For two years, Beijing has challenged me, hurt me, helped me grow, and sheltered me. But soon I’ll be boarding a plane and finally returning home.
As many expats know, leaving this country brings with it a mixture of emotions – everything from relief to a bittersweet sense of loss. As I reflect on this departure, I’ve been writing songs that talk about life here: both “the expat experience” and the local lives that I’ve seen.
This past weekend, I filmed and uploaded a music video for a song called “City of the North“, a letter to this city in all its difficulty, challenge, and unexpected beauty. It showcases a day in my life here, and stars the faces and lives that intersect in this explosion of culture: the students, migrant workers, foreigners, 老百姓 (ordinary common people), and more.
It would be an honor for you to watch “City of the North”; and I’d love to hear comments about your experiences – the places and ways that you too have lived, struggled, and grown abroad.
I, started this rhyme as I waited for the train
On the platform, hearing instrumentals in my brain
My kicks dirty gray ‘cuz the air so foul
One hundred degrees out, so we pray for rain
The line pulls up, and it’s full as hell
Not to mention, these cats got a funky ass smell
LL might be somewhere ringin’ some bells
But as for me, I can barely even hear my cell
These are the middle class losers, beggars, students
Here, if you don’t got a car, you ain’t included
A place that turns flesh to stone, like Medusa
The ’60s, tried to make a ghost of Confucius
The car turns north as my head shuts down
Prepared to close doors like old John Brown
Done with the rhyme, and we’re almost out of town
And I almost missed my stop, I was busy with the sounds
Just another day in the city of the North
Some push foreign whips; some are just piss-poor.
Just another day in a city filled with schemes
Filled with teams who be dreaming of the cream, so it seems
I live in a city where the dust hits ya bones
Where to be heard, your words gotta use megaphones
Where everybody smokes and it’s killing them slow
Where you can sing out loud and nobody hears the tones
People tryna go hard, but they scared as hell
So they keep coming back like a carousel
no roots, so they move like a tumbling weed
Like police at the door while they bundling weed
They hear the knock outside and they stumble and flee
While I roam the city free like Grand Theft 3
There’s poison in the air, so he’s coughin’ up lungs
But he breathes in, the Spirit’s got him speaking in tongues
Coughed up some blood, guess he is a little scared
But he made it this far, guess he’s sposed to be here
A life well lived is a life without fear
Got more than 4 bars, am I coming through clear?
I run the rings like Sonic, blaze like the chronic
Gaze at the stars, see my fate like a comet
But the haze on the city every day from the morning
No colors, just greys, like the city was in mourning
They poured over slums to make way for the champions
Now they got clubs where before, there were stadiums
Got bums, from locals turned aliens
An unmarked grave for the brave who remained in ‘em
I jumped off the train as I headed to the crib
and came face-to-face with a horse drawn rig
A man with blank eyes and a face like stone
Is this city mine, or his to call home?
Just another day in a city caught between
Tryna stay above water while we, chase our dreams
Some live and some die, tryna do their thing
Some live and some die, this big city, Beijing
Goodbye, Beijing. – 4/21 Online EP & Release Party
The above song is the first track off the new EP Goodbye, Beijing. that will be releasing on Saturday, April 21st at grandmaster.bandcamp.com. From 6-8 PM that day, we’ll be holding a release party/music video screening/farewell concert at Top Red Gallery in Beijing’s 798 Art District, premiering the second music video from the project. All chinaSMACK readers are invited!