As the post-pandemic era progresses and time passes, we have those endless cultural nuances that not only explain the so-called cost of living crisis but are themselves a manifestation of who we are and how we are changing. And that applies to music far more than we realise; an artistic discipline that is probably the most democratised in history. Hip-hop is much more than a genre of music or a specific style of beats and sampling. It is a form of expression; it is a way of life.
Bloodz Boi is probably one of the most prominent artists in China's underground music scene. A key player in understanding cloud rap, a genre of rap music in which lo-fi, ambient, trap, R&B and the surreal merge. But it is also a type of hip-hop that through modern productions uncovers feelings, sounds lethargic in parts, and is made in a bedroom. And that says a lot about the artist but also about the listener. He is a pioneer in his field of work, but paradoxically he is not so well known in China.

As a producer, he is excellent at recreating a heartfelt atmosphere through textures and sounds that function as a refuge for his lyrics; direct from his heart and sung in Mandarin. He was part of the Heheanon Music Empire Group with artists such as Vicious Boy, 3Bangz and Future Star, considered by The Quietus as a “seed for the underground Chinese hip hop scene.” He has collaborated with Tohji, Claire Rousay, Umru, Nosgov, How To Dress Well, Eden and Qian Zheng Hao, among many others. Moreover, according to all the times he has been interviewed, he looks like a very nice guy and is open to talking about his emotions, which, as he says, “sometimes make him feel more pain than the other superpowers.”

When you talk to him you discover his sensitivity and his incredible talent for capturing feelings about life, death, faith, love and loyalty. Something he might have in common with the Swedish art collective Drain Gang; in fact, Bloodz Boi participated in the first Year0001 compilation album, alongside Yung LeanBladee or Thaiboy. Last year, his albums 365, with Quit Life, and A Crying Poem, which he made with Claire Rousay and More Eaze, received impressive reviews, the latter being his best work to date; a beautiful collection of poems that elevates his talent as a composer. He’s as important as musicians like Loraine James, Hudson Mohawke, Jai Paul, Imogen Heap, Oneohtrix Point Never or Arca to understand the development of modern music. We had the opportunity to talk to him about his works, his references, his future plans and his role in the Chinese hip-hop scene.
Hi, Bloodz Boi (I still don’t know your real name). How are you? How do you feel these days?
My Chinese name is Yang Fan, just call me Fan. I’m doing alright, same shit different day.
I decided to get in touch with you for obvious reasons (your music being immense for example) for this interview, but I also saw your tweets in which you explained that you were being censored by the Chinese government on your socials. Could you explain a bit about what happened?
(Laughs). Yeah, it’s a little bit funny. You should know that there was a lot of public discontent with the vaccination policy that happened here last year, and I just talked about it and made a joke on social media. Then I was marked as a ‘bad guy,’ even a terrorist, and therefore my social media got permanently banned. Even when I set up a new one, it will be immediately taken down. I think they might have tracked my IP or something but whatever. You know, I love my country that’s why I speak up.
For people who like your music but don't know your background very well, how would you explain your first steps in underground hip-hop in China?
Well, when I started making music, there was no scene at all in China, everyone was underground, and we just had fun and enjoyed ourselves, no one believed they could live life by making music, it was a good time. And then I found out that my music is totally different from the rest, like they still stand there, rap the same lyrics on kind of the same beats, but I already moved to another level, (I mean the thinking level). I was listening to a lot of fresh stuff like the artists that have influenced me so much, so I think that is what can make me stand out from others.
Unfortunately, especially in Europe, there seem to be a lot of misconceptions about China and Chinese society. But I'm very curious if there are any misconceptions about the alternative music scene and Chinese hip-hop. Have you ever noticed anything like that?
I think they’re not ‘misconceptions,’ it’s more like people just don’t know what it’s like in here. But also, most people here don’t know what is really happening or what things are like in Europe. I think that you have to be there to then get to the know the truth and the real culture.
Do you remember the moment when you decided to become a professional musician?
(Laughs). I will never call myself that. The truth is that I never decided to become a professional musician, If this is my ‘job’ I will take it seriously, and I don’t want to do that, I’m playing my life all the time.
I wanted to ask you about your experience during the lockdown because it seems like it was very productive for you as you collaborated with many artists.
I should be the least affected by the virus and lockdown because even if there is no virus I just stay at home, I do not like going out, all the communication can be done through the internet, including all that is necessary to create new music.
2022 was a very interesting year in your career. You released 365, which is considered your first album/EP with the Swedish label Year0001. How did this album come about and how did you end up releasing it with them?
Yes, I am sure it is right to call this an album. It all started with the song Mist that I did with Quit Life, I knew there was going to be an album as soon as I heard the finished song, it was only natural to me.
Year0001 is also related to Drain Gang and Yung Lean. We are talking about cloud rap but also about creators of hyperpop and alternative hip-hop for the new generations. How did you get to know them? I think your work dialogues with theirs, but in a way, it amplifies it.
Yung Lean is one of my main inspirations and one of the reasons I started making music. I love his and also Drain Gang’s music. I don’t really care about what the genre is called, you can call it whatever you want. I am just doing my thing and I just like creating brand new sounds, and 365 is the perfect example of it. I haven’t really thought about what the genre of music I make should be called up until now… Something like trance? Maybe drum & bass? Cloud rap? Or even alternative R&B?
