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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 March, 2005, 15:53 GMT
Web demo launches hip-hop in China
Lionel "Little Lion"
Lionel "Little Lion" discovered hip-hop in the US
A demo placed on the internet has triggered the initial success of one of China's first hip-hop groups, Hi-Bomb.

Hi-Bomb - composed of Lionel "Little Lion" and Shang Hao - rap in English, Mandarin and the Shanghainese dialect.

Their success was triggered by Lionel placing a demo on the web - which eventually led to the pair being picked up by multinational record label EMI. Subsequently the duo had their first hit, Number One.

"I was just doing some freestyle in Chinese," Lionel told BBC World Service's The Ticket programme.

"I put it on the web, and a lot of people started downloading that - so then the EMI men came to me."

Saturated market

Lionel was born in China, but later moved to the US - where he was first exposed to hip-hop and became interested in the music and lifestyle.

On returning to his home city of Shanghai he teamed up with Shang, who was already making a name for himself on the city's club scene.

The two started putting samples of their music on the web, and worked with Taiwanese record producer J Wu after being signed up by EMI.

Number One was described as a "music phenomenon" within the record industry.

Not a lot of people really know what hip-hop is
Lionel 'Little Lion'
However, the Chinese market remains saturated with Mando-pop, Korean, Japanese and Taiwanese imports.

Lionel said that there is still some distance to go to persuade China's youth that hip-hop is the music of their generation.

"Not a lot of people really know what hip-hop is."

"It's kind of underground," he added.

Hi-Bomb's raps are said to be witty and provocative. In particular, they poke fun at society and at parents who think hip-hop is dangerous.

"It's about how we grow up, our relationships with parents," he said, describing one song, The Gap, as being "totally telling about me and my parents".

"We had a bad relationship before - my parents don't like me doing hip-hop things, because they think it's a lot of bad guys talking dirty," he added.

"But actually, I'm doing hip-hop to just let people know that they should enjoy themselves, and just be happy."

Lionel said that he did not believe hip-hop was part of mainstream - yet.

"But I think it will change in four or five years," he added.

"If they push really hard, I think people will accept this music."

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