Droppin’ hip-hop knowledge, Taiwan-style (‘Renegade Rhymes’ review for Taipei Times)

The following review appeared in today’s Taipei Times.

Confession: Despite being a diehard fan of golden age hip-hop and having had the privilege to interview some stalwarts of that era, including Public Enemy, Ice T and DJ Premier, during my early years in Taiwan, my grasp of Taiwanese rap music is feeble.

MC Hot Dog, who I saw open for Missy Elliot in 2006; Dwagie (大支), who I didn’t recognize as a support act for Wu Tang Clan’s Raekwon and Ghostface in 2014; and LA Boyz, who I discovered (and promptly dismissed) in my ex-brother-in-law’s dusty stack of CDs back in 2002: That was the extent of my knowledge. While I often found the beats formulaic and forgettable, and the rappers’ flows clunky and overly shouty, the language barrier was the obvious problem.

Had my comprehension been sufficient to decipher the odd rhyme or two, the penchant of Taiwanese emcees for multilingual homophonic punning would still have have left me bamboozled. It is therefore fitting that a substantial portion of this book is dedicated to the pedagogic role that rap has played for young men in Taiwan; the sections that analyze intricate wordplay inspired me to find the tracks in question to see how much I could follow.

To read the full review, click here.

About the Author