Hip-Hop in Far East: Making Noise in China

Cloudy Tunnel Positive Energy Tour

justalilhype! got a chance to interview Dennis, Vancouver-based producer and owner of Noisyhouse Music Productions on his recent tour across China. The Cloudy Tunnel Positive Energy Tour consisted of stops in four cities across China, and the experience that Dennis had was eye-opening. Throughout the interview, Dennis highlights on his observations on the emergence of hip-hop in far east, his craziest memories of his trip through working with Cloudy Tunnel, and what he learned from extremely talented artists that he has met through the tour.

Cloudy Tunnel Positive Energy Tour

Tell us the name of the tour you were part of and did you become involved?

The name of the tour is Cloudy Tunnel Positive Energy.  I got involved because both Horace and I (Noisyhouse Music Productions) produced the albums for 2 hip-hop artists in 2013.  After the albums were released, they started planning for the tour and invited us to go on tour as the touring band.  Since both Horace and I produced and played all the tracks on the albums, it would be great to take this thing on the road and play them live!  Then we quickly worked out the live set and went with our “go-to” musicians and formed the touring band.

Also for me, it was especially important to get this opportunity to experience China, and check out the music scene there since I’ve never been to China before.  The experience was definitely something I will remember for the rest of my life.  Needless to say, it was an opportunity for me to expect the unexpected.

Cloudy Tunnel Positive Energy Tour

Which cities in China did you visit?

I went to Changsha, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Shanghai.

Out of all the cities above, were there any cities that showed a lot more support to hip-hop and street culture?

It’s weird, I had always thought China, as a whole, has a very consistent, collective culture across the board.  However, after visiting the different cities, each city is unique in its own way: the vibe, the people and the culture were quite distinct.

If I had to choose, I would say Guangzhou and Shanghai.  My guess is that those cities are more developed and has thriving entertainment industries.  And being more prosperous also means the locals have more avenues to explore hip-hop, street culture and music, so you would see more support there.  Every city I visited embraced hip-hop culture. Nonetheless, all cities had very talented artists, and I was very honoured to have met them.

 What do you think is the biggest misconception about hip-hop in China?

Maybe that hip-hop in China isn’t as developed compared with the western world?  In reality, China’s hip-hop can hold its ground for sure.  The artists are very passionate and dedicated to perfecting their craft.  They make good music!

I do think their understanding of hip-hop isn’t as well rounded, but that’s probably due to certain limitations in access information of the Western world (media censorships and restrictions etc).  They use what they have access to as inspirations and also putting their own touches to the art form.  The artists I came across were all extremely hard working, and their work ethic is something we can all learn from.

 DSC06266_3What did you learn from the tour that you can bring back to Canada as a producer and musician?

I learn that there are loads of talents in China.  As a producer, I think the most important thing isn’t just talent, it’s actually passion and dedication to their art form.  These are the people I would like to work and collaborate with.  They become inspirations for me and vice versa.  In my opinion that is how we all grow from what we do. China definitely has that.

I bring back the experiences of the tour and understanding of our cultural differences.  I have a better idea of their needs and how to communicate with them especially in Vancouver where there is a large Chinese population.  In fact, after the tour, I’ve made a personal goal for Noisyhouse to work with these artists and hopefully assist the growth of hip-hop music both in Vancouver and abroad – it’s my New Year’s resolution.

Did you get a sense of how China viewed artists, musicians of North America?

They are very interested in the North American culture.  The music is definitely something fresh to them.  From my encounters and conversations with them, they were very curious of how we make our music: from the creative process to the recording process.  They were also very eager to share their thoughts and views.

 What was your most memorable experience out of the tour and why?

The most memorable experience was playing Shenzhen MIDI Music Festival.  It was the biggest music festival in China with 6 stages over 4 days.  The MIDI Festival is comparable to the likes of Coachella Festival.  I played to a big crowd and they were all very into our set, great energy.  I met a lot of performers and like-minded people.  I remember at night after my set, during the prime time I walked over to the main stage watching the biggest band rocking out to a crowd of at least 50,000 people.  At that moment, I just couldn’t believe I was a part of that event.  It was unreal!