The Redprint: Rhyme and Reason in the Riddle Kingdom

is a 21-track parody mix of Sinohiphopfunkaliciousness
written and recorded by Big Daddy Dough, a Beijing-based economist rapper.

This album is dedicated to Sinophiles past, present and future,

AND to the continued strength of the US-China relationship.

Album

A SIDES

Download Full AlbumGlossary of Acronyms

Beijing State of Mind

Written in 2010, this is an ode to the city where Big Daddy Dough learned Mandarin and developed a love for China 10 years prior. The lyrics attempt to balance an appreciation for the unique elements of life in Beijing from an expat’s perspective with the challenges faced by all residents, but especially those without hukous, in today’s Beijing.

Beijing State of Mind

Song Lyrics

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Billionaire

Ever since Deng Xiaoping declared, “To get rich is glorious,” there has been an unbounded quest for wealth accumulation in China. Along the way, a lot of people have made a lot of money. Consistent with other developing nations, the nouveau riche in China felt the need to be conspicuous in their consumption as evidence of their success. This track enunciates those pre-Xi Jinping era tendencies, when it was still cool to show off your wealth in flagrant ways. Now, in addition to being politically unfashionable, it’s also culturally unpopular, with those who flash their wealth commonly described as tuhao.

We Love Our FAI

China’s economic growth model has been increasingly reliant on Fixed Asset Investment (FAI) for the past 20 years, but particularly since the financial crisis. The property boom, and government reliance on infrastructure spending to stimulate the economy in order to meet politically sensitive growth targets has led to a debt-fueled investment boom the likes of which the world has never seen. This track, written back in 2010 at the start of the 12th Five Year Plan, was still just as relevant at the beginning of the 13th Five Year Plan in 2016, due to the zealous focus on meeting designated growth targets. Rebalancing of the economy, it seems, will take a lot longer than Premier Wen might have thought when, back in 2007, he called China’s economy “unstable, unbalanced, uncoordinated, and unsustainable”. Those words may still be apropos ten years on.

Run This Town

The political transition of 2012 augured a new era of power politics in China predicted by, literally, no one. This track, written just weeks after the November 2012 leadership transition, paralleled the prevailing factional framework of the day, i.e. Jiang’s Shanghai/Princeling clique (verse 1) vs Hu’s Communist Youth League faction (verse 2). As the world, and even those former Chinese leaders would come to learn, Xi Jinping had no intention of respecting the status quo. The only hint of that comes in Verse 3, with the nod to Wang Qishan and his role as corruption buster.

Next Episode

Written in late 2013, this track was an effort to reflect the priorities of the new administration of Xi and Li. Snoop and Dre’s legendary track was the perfect way to present the roles of each, and their ambitions, as evidenced by the first year of their reign.

Problem

Xi’s anti-corruption campaign has been unprecedented in scale and duration in modern political history. This Ariana Grande track with the tag line “one less problem without you” was a perfect backdrop for the hunt for “tigers and flies”. The lyrics target, in particular, the apparent loyalty about face Xi did in turning on the leaders who put him in place, showing just how far Xi has taken the campaign.

Xi’s a Bad Mama Jama

The old Carl Carlton classic, She’s a Bad Mama Jama, was too obvious not to be included in this parody album, and is a phenomenal funk track in its own right. Lyrically, this song focuses on elements of Xi’s political campaign beyond just anti-corruption, specifically outlining his mass line campaign, frugality campaign, party rectification efforts, and other Maoist style political tactics. As the track declares, “Xi’s brought the Party back, usin’ all the tools that Mao liked.”

Xi’s a Bad Mama Jama

Song Lyrics

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So Good

The China Dream was enunciated by Xi Jinping as his main policy catch phrase, and has become a catch all phrase that reflects the CCP’s efforts to improve the lifestyles and living standards of all PRC citizens. It ditches the historical pillar of CCP reliance on economic growth as the sole indicator of legitimacy, and broadens the evaluative basket to include a better environment, better provision of social services, better food safety, and importantly, a re-emergent China that restores national pride. But as these lyrics assert, establishing legitimacy takes more than just platitudes and policy promises…it requires real reform, something that is yet extant.

Antsy

One of the unexpected shifts in Chinese policy since Xi’s ascent has been the much more aggressive regulation and treatment of foreign companies operating in China. Parodying Iggy Izalea’s “Fancy”, this track lays out the foreign firms’ perspective (verse 1), the Chinese leadership’s perspective (verse 2), and the dynamic that evolved between various Chinese ministries and foreign corporates.

