Sociolinguistic Studies, Vol 6, No 2 (2012)

“I am not a qualified dialect rapper”: constructing hip-hop authenticity in China

Xuan Wang
Issued Date: 29 May 2013


The starting point of this paper is the question of how to describe and explain what may look like a messy patchwork of ‘inappropriate’ use of language in a case of fangyan/dialect hip-hop from rural China that emerged on the Internet. Its dense and intricate mixing and blending, of the stigmatized fangyan/dialect, standard Putonghua Chinese, and bits of ‘broken’ English, only becomes detectable and accountable when its ideology of authenticity, i.e. cultural meaningfulness and social validity, is brought into question. It then becomes clear that the question how and why the lyrics are in the particular shape they assume can only be answered through contextualization, that is, an ethnographic investigation of the authenticity of its component resources. It seems that in order to re-enact and localize the global genre of hip-hop, the rapper has to engage with negotiation and appropriation of multiple norms and rules from centres at different scales, what can be called ‘orders of authenticity’, with those at the nation-state level being particularly relevant. The outcome of these processes is, rather than inauthenticity, a display of painstaking genre innovations, in terms of both hip-hop and of the local fangyan/dialect, which is otherwise under the pressure of shrinking. This raises questions about our understanding of issues of authenticity and identity and notions of language and culture in the context of globalization.

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DOI: 10.1558/sols.v6i2.333


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