A phenomenal rap called Ye Lang Disco (Wild Wolf Disco) has stormed China's music platforms after it hit reality show Rap of China in August. Though the song didn't get its singer into the final round, it has hooked listeners with its catchy rhythm and nostalgic lyrics.
The 33-year-old Dong Baoshi (Gem), a rapper from Northeast China, quickly rose to fame thanks to the popular song, in which he raps observations from his hometown in both a local dialect and Cantonese, while fusing a vaporwave track with disco house.
Fans of Gem call him "uncle", as a way of expressing intimacy. Wearing a trendy fur coat, a young man good at disco dancing tries to flirt with a girl he has crush on with exaggerated dance moves but he fails. The song tells a sad romance by depicting an old-fashioned club experience in China's industrial regions.
On Oct 15, William Chan released his Cantonese version of Ye Lang Disco with MV, which quickly climbed to the top of most music ranking platforms, pushing the song to a larger audience. Meanwhile on Douyin, different celebrities have danced to the song in their own way, bringing the rap an online virality.
Why do people love the song? Many hail its nostalgia, while others say it's a reflection of Gem's personal experience, stubbornly pursuing his music style in a fast-changing music industry increasingly dominated by capital.
The comment with the most likes on NetEase Music player reads: "This is by no means a comedy-style hip hop. But a piece of art work."
Music critics believe it's the truthful storytelling of normal people's real lives that has awakened old memories and resonated with people.
"Many hip hop songs aim to tell the life of people who lavishly spend money after they get rich. But that's not most people's real lifestyle. It doesn't relate to our memories and emotions of this piece of land we live on," Gem told reporters from GQ Talk during an interview. "I'm trying to seek more possibilities during my production."
On the other hand, the song is embedded with many internet-friendly elements. With neon colors on its album poster, humorous Northeastern dialect, and lines easy to sing along to, it's no surprise the song has gone mainstream.
It's no wonder that netizens say: The first time I heard the song, I didn't get its point. The second time, I felt it was quite interesting. At the third try, the song couldn't get out of my head.