In “Tian Di,” Chinese-Canadian pop star Kris Wu 吴亦凡 (Wú Yìfán) finds peace amid his hectic life through tradition. He explores nature, drinks tea, and has a conversation with an elderly man in an effort to break away from the pressures his fame has brought him, all while rapping about overcoming hate, which he says constantly gets in his way. In many ways, “Tian Di” sounds like another rap song about overcoming obstacles and ignoring negative influences, but Wu’s proximity to Chinese culture makes this tune very much his own.
Kris Wu first rose to popularity as a member of the Korean-Chinese boy band EXO. In 2014, he left the group to focus on his solo career. Since then, Wu has become an incredibly popular figure in pop culture both within China and internationally. But just like the case for most ubiquitous figures, Wu has often found himself on the receiving end of a lot of animosity. Earlier this year, Wu found himself in the middle of a heated debate between his fans and the users of Hupu, a sports forum, after one user implied that the pop star couldn’t sing. He also attracted attention in the West earlier this month when, allegedly, fraudulent sales drove his songs to the top of iTunes’ Top 10 songs chart.
This kind of hate is what inspires Wu in “Tian Di.” He states:
Everyone said I wasn’t enough
Our ancestors said the road tests the horse
Walk with me, come with me as I battle heaven and earth
I won’t submit to my fate
With the power of words, Wu finds the strength to outwit his enemies and defy the conventional wisdom of his ancestors. And judging by the music video, you can tell that Wu, very much a product of the 21st century, won’t be forgetting the traditions of his past, either.