tye. Tye moved to China and eventually soured on life there and moved back to the US. His 2019 video “Why I Changed my Opinion on China” has been viewed nearly 2.5 million times and chronicles the changes in China over the past few years. In any case, Tye’s channel recently posted a video on China’s propaganda rappers that is worth watching. If you’ve ever wondered what rap would sound like if it were stripped of raw talent, unique perspectives and basic human freedoms this is your chance to find out. This clip came out last month so the 100% song isn’t included. Count your blessings. Finally, if you’re interested in more on Chinese propaganda efforts, Tye did another video about the surge of Chinese propaganda on TikTok that is also pretty enlightening.