How Hip-Hop Culture is Used in Marketing in China?

Hip hop has rapidly evolved from its roots in 1970s New York to a global cultural powerhouse, resonating with audiences worldwide and reshaping industries. In China, this vibrant culture has defied initial skepticism to influence fashion, language, and lifestyle, particularly among the youth. The rise of hip-hop in China presents a unique narrative of how a global phenomenon can be woven into the fabric of local markets.

This article aims to delve into the interplay between hip hop and marketing within China, examining the synergy of streetwear trends, brand collaborations, and the significant impact of Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) in shaping youth consumer behavior and preferences.

The Rap of China: First Catalyst of Hip-Hop Popularity

The Rap of China is the first hip-hop music show in China. It was made by Iqiyi (a popular video website) and released during the summer of 2017. The show invited four famous celebrities as producers: Kris WU (吴亦凡), Hot Dog (热狗), Chang Csun Yuk (张震岳), and Wilber Pan (潘玮柏).

Since the beginning of the broadcast, it has been on Weibo’s hot search list every week. “The Rap of China” had more than 1,2 billion million topics, with fans participating actively in the discussion. “Hip-hop” has become the “Wifi” connecting people between themselves. According to local Chinese media, the average viewership of each episode is currently around 200 million.

As it was a new experience in China, the whole research and preparatory work for this show lasted for two months. About 200 rappers and hip-hop singers were invited to come to Beijing and talk with the production team about their lives, their music, and their opinions on TV programs.

This is also the first program without scripts. Under the established rules, everything really happened. To “keep real” is a key point for hip-hop culture and this show respect it. That’s why The Rap Of China was one of the first catalysts for propagating rap culture and lifestyle in the country.

Moreover, this show allows a lot of rappers to become well-known to the public. While before they were called “underground rappers”, nowadays a lot of them are at the top of topics and trends.

After the show, Chinese marketing got a new way to operate. A lot of brands collaborate with rappers and turn their advertising into a hip-hop style. It really impacts the promotion, through millennials and Generation Z in particular. They are the youngest population and used to stay up-to-date with fashion and trendy stuff. They are also very connected and share actively.

The Symphony of Brands and Hip-Hop Collaborations

The world of marketing in China is dancing to a new beat, thanks to the growing love for hip-hop among young people. Big brands are teaming up with hip-hop artists to create cool ads and products that speak the language of the streets. These collaborations are like hit tracks—everyone’s talking about them, and they’re changing the way things are sold. Let’s break down how this works and why it’s such a big deal.


Alibaba collaborated with two of the most popular players in “The Rap of China” to make rap music about Alipay. The video clip shows them in a simple way of life. It also links China’s cashless society with notions of “free” and “freestyle”:  no cash no burden. The lyrics expressed at the same time that Alipay is connecting people and also offering new opportunities.


Elema, a food-ordering app, also collaborated with a rapper who participated in the show. They made a song called “Hungry” which promotes the use and convenience of the application. The video clip shows weekend scenarios, and use hip-hop to present young people’s life, having fun, chilling, and finding all their needs on the app.


Samsung Galaxy chose to collaborate with three of the most powerful candidates for “The Rap of China”. They made this music named “To Be the Center of attention everywhere”, showing confidence and energy through hip-hop.

There are a lot of other advertisements using hip-hop feelings and rappers to influence consumers. Rap represents a new tool that can express true feelings in a direct way. This trend also brings fresh air to people who are accustomed to being busy and hiding their expression.

The Cool Factor: Hip Hop’s Magic Touch on Products

When a brand gets a hip-hop artist on board, they’re not just selling a thing; they’re selling a piece of the hip-hop world. It’s like telling the customer, “Hey, buy this and you’ll be as cool as your favorite rapper.” Whether it’s clothes, headphones, or even food, hip-hop makes everything a bit more street-smart and edgy.

