Each Wednesday, Rocks Off arbitrarily appoints one lucky local performer or group "Artist of the Week," bestowing upon them all the fame and grandeur such a lofty title implies. Know a band or artist that isn't awful? Email their particulars to email@example.com.
Judgmental as it might seem, when we received an email suggesting JayyJust, a bilingual femcee whose second language somehow happens to be Mandarin, for Artist of the Week, our initial thought was: "Oh, a girl rapper who raps in Mandarin? Cool. Go ahead and kill us now."
But, as these things tend to work out, JayyJust ended up being more than not terrible, she ended up being talented. And cool. And not gimmicky. And dance-tastic. And radio-ready. And just generally an interesting act, musically.
So we reached out to discuss who the five best non-English rappers are, how one learns Chinese and what exactly she's talking about when she does so.
Rocks Off: Okay, since you're a bilingual rapper, we figured you'd be the perfect person to ask the following question that's been rattling around the question bank for a good few months now: Who are the five best non-English speaking rappers? If you want to include Dizzee Rascal, that's cool. We mean, he's barely speaking English anyway.
JayyJust: These are the Top 5 non-American hip hop artists, in my opinion:
- MC Jin: He is a great freestyler and can battle with the best of them. He can just on on and on.
- Pit Bull: His flow is just effortless and he is so smooth. He gets the party jumping every time.
- Daddy Yankee: He brought reggaeton to a new level with his creativity.
- Tasha Reid: She has that old school hip-hop vibe. You think of the Adidas jumpsuit and break dancing when you hear her.
- 1 Tym: [They]re] Korean and they mix R&B and Pop with their style. I love them even though I can't make it all out. They have flava that is unstoppable.
There are probably some who don't agree with the last two, but the top three are for sure.
RO: You don't think Chingo Bling needs to be on there? Is that because he stinks?
JJ: Chingo Bling?! [laughs] My mom always told me, "If you don't have nothing good to say, don't say it at all." He is almost up there with Johnny Dang.
RO: Wait, wait, wait. You're not implying that Johnny Dang is anything but incredible, are you?
JJ: Of course not. I think [him rapping is] an awesome marketing strategy.
RO: How exactly did you come to learn Mandarin? It doesn't seem like something that you just wake up and go, "You know, I think I'll learn Mandarin today." I mean, it's not like becoming a waitress or something; this takes skill.
JJ: My dad told me to take Chinese when I started high school, so I took him up on it. I've been speaking it since 9th grade. I competed in the local competitions because my Chinese teacher Mrs. Wu would make me. My senior year of high school, Mrs. Wu told me to apply for a scholarship to study in Taiwan for a year.
It was one of the best chances that I have ever taken. I studied in Miaoli County at the Maioli County Yuanli High School after I graduated and returned home this past June. Now I volunteer teach high school students Chinese once a week, and I teach elderly Asians English twice a week.
RO: What exactly are you talking about when you're rapping in Mandarin? It would be so ill if it was just something absolutely nonsensical, like why bananas are better than car engines or something.
JJ: In the song "Dance Floor", I am talking about partying, and female independence, and pride in oneself. I talk about being in love with Taiwan, specifically the dance scene.
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RO: Anything you want to make sure gets mentioned?
JJ: I want to be the one that bring the two cultures together. Music is a way to do that. I started out doing this album for a tuition fundraiser only, and then I realized that we need more people to bring back music that inspires all. I love the way my Asian fans open up to hip-hop and American music.
I love to hear my little sister sing "Dance Floor" and how she is singing in Chinese. That's how we learned our ABCs, by singing them. I just love to see people come together.