Friday Song: Old-school Beijing rap that spits straight truth

Society & Culture

Beijing is building
The people are changing
Who is responsible for all of this?

Going mainstream is, sadly, the death knell for most interesting subcultures in urban China.

In September 2017, SupChina published a story titled: Hip-hop goes mainstream in China with billions of views for rap battle reality TV. Right on cue, on January 4, rapper PG One was denounced by the the Communist Youth League for promoting drug use and vulgar language. On January 8, the nationalistic rag the Global Times published an essay that could easily be mistaken for parody: China’s patriotic hip-hop quickly gains steam as rappers repent past deviations. On January 19 came news that China’s top media regulator is to order all TV shows to stop inviting entertainers with tattoos or using any elements from “hip-hop culture.”

Report: China to ban tattoos and ‘hip-hop culture’ from TV shows

The Party clearly does not want real hip-hop at the party. So, I present, in the spirit of a funeral dirge, my favorite hip-hop song from the People’s Republic.

It’s by the trio Yin San’r (阴三儿 yīn sān’r), sometimes called IN3. They were formed in 2007 in Beijing and have released a bunch of songs online. Their rhymes are sung in dirty, Beijing- accented Chinese. They rap about hypocrisies and daily injustices in society, and sometimes they just like to let loose a volley of curse words. In 2015, they were blacklisted by the Ministry of Culture for vulgarity, and their songs were removed from online stores and music platforms.

The song featured above is Beijing Evening News (北京晚报 běijīng wǎnbào), off the group’s 2008 album Unknown Artist 未知艺术家 (wèizhī yìshùjiā). The Beijing Evening News is a tabloid-sized newspaper founded in 1958. Its masthead features the calligraphy of Mao Zedong. For most of the time I lived in Beijing — 1995 to 2015 — it was the paper of choice of taxi drivers and well-meaning Beijingers of my parents-in-law’s generation.

Print newspapers are disappearing rapidly in China, like everywhere else. But they’re not dead yet. Some newspaper vendors broadcast recorded messages on loudspeakers to advertise the evening papers. But there are still — at least the last time I was in Beijing in the spring of 2017 — a few special corners of Beijing where you can hear a newspaper vendor shouting “Beijing wanbao!” — Beijing Evening News! — with no electronic assistance.


Beijing newsstand circa 2006

I made the video below about Beijing news stands in 2006. The Beijing Evening News features prominently. 


IN3’s song Beijing Evening News is about the gap between what you can read in the newspaper and what is really going on in society. About how so much of what goes on in Beijing is “hanging up a sheep head but selling dog meat” (挂羊头卖狗肉 guà yángtóu mài gǒuròu) — trickery, deception, and passing off dodgy dealings as honest business.

The song is also about feeling alienated in Beijing. And how when you live in Beijing, sometimes a familiar smell or a sound — like the newspaper vendor calling out “Beijing Wanbao” — suddenly makes you feel at home.

There is more about Yin San’r on Wikipedia (in Chinese). A rough translation of the lyrics is below, with the Chinese original beneath that.