Young Forever

In the rush for wealth accumulation, success and prestige, what is often lost in China is concern for the individual, or specific segments of society. This track parodies Jay-Z’s track by the same name in a similarly reflective fashion, considering the challenges of today’s youth in China. Verse 1 highlights the challenges of young men in China, verse 2 focuses on the challenges of young women, and verse 3 laments the social and educational constraints imposed by Chinese social norms, and argues for the need for aggressive reform of attitudes and institutions.

Album

B SIDES

Download Full AlbumGlossary of Acronyms

Hong Kong

An ode to the Fragrant Harbor, this track was written as a description of the city that represents the contradictions of China in such stark relief…a combination of east and west, authoritarian and democratic, and control with clear strains of market liberalism. It is, in many ways, what mainland China would like to evolve toward at some point. The original track, Downtown by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, is a fabulous meld of new school and old school, funk and modern sounds, and in that sense was a perfect match for a track about the dynamic and often contradictory Hong Kong.

I Love Xi

With all of the (often self-generated) attention Xi is getting in the media, the Meghan Trainor song “I Love Me” seemed like a perfect track to parody to reflect the growing cult of personality Xi has engendered in his first five years in office. The track was written as a Xi Jinping-Peng Liyuan duet of sorts, as evidenced by the male vocals evolving from the third person “I love Xi” into the first person “I love me” by the end of the song.

Magic

This track was written in 2014 following yet another cycle of monetary easing in China to ease the squeeze of monetary tightness and slower growth in 2013. The primary channel for credit at the time was the LGFVs (local government financing vehicles), which later became politically unpopular, only to re-emerge again after growth slowed too much for the appetite of the leadership. The song basically describes the oft-noted “Wen Jiabao put”, which, by now, could be recognized as a “CCP put”…that is, the CCP doesn’t want to test the social limits of slower growth, so they always stimulate using credit. Deleveraging? Good luck.

Back in the Day

Economic reform since Xi’s ascent has been oft-discussed, but rarely evidenced, leaving liberal reformers hankering for the days when Chinese leaders such as Deng, Zhao and Zhu experimented with economic reforms to modernize China’s economy and generate productivity enhancing growth. At this point, one can only hope that in Xi’s second term his father’s instincts will emerge and combine forces with Liu He and possibly Wang Qishan to make the economic reform platform paramount among policy priorities.

Changes

In 2014, the Chinese government declared war on pollution. Two years later, they are losing that battle, with another Airpocalypse in Beijing in December 2016. This is an urgent policy issue, and the central government is working diligently to change attitudes and incentives at the local government level. For those who live in China, though, these changes feel like they are too little too late. Despite their passion for China, expats and locals alike often wonder, “Is it worth it?”

Runaway A-shares

This track was originally written in 2007 as the A-share market was on a spectacular bull run during which the Shanghai exchange ran up eventually to 6,000 points. The lyrics, which were crafted when the market was still only at 4,000, predicted the challenging social impacts to laobaixing (the masses) when the market eventually crashed, which it did…falling all the way to 1,800 in 2009. The episode was repeated in 2015, with another spectacular run-up and subsequent crash. When will the A-share market stop feeling like a casino to Chinese and foreign investors alike?

Runaway A-shares

Song Lyrics

MP3 Download

Jinping Funk

Another Xi Jinping anti-corruption campaign track (can there be enough of them?). If Xi and Wang did anything in their first few years, it was getting funky with the CCP in cracking down on corruption in a major way. This Mark Ronson/Bruno Mars track was the perfect backdrop for a lighthearted discussion of the dynamics that underpinned the anti-corruption campaign.

Big Pimpin’

Motivated by a variety of factors, Chinese government institutions, corporates and individuals have been investing their assets abroad in increasing volumes and at an increasing pace. The trend initially was supported by a long-term, strategic government policy, which ranged from OBOR (One Belt, One Road) to SOE acquisitions of overseas assets to wealthy citizens buying luxury properties all over the world. But as the Renminbi has come under pressure, OFDI (outbound foreign direct investment) has come under a much greater level of scrutiny, with capital controls being enforced with increasing vigor and vigilance by SAFE.

Monster

Mirroring China’s broader contradictions, Xi Jinping’s own policies are seemingly in constant conflict. One need look no further than the 3rd Plenum reform document, which urged letting the market “play a decisive role”, while also wanting to strengthen the state-owned sector. He wants rule of law, but wants the law to serve the Party. The list of maodun (contradictions) is long, and keep analysts guessing as to what Xi actually wants to accomplish over the course of his tenure as China’s core leader. Reform? Or control? Maybe the answer is Xi is perfectly comfortable with a dynamic tension between competing policies, all of which he sees as virtuous for different reasons. Either way, Eminem’s track Monster was perfect to capture this state of mental conflict evidenced in Xi’s maodun prima facie.

