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Artist showcase: Bohan Phoenix

This week, we put the spotlight on rising American Chinese hip hop artist, Bohan Phoenix, who is doing his part in trying to redefine the mainland’s indie scene

Written by
Graham Turner

Raised in rural China until emigrating with his family to the US when 11 years old, Bohan Phoenix is a unique prospect in that he represents a cultural bridge between east and west. A die-hard hip hop fan from the second he landed on US soil, Phoenix learned English and the art of rapping by obsessively listening to just about anything he could get his hands on — from Eminem to Tupac. Between him and China’s rap megastars, the Higher Brothers, we’re lucky enough to have front row seats to the emergence of a very exciting hip hop scene in China. 

Phoenix comes to XXX Gallery this weekend to deliver one of his signature, blistering shows. We caught up with him to try and better understand the making of the man and what he’s all about...

Hi, Bohan! Tell us a bit about yourself...
My music and identity are a constant interplay between China and the US — the two countries that I call home — and touching on universally relatable topics of pride, love, family and motivation in both English and in Mandarin.

Recently, I moved to China for my 16-city Jala Tour, in support of my EP release. In the age of <<中国有嘻哈>> ‘China Has Hip Hop’ — a popular moniker embodying the growing adoption of the hip hop — I strive to represent the spirit of an independent artist. Instead of relying on a big management company or mass media channels like TV game shows, I cultivate my own relationships with Asia's major players and platforms, who are partners in presenting my tour, as well as all the content I release. I’m a frequent collaborator and good friends with China’s other promising musical exports, Howie Lee —leading underground electronic music producer — and the Higher Brothers.

How would you describe your music?
It’s a mix of both eastern and western culture in a way that hasn’t been done before. I hope my music expands the perspectives of both my English and Chinese-speaking audiences, bringing the two cultures closer. Much like China where hip hop is still in its infancy and in the process of developing its own flavour, I'm looking to push the boundaries and take musical risks beyond the commercial and formulaic sounds I hear elsewhere. By doing this, I hope to leave my own distinctive mark on China’s developing hip hop landscape.

Where can people buy or hear your music?
Everywhere! My music is available on all distribution platforms including Bandcamp, Spotify, Apple Music, as well as mainland Chinese platforms such as Wangyi, Xiami and QQ Music.

What have you got coming up?
I’m c
ontinuing my Jala tour throughout Asia. In addition to Hong Kong, I’ll be hitting Singapore, playing Concrete & Grass Music Festival in Shanghai,  a show with Howie Lee and the Do Hits crew in Beijing, a festival in Wuhan and a handful of other headline dates. Over the next couple of months, I’ll also be releasing new music, MVs and some exciting, documentary-style videos exploring the underground culture of each of the places I’ve visited on tour. After the tour ends, I'll be bouncing between different cities across Asia, collaborating with new artists and continuing to hone my craft.

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