What are your main musical influences? If you could name five musicians, albums or songs that have helped you shape your current musical taste and style, what would they be?
Dean Blunt, Yung Lean, Chief Keef, Mark Kozelek (but fuck him) & 李宗盛 (Jonathan Lee).
I loved the interview Laurin Rensonet recently did with you as part of the Sonemic interview series for Rate Your Music. It was especially insightful, especially for fans in Europe, we learned a lot about your career. When talking to Laurin you mentioned German rap and French rap, and it caught my attention. What is your relationship to hip-hop in these places?
When I was a child, my mother took me around the world. In each country, I would go to the local CD stores. In Germany and France, I found Bushido and Diam's albums, the most popular rappers at the time, so I bought their CDs, and I think this may have been my first exposure to the music of those two places.
What is the alternative club scene like in Beijing today, and are there places that you recommend or that were significant to you in your youth?
Hell yeah, if I could only mention one club in my life, it would be Dada. I've been there since the first day it opened in Beijing. It’s basically the place where all the international producers and DJs play when they come here. It’s also a place in which I’ve heard and discovered endless new artists and music. I've hardly gone to clubs in the last few years, but it's really an unforgettable place though.
There is definitely something key to the alternative hip-hop/cloud rap/hyperpop genre and its success; beyond the sound, which is the main thing, there are so many artists collaborating and creating together from their bedrooms in different parts of the world. Thanks to the internet some borders have been closed and that's a very nice thing. Do you normally work like that?
Yes, as I said before, the internet links everyone, you don’t have to talk in person, and it makes me feel comfortable.
In your productions, there is a very interesting element of recreational atmosphere that sounds almost retro-futuristic, as if it's a kind of look back to a world that is the one we have now. Do you think this idea of different worlds recreated with songs has something to do with what you want to express through your music?
My music is completely based on my personal life, so all my songs carry memories which all have different meanings for me. I think that when other people listen to them and feel them, it suddenly acquires another kind of meaning.
There's a song, To Morrow, that you did with Bod. I almost cried when I listened to it. I love everything about it, even if I don't understand the lyrics because of the language barrier, it's a work of art. Actually, there is no percussion, not a very obvious one at least, but it has your beautiful voice and some electronic elements that we usually hear in dance productions. But it sounds otherworldly and peaceful, and listening to it is a great experience. What is the story of this song?
“The selfish night, it never gave me anything. The selfish night, why did you let me stay with you? And you leave until dawn.”
I've heard there’s something big coming in store for you and it will be released on the LuckyMe label?
Yes, it will be an LP with Cameron Morse, I can’t say more about that, I am afraid you’ll have to wait and see.
In many of your songs, there is that lethargic (I mean this in a good way) style that you sing with (I think it's a special element in cloud rap). In your work, but also in some interviews, you talk about loneliness and even the difficulty to leave the house sometimes. How do you cope with it these days? And also, is music the best way for you to express these emotions?
I have so many emotions, and I think I am very sensitive to them, I feel like I can feel everything. It's not as good as it sounds though, it sometimes causes me to feel more pain than those other superpowers, and I think music is the best way I can find to release those emotions. Also, it's not that I can't go out, it's that I don't want to.
I think A Crying Poem, recorded in collaboration with Claire Rousay and More Eaze, is a masterpiece, one of the best EPs we heard last year. It is such an emotional piece where you stand out as a singer, with a beautiful voice and great lyricism. The title is very well chosen, it's a poem to cry. I wanted to know more about what influenced this album and how you ended up collaborating with Claire and More.
A Crying Poem is an album based on my poems, all of which I have written during the curse of a difficult time in my life. It was when I was questioning life, death, faith, love, loyalty, and the contradictions between them that those words from.
I didn't want these words to just appear on paper, so I found Claire Rousay and More Eaze, who were the first two musicians I thought of, and we worked together to make the EP.
Do you like poetry? If so, do you have a favourite poem or poet you can share with us?
商禽 (Shang Qin) and 夏宇 (Hsia Yu), these two are my muses.
Any guilty pleasures (TV, film, music, fashion...)?
I love to go to karaoke alone, I pretty much enjoy singing '80s & '90s C-pop songs. I also love watching vtubers, one of my faves is Diana of A-Soul!
So, what’s next in the following months for Bloodz Boi?
This year I will go on a big tour, and it will be my very first time performing outside China! In May I will be in Japan and Korea, Mainland in June, then Australia and the Czech Republic, and I will be touring Europe in the fall and winter. So hopefully see you there!
One last question; I saw this on your Twitter: “yy02 is available for collab & feat, money ready.” I must have missed something, but what is yy02 and what is it about?
yy02 is my alias, he is a rapper too, lol, and I just released his debut mixtape called Tainted Artist – which means an artist who’s got a bad reputation – and the reason I want to do this is that certain people have said that I am a ‘bad guy’ (the thing I mentioned before that led to my being banned on the Internet), so, I'll listen to them and be the bad guy in the song. What yy02 singing about is very illegal stuff, drugs, disrespect, and many more things, it’s like my other character, an alter ego.
Thank you very much for doing this, I wish you all the best with your music.
Love 谢谢.
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