Real Leader

Xi has indisputably gained the favor of the Chinese masses. Xi Dada (aka Uncle Xi) has a popular wife, has crushed corrupt officials, eats steamed buns with the masses in his free time, and has shown a more assertive Chinese posture in global affairs, all of which play well to China’s laobaixing. And very few care about his crackdown on social media and increasingly restrictive social policies. It seems clear, the Middle Kingdom has found its Real Leader!

Zhongguo I Love You

For all the analytical angles and biases evident in The Redprint’s lyrical themes, I am, in my heart, a huge fan of China. It has a wonderfully rich culture, a ranging cuisine, incredible people, and being objective, one has to respect what Chinese leaders have accomplished in the past 40 years in bringing China out of the depths of poverty and into a modern reality that posits China as the world’s number two superpower, something that was not inevitable or even fathomable 30 years ago. So I wanted a song to finish the album that would reflect my appreciation, love and respect for the Middle Kingdom. This is that song.

Zhongguo I Love You

Song Lyrics

MP3 Download

Mission

The Redprint project began back in 2010, when Hamilton was still just a seedling in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s creative mind. In the interim 7 years, he and I both wrote approximately the same number of raps about two different political eras in two different countries, featuring two very different leading men. But perhaps the biggest difference is that his authorship turned into a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album and a Tony-winning Broadway hit, while mine turned into well this relatively obscure rap/funk album. However, my hope is that fans of The Redprint, in appreciating the issues presented, the lyrical flow and the creative effort, will take the $1,000 they would have spent on the Broadway ticket for the yet-to-be produced musical Jinping and donate it (or more, or less…whatever you can manage) to a charity of choice. I have featured two charities below which I personally support, because of their wonderful work in using music and the arts to heal hearts and bring people together across cultural divides. Please look them up and consider them for a donation. But mostly, please be generous in your charitable endeavors, whatever, wherever and for whomever they may be. Let’s team up to make the world a better place!

Speaking of making the world a better place, the US-China relationship is the world’s most important geopolitical bilateral dynamic and will be for some time. In my music, I present a view on a whole host of China related issues, biased obviously by my own perspectives, but presented, hopefully, in a balanced way that reflects the broader narratives and dynamics of the day, from a diversity of perspectives (foreign and Chinese). To be clear and candid, this album is not a criticism of China, and it is also not an apologist’s effort to praise China. It is intended to be a fun and entertaining, but honest assessment of the issues Chinese policymakers, Chinese citizens, China watchers and China’s counterparts are evaluating and trying to work through on a daily basis. The issues are complicated, and can often provoke impassioned discord, so presenting them in a lighthearted way might, I hope, help keep the dialogue constructive and positive. To that end, my hope is that this album will spur greater passion for studying China and Mandarin Chinese in the US and other countries, and that both sides of the US-China relationship will be able to maintain a healthy level of humanity, personality, mutual respect and optimism in the geopolitical relationship that will dictate the most substantial global outcomes of the 21st century. May both sides spend more time humbly appreciating each others’ strengths while peacefully resolving their differences…

  • Shropshire Music Foundation logo

    Ping Pong Productions

    (PPP) is a cultural exchange organization whose mission is to bring China and the world together through the performing arts. Using the arts as a bridge to deepen mutual understanding, PPP has brought more than 500 performances, workshops, discussions, residencies, and symposia to audiences, students, corporate events, and communities in more than 50 countries on five continents, including to Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Sydney Opera House, and Edinburgh International Festival. PPP toured the first two American theater companies ever to perform at China’s National Centre for the Performing Arts, including Oscar-winner Tim Robbins and his Los Angeles-based theatre troupe The Actors’ Gang.
    PPP runs a pioneering education program, bringing free performances and workshops by American and other international artists to schools and universities in more than 20 cities across China. PPP now is developing a mirror program to bring Chinese performers to school and community centers across the U.S.

    Donate

  • Shropshire Music Foundation logo

    Shropshire Music Foundation

    The Shropshire Music Foundation develops youth leadership and capacity for peacemaking and problem-solving in global conflict zones through the establishment of locally-run, youth-led music education programs. These programs provide local children opportunities for education, trauma relief, expression, and creativity and local teenagers opportunities to develop leadership, teaching, and expressive skills, to become role models in their communities, to access broader opportunities for education, and to reduce vulnerability to extremist group participation. Currently SMF is in Syrian, Kurdish, and Yazidi Refugee Camps in Greece; Schools and Community centers in Kosovo; Schools and Centers for Former Child Soldiers in Uganda; and Community Centers in Northern Ireland.

