By Tom Hancock, AFP
BEIJING–Straight in at No. 1 on the mainland Chinese authorities’ banned songs chart is IN3, a trio of brash, tattooed rappers who mix the earthy language of Beijing’s streets with classic hip hop beats. And No. 2. And No. 3. And so on, down to No. 17. They have played packed houses in Beijing for a decade, but all three were detained after mainland China’s culture authority published the list of 120 songs barred from the Internet for “trumpeting obscenity, violence, crime and harming social morality.” The hard knocks came as mainland China’s ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) tightens regulation of culture under mainland leader Xi Jinping, who has called on artists to “serve socialism.” IN3 always had a confident swagger but avoided strictly banned topics such as condemning the CCP — preferring to namecheck Nike trainers and Playstations. But now they may never be able to perform in their home city again following the online ban. Their best-known song “Beijing Evening News” — third on the government’s list — chronicles the capital’s night life, touching on drunken driving, chasing women and brawls with bar owners. It also contains broadsides against high medicine costs and school fees, heavy traffic and even poorly soundproofed apartment blocks — topics generally acceptable to state censors. “Some sleep in subway underpasses, others eat out on government expenses,” the group chant, obliquely referencing official corruption. Wearing a black baseball cap labeled “Compton” and brown Converse shoes, band member Jia Wei told AFP: “We don’t want just to criticize society, we want society to progress.” “I’m not giving up hip hop,” he said.
The group saved their harshest rhymes for mainland China’s strict education system, which Jia has called the country’s “biggest problem.” It was pilloried in probably their most outspoken track, “Hello Teacher” — where they threaten to draw sexually explicit doodles in their exercise books, and call on “shameless” instructors to “die quickly.” It was No. 1 on the mainland culture agency’s Top 120.