Rap/hip-hop in Cantonese (嘻哈) it’s actually pronounced “HEE-HA”. There is no real term for hip-hop in Chinese so characters that sound like the English words “hip-hop” is used. In Chinese, “he-ha” a.k.a. Hip-Hop is made up from the term “嘻嘻嘻” or “哈哈哈” is known in English aa “hehehe” or “hahaha”. The expression of laughter. Yeah, I was blown away at how similar human-kind really is through something so trivial. Isn’t it crazy how the oldest language in the world found carved into turtle shells thousands of years ago ends up using the same format to display laughter? Here’s a little bit of research I did to show you how long ago the Chinese language was first documented compared to English.
The Chinese language is the oldest written language in the world with at least six thousand years of history. Chinese character inscriptions have been found in turtle shells dating back to the Shang dynasty (1766-1123 BC)1
Old English is the name given to the earliest recorded stage of the English language, up to approximately 1150AD (when the Middle English period is generally taken to have begun).2
Documentation of Chinese is about 2000 years older than any recorded English yet the Chinese culture has been idolizing English speaking rappers since he-ha became mainstream. The English language, a non-tonal language, which often means it requires less lip/tongue movement allowing quicker and more deliberate oral delivery of words. As to Chinese, it really depends how you use your tongue or lips to deliver what you want to say. Sometimes, if you are lazy even with just one word it could mean something entirely different.
Now let’s get into why I started to not only enjoy but love rap/hip-hop for the past three years. It really started when I watched my friend who’s an aspiring producer create a beat from absolutely nothing. Watching him be mesmerized by his own beat making I was also feeling the vibes. He was looking for a sound and this wonky spring like noise came up. He reacted to it, “Ooo this sounds fun”. Me, being the absolute novice couldn’t see how that fit into what he was doing. After adding some effects and equalizing the sound, he put it into his beat where it would drop into the kick layered with an 808 (Click here for a fun short video just for reference). He then played the 8 bars together and I was blown away how that made me wanna nod my head and smile. This pushed me to research beat making especially that I was a huge EDM head at the time along with a wannabe beatboxer I couldn’t help myself. Soon I found myself listening to songs of the all-time best such as the hometown hero, Drake, Eminem and Migos just to name a few. At first, it was for the beats at how it was all put together so masterfully. I started to notice the little intricate sounds each producer likes to use such as Metroboomin, DJ Khaled, Pharrell Williams and Kanye. As I was listening to these beats and songs these producers/artists have blessed upon this earth I realized something. The voice of the artists is a percussion of its own. With every word emphasis, punchline, pause, breath inhale, ad lib and syllable “spat” into the mic. I was mesmerized and hooked. How these artists come up with the lyrics to a beat complimenting the sounds and coming up with a melody to harmonize with the instrumental completely blew my fuckin mind. I’m not a huge fan of the old-school hip-hop and I’m sorry, I’m learning to love it but it’s hard. It’s like telling me to go watch Scarface or Godfather. YEAH RIGHT. Foreal though, I am learning to love some of the old-school stuff slowly. Right now, I am learning and aspiring to write lyrics over a beat, I gotta look at why the greats were known as the greats. Try out their style to find my own.
One last thought, as some of you might have noticed the banner of my blog is a picture of a skateboarder doing a trick called the “Benihana”. That skateboarder is me! I haven’t been able to skate through the winter along with a recovering ankle injury so writing lyrics have been helping me cope and in a way super therapeutic. I am able to express myself fully in any way I wish which is incredible. I can sing it all sad or rhyme it all hype. I discovered that I still hate tasteless rap purely about “fuckin hoes and getting drug money”. I look up to Post Malone a lot because he just does what he does for what he likes to do. I believe that’s where real happiness lies. Welp, that’s all I got for you today!
You might say to me, “Have a great day!”
I will say to you, “Have a better one.”
- Lin, Kathy. “Chinese Language.” Chinese Language – EthnoMed, Ethnomed.org, ethnomed.org/culture/chinese/chinese-language-profile
- Durkin, Philip. “Old English-an overview.” Oxford English Dictionary, public.oed.com/aspects-of-english/english-in-time/old-english-an-overview/