A close look at how Taiwanese musicians are using rap music as a creative way to explore and reconcile Taiwanese identity and history.
Like many states emerging from oppressive political rule, Taiwan saw a cultural explosion in the late 1980s, when nearly four decades of martial law under the Chinese Nationalist Party ended. As members of a multicultural, multilingual society with a complex history of migration and colonization, Taiwanese people entered this moment of political transformation eager to tell their stories and grapple with their identities. In Renegade Rhymes, ethnomusicologist Meredith Schweig shows how rap music has become a powerful tool in the post-authoritarian period for both exploring and producing new knowledge about the ethnic, cultural, and political history of Taiwan.
Schweig draws on extensive ethnographic fieldwork, taking readers to concert venues, music video sets, scenes of protest, and more to show how early MCs from marginalized ethnic groups infused rap with important aspects of their own local languages, music, and narrative traditions. Aiming their critiques at the educational system and a neoliberal economy, new generations of rappers have used the art form to nurture associational bonds and rehearse rituals of democratic citizenship, making a new kind of sense out of their complicated present.
About the Author
Meredith Schweig is assistant professor of ethnomusicology at Emory University.
“Renegade Rhymes theorizes rap’s role in post–martial law Taiwan. By focusing on the production and consumption of local rap music, Meredith Schweig’s finely written book illuminates how rap music offers ways to navigate, reconfigure, and reimagine the complex Taiwanese sociopolitical reality in the face of realpolitik and geopolitics. Schweig’s rich ethnography and insightful analysis are as powerful as the rap lyrics she discusses. This book is well researched, robustly conceptualized, and shines a new path in exploring the intersectionality of music, agency, power, and local knowledge.”
— Frederick Lau, Chinese University of Hong Kong
“Renegade Rhymes draws the reader into the complex worlds of rap communities in Taiwan. Schweig demonstrates her commitments to the people and places she describes by providing finely researched accounts of the context while allowing the artists to speak for themselves. This persuasive, engaging, and well-written book gives readers a clear sense of what’s at stake and why rap music matters.”
— Nomi Dave, University of Virginia, author of The Revolution’s Echoes
"Renegade Rhymes is a great book that fills in a knowledge gap for a lot of readers in the U.S. and beyond who are unaware of the hip hop scene in Taiwan. It covers the music and culture in great depth, but Schweig also manages to make the book pretty accessible to those who wish to learn this unique part of hip hop culture."
— Scratched Vinyl
“Another excellent book published by the University of Chicago Press, written by Meredith Schweig on Taiwan rap culture. The author has spent a lot of time researching the Taiwan hip-hop community in the early 2010s. Schweig mostly analyzes overtly political artists as Dwagie, but the story is fascinating from beginning to end. A must-read for anyone interested in Taiwan and hip-hop!”
— Nathanel Amar
"Meredith Schweig’s monograph, Renegade Rhymes, is the first detailed English-language account of rap music in Taiwan. Using interviews with Taiwan hip-hop key actors, observations, song lyrics and a plurality of archival materials, Schweig brilliantly fills a gap in the literature about popular music in Taiwan and in the Sinophone world in general."
— The China Quarterly
"Deconstructing verses from some of Taiwan’s foremost wordsmiths, [Schweig] demonstrates how the properties of Mandarin and Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese) are used to accentuate what the late, trailblazing scholar of hip-hop Adam Krims calls a 'percussion-effusive flow.' . . . What follows is a fascinating exposition of how this achieved."
— Taipei Times
"In Taiwanese hip-hop culture, as Meredith Schweig reveals in this captivating and original work, socio-political considerations continue to play a key role."
— James Baron
"Through Renegade Rhymes, Meredith Schweig
offers a vivid and lucid ethnographic and historical
account of coalescing hip-hop communities
in Taiwan, which she bolsters with
a detailed, relevant exploration of the island’s
social, political, and military histories."
— Tom Peterson