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Music Releases (more headlines) 02-15-2017

NYC's Chinese-American MC, Bohan Phoenix, Releases New EP 'JALA'

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Bohan Phoenix was born in a rural area in China and immigrated to the US at 11, unable to speak a word of English. He took a liking to hip hop instantly and learned the language quickly by rapping along with just about anything he could get his hands on. From Eminem to Tupac, the rest is history.

Today Bohan is located in Brooklyn and is an anomaly in music, pursuing his career in both China and the US simultaneously, leading NYC performances in Harlem's legendary Apollo Theatre or Williamsburg darling Baby's All Right to two tours through China in 2016 alone. A fixture in both the NYC and Chinese underground scenes, Bohan strives to bridge the musical gap between East and West, touching on universally relatable topics of love, family, pride and motivation in both English and in Mandarin. These sentiments are also reflected in Bohan's longtime motto "lovelove," which is the namesake for the tight-knit Brooklyn creative collective and label imprint, loveloveN¥C.

This year, Bohan Phoenix kicked off 2017 with the Chinese New Years release of his latest EP JALA on Friday, January 27th, starting with the project's title track and video, which premiered The FADER and 88 Rising.

Bohan's mission behind his JALA EP is best summarized in the project's artwork, a hot red pepper in the shape of a Nike swish that is a reference to Chinese bootlegged goods, in essence, a byproduct of import, export and exchange between the East and West, not unlike Bohan's music itself. What many in the West don't know is that for the low wage Chinese workforce big Western corporations depend on, Nikes in the mainland are about twice the price. It's a small one of many instances that runs parallel to more serious issues in race and international relations across the world where Bohan strives to remind us that cultural exchange could be more of a two way street.

The EP features an international cast including a collaboration with Chengdu trap stars the Higher Brothers, production from China's most in-demand producer Howie Lee, Jamaican-English Harikiri, and Brooklyn beatsmiths Matt FX, Jachary and Drummy. The title track JALA features a catchy Mandarin hook and an infectiously danceable beat that brings a modern twist to the Guzheng, a Chinese traditional instrument. In the video, Bohan appears as a chili pepper-slinging kingpin who imports only the spiciest product from East to West, the peppers representing his hometown of Chengdu, as in his November release of "3 Days in Chengdu" which premiered via The Hundreds and Mass Appeal.

"I am trying to export my Eastern culture to the West, just as I was 'exported' here years ago. I believe that the exporting and exchanging of culture will be the key to a better future because it opens up a lane for communication outside of politics. With JALA EP, that's exactly what I wanted to do: open communication. That's why, unlike my previous project FOREIGN, JALA EP is no longer just Asian producers- I'm intentionally mixing Western and Eastern producers, sounds, languages, slang, motif and foods...everything you can think of! To me, this is what the future looks like." - Bohan Phoenix

In 2016, Bohan released a 4-song EP called FOREIGN, produced entirely by Beijing beatsmith Howie Lee. To date, Bohan is the only rapper who's worked with Howie, who recently won a Golden Melody Award (Taiwan's equivalent of the Grammy's) and founded fast-growing underground bass music collective Do Hits. Howie appears in Bohan's music videos for the tracks "FOREIGN" and "MOTIVASIAN", the latter of which was premiered on VICE China. Bohan has also released a single called "3 Days in Chengdu," the song for which premiered on Mass Appeal followed by a video on The Hundreds.

Much of the definitively eastern production in Bohan's music can be credited to Howie, and the two similarly strive to push the boundaries of making music that is by China and for China, a progressive departure from the country's historically conservative music landscape. In early 2016, Bohan was also selected by VICE China to participate in a nine-city tour through the mainland alongside producers Nehzuil, Mike Gao and Howie Lee, and has since collaborated fast-rising Chengdu rap group the Higher Brothers, who are already starting to turn heads in the West locking in collaborations with top producers such as Charlie Heat and Maaly Raw.

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