Chinese electronic hip-hop artist Xinwenyue Shi drops his new album, Bashu Renaissance: Chapter II, an examination of the fading heritage of his beloved Chinese hometown region, Bashu, by shining a light on its people’s stories.
Shi explains, “Love is the main impetus behind this album. I love this city—Bashu culture baptized me. Time spent in the United States didn’t turn me into an American—Bashu will always be my roots. This album is part of my lifelong vocation in passing along my heritage to the next generation.”
Born in Chengdu, the origin of Bashu culture, Shi spent eight years in Boston before returning home prior to the pandemic. Bashu Renaissance: Chapter II is a reverential and nostalgic cultural documentary, blending traditional Chinese instrumentation with futuristic electronic and hip-hop savors.
Comprising nine tracks, Bashu Renaissance: Chapter II begins with “Yulin Platoon,” opening on a thumping beat topped by exotic chiming tones emerging into a low-slung hip-hop melody topped by Shi’s soft rapping flow.
Highlights on the album include “Who’s Mountain Howling at Midnight,” riding a boom-bap rhythm with delicate, luminous leitmotifs traveling overhead. A flute-infused bridge shifts the harmonics, followed by kaleidoscopic layers of swirling surfaces.
“Hustler Wang, A Li Li” rolls out on washes of electro-pop flavors atop a syncopated rhythm and Shi’s breezy flow. Infused with low-slung intoxicating momentum, the tune exudes an alluring sonic elasticity.
The song narrates the tale of a young DJ determined to make his mark in the region with his music. The Chinese lyrics convey an artistic journey loosely mirroring Shi’s own passage to find his sound and realize his ambitions.
Blending tinctures of nursery rhyme tones and pop-laced hip-hop, “3U Daydream” offers a sparkling, gleaming melody, as well as velvety, melodic vocals. A personal favorite, “Sad Boi” features an elegant, indulgent piano, crisp percussive accents, and the smooth, cashmere flow of Shi’s delicious rapping-lite vocals.
The final track, “Thanks for Tuning In,” undulates on a gentle, swaying rhythm as shimmering waves of leitmotifs give the tune dream-like textures.
Wondrously imaginative and innovative, with Bashu Renaissance: Chapter II, Xinwenyue Shi parades his enormous talent and creativity.