Streetwear: The Fabric of Hip Hop in China

In the lively urban sprawls of China, streetwear isn’t just clothing; it’s a canvas where hip-hop paints its legacy. It’s more than fashion; it’s a statement, a lifestyle, and a badge of honor for Chinese youth who live and breathe the culture. This vibrant intersection of threads and beats is changing not only wardrobes but also the face of the fashion industry.

The Rise of Streetwear in Chinese Youth Culture

Let’s dive into the rise of streetwear among the youth. It’s a wave that’s swept over the cities, catching on like wildfire. This isn’t just about comfort or casual wear; it’s a way for the young crowd to express themselves, to show who they are and what they stand for. Streetwear is the uniform of choice for those making a statement, and its popularity only continues to skyrocket as hip-hop culture permeates deeper into the social fabric.

Hip Hop’s Influence on Streetwear

The aesthetic of hip hop — baggy jeans, oversized tees, flashy sneakers — isn’t just about looking good. It’s a homage to the roots of a culture that speaks to the soul of the streets. From graffiti art splashed across jackets to iconic lyrics emblazoned on hats, hip-hop’s swagger is evident in the threads worn by its admirers. It’s this authentic blend of music and fashion that’s keeping streetwear fresh and exciting.

The Brand Boom: Local and International Impacts

But what does this mean for fashion brands? We’re seeing an incredible impact, both locally and internationally. Homegrown labels are experiencing a renaissance, infused with the fresh energy of hip-hop, while international brands are tapping into China’s streetwear scene to stay relevant. It’s a booming marketplace where collaboration with hip-hop artists is the golden ticket to gaining street cred and consumer loyalty.

The Exclusive Edge: Limited Releases and Hype Culture

And then there’s the exclusivity factor — limited-edition drops that send waves through the market. These special releases, often born from collaborations with hip-hop icons, create a frenzy unlike any other. They aren’t just selling clothes; they’re selling a piece of history, a moment in time that fans can wear. The impact of these limited runs is profound, creating not just demand but a narrative that elevates a brand to legendary status among streetwear aficionados.

Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) and Hip Hop Prodigies

The influence of Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) in the realm of marketing is colossal, especially in the propagation of hip-hop culture within China. These individuals are not mere endorsers; they are trendsetters, influencers, and the bridge between brands and the pulsating heart of the youth.

The Role of KOLs in Amplifying Hip-Hop Culture

KOLs wield their power through social media, engaging with millions of followers by showcasing lifestyle choices that often include hip hop fashion, music, and attitudes. They are the narrators of hip hop’s story, bringing authenticity and personal connection to their endorsements.

Through their platforms, KOLs highlight the latest hip hop trends, from the newest sneaker releases to the freshest beats, making them a trusted voice among their audience.

Profiles of Prominent Hip-Hop Figures in China’s Marketing Arena

China’s marketing landscape is dotted with hip-hop artists who have become brand ambassadors and collaborators, using their influence to shape consumer behavior.

  • GAI: Also known as Zhou Yan, GAI has become a household name after his participation in “The Rap of China.” His influence extends beyond music, reaching into fashion, and has collaborated with streetwear brands, boosting their visibility significantly.
  • Higher Brothers: This hip-hop group from Chengdu has not only put their city on the map in the music world but has also captured the attention of global brands like Adidas, who recognize their ability to connect with the youth.
  • VaVa: Dubbed the “Queen of Chinese Hip Hop,” VaVa has leveraged her fame to become a face for brands like Kappa, meshing her music with fashion and influencing her massive following.
  • Jackson Wang: This rapper and GOT7 member have partnered with Fendi, creating a buzz with his personalized collection, “Fendi x Jackson Wang,” which melds luxury with street style, reflecting his personal aesthetic and musical ethos.
  • MC HotDog: Known for his influence on the Taiwanese hip-hop scene, MC HotDog has worked with brands like Nike, integrating his gritty style with their sporty image to create a compelling story that appeals to young, style-conscious consumers.

KOLs and hip-hop artists are not just the face of campaigns but pivotal players in the narrative of brands, crafting an image that’s authentic to the hip-hop ethos while driving consumer engagement and loyalty.

