Mon, Aug 20, 2007 - Page 13 News List

Cute rap. What next?

Chang Jui-chuan is a refreshing counterpoint to the syrupy love songs of Mandarin pop and macho posturing of US hip hop

By Jules Quartly, Staff Reporter

Chang Jui-chuan is Taiwan's gentleman hip-hop artist.

PHOTO: JULES QUARTLY, TAIPEI TIMES

Calling a rapper cute is like telling a man he's got no balls. It's supposed to be a diss. It's intended to get a rise. Expect a smack down, or at least a story about selling crack to establish street cred.

But Chang Jui-chuan (張睿銓) isn't your average rapper. His clothes aren't oversized. There's no bling, or obvious scars. He's kind of baby-faced. And polite.

The title "academic" would appear to suit him better. An English composition lecturer, he's studying for a PhD. His father's a scientist and university president.

Taiwan is a world away from the mean streets of Compton or Brooklyn and we're sitting in a pleasant Taipei teahouse sipping oolong. Chang is a bit of an expert and takes charge of the teapot.

I kick off by telling Chang what the musician Matthew Lien said in our recent interview. "What has rap culture got to do with Taiwan culture? What is it with this? Are they going to New York and getting shot? I don't think so. It's just about marketing."

Chang responds that he isn't pretending to be from the Bronx. Also, he does more than spit a few lines over a love song. He writes the lyrics and produces.

"I know I'm not from the ghetto. I'm educated. I'm a teacher. Imitating others, black, American people, is not my thing. I don't have to be black to rap. I can be Taiwanese.

"I make music that represents me, who I am and where I come from. So, it's not about imitating the pioneers, it's about me making music," Chang says.

His theory is that hip-hop music is about fighting oppression. In My Language on his new album Resurrection (重生) he accuses the US of cultural tyranny. For him, globalization is Americanization.

"I speak your language, don't mean I'm your slave/ I speak your language 'cause I'm about to invade/ Your music, your culture, your beliefs, and your fate/ With kung fu, Confucius, Tao, and my name."

Performance notes

Chang Jui-chuan appears with Kou Chou Ching (拷秋勤) at Tainan's Room 335 this Saturday at 7pm (www.chinesefreewebs.com/room335)

Address: B1, 41 Kongle St, Tainan (台南市康樂街41號B1)

Chang and Kou will also perform with The Chairman (董事長) at 7pm on Sept. 2 at The Wall (這牆) in Taipei (www.the-wall.com.tw)

Address: B1, 200 Roosevelt Rd Sec 4, Taipei (台北市羅斯福路四段200號B1)

See Chang's clips on YouTube by plugging in his name.

Download Chang's music at asianvariations.com


He raps in English and Taiwanese. When he's not taking shots at the US he takes aim at Osama bin Laden, China and abusive men generally.

The song No Justice, No Peace has the hook line "No justice, no peace/ So burn China, crush America!"

Chang's an equal opportunity critic, more earnest than angry. His line is pro-freedom and almost relentlessly idealistic. "Protect democracy and let it soar" (Hope Is Here).

He's also unabashedly nationalistic, singing the praises of oolong tea and Hualien rice. "Stand tall. My name ain't Joe. It's Ah-Chuan of Taiwan."

The Chinese-language We Can't Say 'Love Taiwan'? (不能說愛台灣?) on his debut album Genesis (創世記) last year beats the drum for independence.

He says he's proud of the new track Hey Kid because "it's the first rap to explicitly depict the 228 Incident. It's also sad that it wasn't done earlier."

If it sounds like he's preaching, there's good reason. A bible thumping Christian (he's keen on the King James Version) he doesn't blaspheme or shoot people down with his metaphorical Glock.

He's comfortable with this and adds, "all real MCs are preaching in essence."

Musically, he's developed since his first album, which was produced by Adia (阿弟仔) and has a self-confessed "pop-music approach."

This is when he picked up the cute tag. On the sleeve notes to Genesis the alternative DJ Lim Giong (林強) praised Chang for his, "Mature and cute vocals, creative and well-made pop music. It has a rich musicality with a variety of interesting melodies."

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