    Donate

Tour Dates

Los Angeles, CA 2.11.2017 @ 6:30 pm
Provo, UT 3.17.2017 @ 6:30 pm
Washington D. C. 3.24.2017 @ 6:30 pm
Beijing, China 4.14.2017 @ 6:30 pm
Hong Kong 8.19.2017 @ 6:30 pm

I’D LIKE TO ATTEND

Videos

  • Beijing State of Mind

  • Run This Town

  • The Next Episode

  • We Love Our FAI

Click here to watch the bonus video TRUMP!

Big Daddy Dough

Grew up in America’s Midwest region and credits six major influences that led to the production of this album. First, his mother… for always encouraging him to think in unorthodox ways and, importantly, for making him stick with his musical training as a youngster. Second, his love of music… he was trained as a classical and jazz violinist, which led to developing an ear attuned to subtle stylistic and musical nuances, which came in very handy in the recording process. Third, his father… who has a natural gift for languages, in particular for mimicking different accents, as well as an instinct for clever word play. Growing up around that influence subconsciously led to his own experimentation with word play and lyrical composition. Fourth, Weird Al Yankovic… as a young boy, Weird Al was his favorite artist, appreciated for his humorous parodies and ability to take catchy, popular tunes and totally change the dynamic of the song in entertaining ways. Fifth, his love of basketball… growing up in Chicago playing basketball inevitably meant exposure to the hip hop culture, which itself became known for clever lyricism which often cut to the core of some really important societal issues.

Those five factors led to early instincts for composing his own parody music, which eventually focused on the hip hop genre. But the sixth and final factor which led to The Redprint project was a passion for China… Big Daddy Dough first came to Beijing in 2001 as an undergraduate student and immediately fell in love with the challenges and opportunities which were ever present and coexisted in unique fashion in China, and still do to this day. His passion has grown since then, and after writing Runaway A-shares in 2007 as Chinese equities markets were overheating, he didn’t return to the China theme as a rapper until 2010, when he wrote and recorded Beijing State of Mind. From there, it was an eight year journey to the culmination of this 21-track compendium of Sinohiphopfunkaliciousness, with tracks being inspired by the current events of the day in the Middle Kingdom, with a particular emphasis on the period from 2012-2016.

CONTACT BIG DADDY DOUGH

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS:
Big Daddy Dough THANKS…my employer for the privileged assignment to spend nearly a decade learning about China up close and in real time. Second, I’m grateful to the Chinese people for their wonderful culture and cuisine, their wild optimism and their welcoming spirit. Indeed, my personal friendships in China are what give me great hope for a prosperous US-China relationship in the decades to come. Third, I’d like to thank the many mentors and China hands who have been friends and teachers along the way in helping me discover my own China story, most notably my thesis advisor and old friend Zhang Wei. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my wife and children for their patient support and enthusiasm as I have labored over this project on and off for the past seven years. Finally, I am grateful to Providence for inspiring me in my journey to the Middle Kingdom, and for blessing me with a musical talent which allows me to tell my China story in a fun and unique way.

CREDITS:
This album would have gone nowhere without the vocal talents of the inimitable Princess Fortier. Her professionalism and talent were essential in the creative process. Collins Peters, lead producer for the album, offered technical expertise as well as a musician’s ear. Aaron Hatch, aka Fresh Big Mouf, mixed and mastered the album and is a creative genius in his own right (check out his YouTube channel). Props to colleagues Pipes Eliot (PETE) and The LoGo (LYG), who lent their vocal reeds to a few of the more challenging tenor melodies. Album artwork is a product of DM’s graphic design brilliance, and MBG’s and XJ’s natural photographic eyes. And a final shout out to the original artists for these 21 classic tracks, without which my commentary would remain mere poetry…in no particular order…Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, Travie McCoy, Bruno Mars, Eminem, Rihanna, Kanye West, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Ariana Grande, Iggy Azalea, Carl Carlton, B.o.B., Mr. Hudson, Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, Meghan Trainor, LunchMoney Lewis, Ryan Tedder, Missy Elliott, Tupac Shakur, Ludacris, Mary J. Blige, Mark Ronson, OMI, and Michael Franti.

“Those who come to China for a week write a book.
Those who come for a year write an article.
Those who come for a lifetime don’t write a thing.
But those who come for 8 years drop an auspicious rap album about the place.
–Big Daddy Dough