The Future of Hip-Hop Influence on Marketing

The future will likely witness an even tighter weave between hip-hop culture and brand strategies. We can anticipate a surge in experiential marketing, where brands don’t just sell products but also immersive hip-hop experiences. Virtual reality concerts, augmented reality clothing fittings, and social media filters that play into the hip-hop aesthetic are poised to become the norm, providing a multi-sensory engagement with the culture.

Potential New Markets and Sectors for Hip-Hop Cultural Integration

As hip-hop continues to break barriers, its influence is set to penetrate new markets and sectors. From tech to education, from healthcare to home goods, the ethos of hip-hop may find a home in unexpected places, endorsing everything from fitness programs with a hip-hop twist to educational tools that use rap to make learning engaging. The possibilities are as boundless as the creativity of the artists themselves.

Strategies for Brands to Authentically Engage with Hip-Hop Culture

For brands, the key to future engagement lies in authenticity. They must move beyond surface-level partnerships and dive deep into the culture. This could involve long-term collaborations with hip-hop artists in product development, supporting grassroots hip-hop events, or funding scholarships for young talent. Moreover, leveraging data analytics to understand the hip-hop audience will enable brands to tailor their campaigns to reflect the values and preferences of the community.

To truly resonate with the hip-hop demographic, brands should consider:

  • Cultural Investment: Supporting and investing in hip hop culture through sponsorships of events, artist development programs, or community projects.
  • Collaborative Design: Working alongside hip hop artists and influencers to create products that are genuine to the culture rather than merely slapping a name on merchandise.
  • Storytelling: Using the powerful narratives inherent in hip hop to craft marketing campaigns that tell a story, connect on an emotional level, and resonate with the core values of the audience.
  • Diversity and Inclusion: Ensuring that hip hop’s diverse voices are represented and that marketing efforts align with the inclusive spirit of the culture.
  • Innovation: Staying ahead of the curve with the latest trends in music, fashion, and technology that are driving the hip hop scene forward.

Here is our streetwear case study:

Case Study: sports specialization company

Elevate Your Brand with Gentlemen Marketing Agency

Dive into China’s hip-hop revolution with Gentlemen Marketing Agency, your expert partner in crafting campaigns that resonate with authenticity and flair.

Why Choose Gentlemen Marketing Agency?

We don’t just follow trends; we’re on the frontline of creating them. With our finger firmly on the pulse of China’s hip hop scene, we craft campaigns that resonate with authenticity and authority. Here’s why forward-thinking brands partner with us:

  • Cultural Expertise: Deep understanding of hip hop’s influence on China’s market.
  • Tailored Collaborations: Strategic partnerships with leading hip hop artists and KOLs.
  • Custom Campaigns: Bespoke strategies that fit your unique brand identity.

Our Services:

  • Strategic Brand Collaborations: We’ll match your brand with the perfect hip hop artists and KOLs to amplify your message and engage your target audience.
  • Cultural Marketing Campaigns: From streetwear launches to hip hop events, we design campaigns that capture the essence of the culture and the attention of the market.
  • Digital Storytelling: Leveraging social media platforms, we create narratives that embody hip hop’s rebellious spirit and your brand’s message, ensuring high engagement and conversion.
  • Content Creation: Our creative team produces content that sings with the voice of the streets, from eye-catching visuals to compelling copy that speaks to the hip hop enthusiast.
  • Market Insights: With data-driven analytics, we offer insights into the evolving hip hop market, enabling your brand to make informed decisions that hit the right note.
GMA Services

At Gentlemen Marketing Agency, we’re not just marketers; we’re cultural translators, bridging the gap between your brand and China’s hip-hop scene. Partner with us, and let’s make your brand move to the rhythm of success.

Ready to make some noise in the marketplace? Contact us now and let’s turn up the volume on your brand’s potential.


  • Yes! Chinese fashion brands get inspired from hip-hop culture since ages, K-Pop music from Korea and Hip-Hop music from the United States are such inspiration for the Chinese fashion world.

  • Is there any KOL in Hip Hop that you can advise to Brands?

Leave your comment