The Rap of China: viewing guide

Generally speaking, there are these main phases in each season:

  1. 海选 “ocean pick” where they do mass filtering from a huge number of candidates. The candidates don’t get a backing track and just get ~10-20 seconds to demonstrate their skill and potential.
  2. 60秒 “60 seconds” where they get 60 seconds to perform a prepared solo. They pick their own backing track (and can author their own). This is the most interesting stage, where we get to see a polished piece of work which emphasises their individual style, and they’re judged by the panel of producers.
  3. Later phases include 和作品 “cooperative piece” where they perform in pairs, 联盟比赛 “alliance battle” where they form large groups and face off, etc. These are often judged by a crowd of ~100 viewers. Unfortunately, these show off less individual skill and often end up as a popularity contest.

Season 2 (2018)

I’ve only watched very little of this season. I think this is where the Kris Wu “skr” meme comes from. He’s a pretty cool guy…except for the obligatory disclaimer that he’s a convicted rapist now serving 13 years in prison.

60 seconds

In this season, the 60 seconds performance is judged by a panel, where you’re aiming for passes from all 3 producers.


This song is just 🔥. Self-produced beat, steady rapping, dynamic range of voice and lots of variation in flow. Lyrics are him repping his hometown of 新疆 (far north west, where the Uyghur people live). LiL-EM goes very far in this season (spoilers).

Season 3 (2019)

60 seconds

In this season, the 60 seconds is structured as a series of 1v1 battles where only the winner stays (at least 3 votes out of the panel of 5 producers).

It’s set in an outdoor, night-time arena. Really digging the “street” and “underground” vibe here.

The producers pick a contestant from the crowd, and that contestant gets to pick any opponent who is willing to compete against them. If nobody is willing, they get free pick.

嘿人李逵 (aka 黑哥 “black brother”)

The only black guy on the show, and his Chinese is way better than mine…

Apparently 李逵 is one of the heroes in Water Margin (famous Chinese classic) nicknamed the “Black Whirlwind”.

Voice is rich, flow and timing is really on point. Turns out black people are good at rapping.


This is a guy from Melbourne, and he is the only person who raises his hand to challenge 于意Yee, who was a pretty strong past contestant.

He starts off kinda weird. He introduces himself as someone who has only been rapping for a year and 3 months, and looks kinda nervous. At the start of his performance, he says “huh? Who is 刘炫廷? Nobody”. And “if you’re all thinking this, then Yee bro, alright, you win”.

And then he just absolutely pops off with the most interesting, varied, and enjoyable piece this whole season (in my opinion). This man came with a plan to use the surprise factor to just assassinate a strong opponent.

I just love 于意Yee’s expression during 刘炫廷’s piece. He just looks more and more uncomfortable and confused. You might want to rewind a bit and watch from 于意Yee’s set to appreciate the full context.


I’m not impressed by DOOBOI. In fact, I just do not understand how he just kept progressing through the rounds. I have no idea what “Rainbow baby huh” is, but that seems to be all he does in all of his songs. That, and repeating the same word/syllable over and over.

Only including this because it sets up for the best diss all season later on.


The amount of cringe that unfolds from this whole saga is just incredible.

守卫 (blue singlet) picks 小丑 (angry guy with glasses) because they have some longstanding beef with each other. And these two are legit mad at each other, or at least 小丑 is legit mad.

Spoiler: 小丑 actually wins but is really weird about it, and then forces the issue to follow up with a freestyle battle because I guess he wanted to really really beat the other guy? Everyone is sick of how much time this is taking and, uh, it doesn’t go well for 小丑 in the end.


Orenda is a 00后 (born after 2000) and is 18 at the time of this competition. He talks about how he thought he was the only one, but there’s actually a lot of them. But he claims that he’ll be the one to “carry the flag” for his generation. Big words. Capper disagrees (another 00后).

He has a background in music and has one of the best singing voices in this season.

Orenda beats out NINEONE (a pretty well-known female rapper). NINEONE’s piece just before this isn’t bad either.

Capper is not happy, because NINEONE is part of his rap clan (I think?). Good thing he’s up next.


Capper is keen to right the wrong, and is full of energy. He picks VOB who also happens to be a 00后.

You gotta watch both, because both sets are just 🔥.

The judges are all very impressed with all the new blood, and I have to agree. They comment that the decision between Capper and VOB was the hardest one of all the 60 second performances.


VOB is beaten out by Capper, but damn his set was explosive. Such a shame.

Alliance rap battle 5v5

5 beats, 5 rappers per team. Winner by popular vote from 100 viewers.

Each team gets only 30 minutes to prepare, so it’s almost like freestyling (the time is barely enough to listen to all the beats in full and figure out who’s going to use which beat).

On the left, we have the underdogs championed by producers MC Hotdog and G.E.M. On the right, the team championed by Kris Wu and Will Pan.

This is the most obvious example of the Kris Wu favouritism in my opinion. The left team just obliterates the right in every way possible, and yet they barely win this battle.

The diss from 黄旭 is so on point, it’s hilarious. Especially the DOOOBOI callout. He mostly focuses on dissing the opponent’s work.

The return diss from 大傻 in comparison is just mean. He makes ad-hominem attacks on the opponents names, clothes, face.