Beijing Evening News

Night is falling over my city
And certain types of people are about to start their lives
They sleep in the day, they don’t go to work
They can’t sleep at night, it’s too boring
They don’t like TV, or getting online
That’s all fake stuff!
Where is real life?
I want to find a pretty girl
Don’t want to hang around wasting time
I walk out and call a friend to hang out
The freedom of being single belongs to grown-up bachelors
Naked laps, high heels, seductive perfume,
The chicks are so hot
If you’re alone, they want to chat with you
Even if you can’t understand their jokes
Let’s go somewhere else
Let’s find an old dirty Beijing restaurant and I’ll tell you some stuff
Beijing Evening News
There are people advertising that they want to get married and all kind of stuff
They’re all liars and they just want to fuck
Beijing Evening News
Too many people sleepless at home like idiots, I don’t like that at all
Beijing Evening News
Some people drink, some take drugs, and fuck around without a condom
Beijing Evening News
The playgirls call me night owl
Because I only come out when it’s dark
But things change when it’s late at night
Too many wolves, but too few sheep
A bunch of guys don’t see eye to eye
They want to fight away the drunken night
Some start punching, some run away
Some hold pretty girls in their arms and some drink fake foreign booze
Two stupid losers get in a fight while everyone else watches
The girls run away
The bar owner calls the cops
So I have to leave too
Get in my homey’s car and grab a girl to take a drive
No traffic jams on the second and third ring roads
Countless neon signs light up my world
Saunas and bathhouses are open no matter how fucking late
Red, white and blue lights — cops light up the whole street
But they just pretend they don’t see what’s going on
Beijing Evening News
Some people are looking for something, some just want to shoot photos
Whoever is in the majority wins
Beijing Evening News
Some people sleep in underground passages
Some use government money to pay for their banquets
Beijing Evening News
Some arrive late
Some get forced to take a urine test [for drugs]
Danger’s just besides you
And that’s the thrill
Beijing Evening News
Beijing is getting more lively
But you can’t find that old feeling
People work hard late at night
People collect used bottles on the street [to get recycling fees]
Drunkards, beggars, idiots, fakes, and liars
Can’t tell them apart
From weekday to weekend
Everyone goes out to get something
Low prices and local whores
Getting drunk where there are lots of girls
Vendors cheating
Rich people have the really good times
Hot chicks downing shots and getting wasted
Big officials and leaders park outside night clubs, their rows of cars
Girls hiding in the toilet
Whiskey and duck neck
Models and starlets
Sitting in a private room with stupid douchebags
Cops patrolling, pimps from the Northeast
Lots of college girls
But student IDs get no discount
Beijing is building
The people are changing
Who is responsible for all of this?
Beijing Evening News
You have to take medicine when you are sick
But it’s too expensive and there’s no welfare
Beijing Evening News
Hang up a goat’s head but sell dog meat
University professors are all psychos and stupid cunts
Beijing Evening News
I won’t pay back my loan because it’s all a fraud
Beijing Evening News
The girl’s ass isn’t hot enough
If you want to be a big star
You must get fucked by a director
Many people read the Beijing Evening News daily
They say there’s some big news that you have to know
But I doubt the news is reliable
I don’t care whose photo is on the front page
I’ve heard about [Beijing breakfast] doughnuts made with washing powder
I’ve heard about [axe murderer] Ma Jiajue and 911
I’ve heard a monkey in the zoo ran away
I’ve heard a bunch of crap and it’s driving me crazy
I get out of down town but still feel crabby
I’ve soundproofed my room but the neighbors are still too noisy
I walk out and find a newspaper in the trash can
Filled with different adverts
Who dies, I don’t give a shit
I just want a hot chick with a hot ass
Who’s the new leader, who’s a big deal?
Who won five million, who is poor?
What kind of idiot hires a detective to spy on his wife?
Cab driver don’t want to drive you around for nothing
But at 4 or 5 o’clock, when you you hear the shouting
“Beijing Evening News”
At last, you feel at home in Beijing


他们白天睡懒觉 也不用去上班
所以晚上睡不着 在家太无聊
不喜欢看电视 也不爱上网
我想要找个尖的 闲着也是闲着
都露着大腿 踩着高跟飘着香味儿
知道你一人儿 想要跟你聊会儿
跟你逗个闷儿 你也根本琢磨不过味儿
一会咱们换个地儿 找个 old dirty
北京晚报 有人征婚有人打广告
北京晚报 太多的人在家里犯牛B都睡不着
北京晚报 有人喝酒有人吃嗨药
北京晚报 老尖儿都叫我夜猫子
情况有所改变 因为饿狼太多了
肥羊有限 剩下一帮大老爷们儿互相看不份儿
于是有人出手 有人逃走 有人搂着他们的
妞儿喝着假的洋酒 看了一出戏
把妞儿都吓跑了 自己也傻了
那我也只能闪了 上了瓷的车
北京晚报 有人在找有人在照
北京晚报 有人睡地下通道
有人公款吃喝 国家给报销
北京晚报 有人持刀有地儿验尿
危险就在身边 玩的就是心跳
北京晚报 北京会越来越热闹
老人走在大街 捡路人喝剩的瓶子
喝多的 被花的 要饭的 疯子傻子
哪儿妞儿多哪儿醉过 奸商在捣鬼
愁 鼠梅天抽尽被狐假虎威
厕所里躲着戏果儿 洋酒就着鸭脖儿
小明星大模特儿 陪着老B坐在雅座儿
巡逻的警车东北的皮条客 女大学生很多
世界 喷群 病了您得吃药
世界 喷群 挂羊头卖狗肉
太多神经病和大牛逼 进大学当教授
北京 喷群 欠的钱我不还
北京 喷群 妞儿的屁股不够翘
我怀疑 这些消息可不可靠
我听说 马家爵和911
我听说 动物园的猴儿自己跑了
我离开了市中心 可是心里还是太燥
屋里做了隔音 可是邻居还是嫌吵
出门儿才发现 垃圾筒里的北京晚报
谁死了 TM这事儿与我无关
谁当上领导 这事儿谁爱管谁管
谁中了五百万 谁整天没钱
只有臭NB整天找私人侦探 调查婚外恋
只有每天四五点钟 听见街街上喊着

Friday Song is SupChina’s weekly sign-off. We’re over at Access now, and you should join us. Let us know what you thought of the week that was in the comments below, or email