Design a site like this with
Get started

“New Slave”: a Shanghainese rapper’s powerful message in the midst of lockdown

I was incredibly moved by a short rap video I watched a few days ago (h/t @ByronWan on Twitter) by the young Shanghai-based rapper Astro (方略). I’ve created an English subtitled version (based on a re-upload by YT user SP Roger) with English subtitles, which you can find below. My translation of the lyrics (apologies to Astro that they’re far inferior in poetry and power to his) follow.

[when power confines freedom, thought and will

when the green channel is padlocked off limits

wearing the uniform but the mind’s on future promotions

when they view life and dignity like shit and dirt] x2

when the healthy get locked at home like the ill

when the truly ill aren’t allowed inside the hospital

when obeying orders becomes an excuse to hurt others

when they’ve turned into zombies, stripped of their souls

holding life in contempt, their faces are so steady

in the blink of an eye they forgot they’re also just nobodies

[their crowing confidence]x2

you didn’t get COVID so you don’t fucking count as sick

the so called humane society doing inhumane shit

facing desperate people their eyes are full of thorns

their hearts are too narrow to fit those big words they’ve sworn

their hands are too dirty and give off the smell of blood

shit, what a fucking stink

in this air I smell the rot of their souls

calling themselves “higher animals” but crueler than any animal

maybe scarier than the virus are people eating people

[orders from above are weightier than heaven

everyone else stand aside

apart from this bit of power in their hands

they pretend to see no other rights] x2

that’s right, in this brand new era

housing prices soaring and bottom lines shrinking

that’s right, in this prosperous era

survival of the fittest is the rule, humanity’s long since extinct

open your eyes, open your eyes

why does this vicious cycle keep repeating itself?

open your eyes, open your eyes

so many hiding among us aren’t fit to call themselves human

open your mind, open your mind

those dazzling skyscrapers hiding so much evil and suffering

open your mind, open your mind

who’ll fill the wounds left by the wheels grinding onward?

[when power confines freedom, thought and will

when the green channel is padlocked off limits

wearing the uniform but the mind’s on future promotions

when they view life and dignity like shit and dirt] x2

[Speaking:] You know, fuck the virus, fuck the government, fuck the police, fuck everybody who doesn’t care about this shit, and fuck everybody who still think that government policy is still correct. All right? Fuck you, fuck the world.

Unsurprisingly, Astro was pressured to remove the video. But what is more, he has uploaded (as of April 16) a still screen of text onto his Youtube channel ( under the name “A Clarification” 一個說明. The text is as follows [words originally appearing in English are italicized]:

Hi everyone, I’m 方略 Astro.

During this time, “New Slave” has gotten a bit of attention in various places. Thank you to all for your views and comments. I’m truly stunned and overwhelmed. My goal in writing this song was to have everyone come together to rethink how we should approach problems and solve them. But my original intention was absolutely not to make baseless critiques and divisions. I have always deeply loved my country and the people of this part of the world and firmly believed in the fundamental necessity of its its unity and stability. My intent in writing this song was because I felt deep sadness when I saw the loss of life and my own helplessness. It all came from my love for all of this.

I want to make clear that, apart from various domestic platforms, the only content I put out is on my Youtube channel. Content on other social media or shared elsewhere and their associated opinions are not from me. Currently, I have seen a few platforms sharing [the song] on my friends’ accounts, and voices that go against my intent have appeared. That’s why I’ve voluntarily shut down my Youtube in the hopes of cooling things off at the source temporarily. I also hope that everyone can discourse rationally.

Finally, I still don’t dare call myself a rapper. I’m just a fan. My attention to life, reflections, and creation will continue. I thank everyone for your critiques and hope this difficult time will soon pass. I wish peace for everyone. peace and love.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: