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Expat Rap: Interview with Andrew Dougherty

A brief interview with Beijing State of Mind rapper Andrew Dougherty


Expat Rap: Interview with Andrew Dougherty

A brief interview with Beijing State of Mind rapper Andrew Dougherty


Following in the footsteps of his rap idols Jay-Z, Snoop Lion, Kanye West and Eminem, Andrew Dougherty’s own rap debut went viral, receiving  an impressive 113,867 views on YouTube and over 400,000 combined views on Youku. Using beats borrowed from Jay-Z’s hit ‘Empire State of Mind’, Andrew Dougherty’s ‘Beijing State of Mind’ was more a spoof of Beijing expat life.

Featuring lyrics about everyday life in the city, as well as some inside jokes that, perhaps, only those that live in Beijing would understand. Dougherty made references to everything from the Guo’an soccer team to popular Beijing hangouts, such as Houhai. Poking fun at some of the more eccentric habits of the locals, such as the men with their shirts rolled halfway up their bellies, and babies wearing crotchless pants, the song also sheds light on the harsh realities many face here. Be it fresh graduates fighting for jobs, migrant families letting their children to be raised by grandparents, and the inequities of the antiquated hukou (resident permit) system, Andrew seemed to leave very few stones left unturned.

I interviewed Andrew to find out more about him and his inspirations.

You attended the Naval Academy, how and why did you end up in China?

I attended the naval academy for a couple of years, but I left after two years to go on a mission, through my church, to Moscow, Russia in the late nineties.  While there, I studied a bit about economics and transitioning economies, but instead of going back to the academy I decided to transfer to George Washington to study Chinese. I’d learned Russian in Russia, but wanted to explore China, so I started studying the language.

Tell us a little bit about your role at your company. You’re based in Beijing?

That’s right, I’m based in Beijing. My role is basically an economic/political analyst, so I try and understand what’s happening in China.

You’ve also coached women’s basketball. Do you still coach on a competitive level today?

I haven’t done any coaching since I’ve been in Beijing. I’ve done a couple of kid’s sessions. I’ve mostly played in different leagues around Beijing, but it’s been a while since I’ve coached.

Despite all the challenges you mentioned in the song, you remained in China. Why?

China, especially Beijing, has changed so quickly. It’s both culturally and intellectually stimulating. It teaches you about yourself and reminds you of all the things you take for granted.

How did you manage to shoot so many scenes without any people in the background?

Patience and good luck. Shooting certain scenes at the Great Wall took a long time because there would be large groups of people, and we would have to wait until there were lulls in the crowds to do the shooting.


Andrew Dougherty performing Beijing State of Mind at the Global Times 1 year anniversary party in 2010

Have you recorded other rap songs or videos in the past?

Yes, I have recorded songs for a long time. There is other China-related material, which hasn’t been recorded yet. My goal is to record 10-12 China-relevant songs and compile them as an album.

Who are your rap idols?

Jay-Z. He’s fun and has great style. Snoop Lion, Kanye West and Eminem are also great talents and have contributed much as artists in the rap industry.

What is the rap scene like in Beijing?

I’m not really the expert on the rap scene in Beijing, although I’ve heard the underground music scene has been pretty vibrant in the past 5 -10 years. Given the chance, I would love to perform here.

Is Beijing still the best place to start a career for foreigners or would somewhere else in China or Asia be better?

Beijing is an awesome place. When it comes to Beijing vs. Shanghai for example, Beijing is more interesting. It’s a great place to learn Chinese, and it has the best Chinese instruction.

What advice would you give to young westerners in China who want to start a career here?

Be patient if you want to make it, and network as much as you can.


You can check out the video for “Beijing State of Mind” produced by Mark Griffith and starring Andrew Dougherty and Princess Fortier in the links below. Enjoy!

video courtesy of Mark Griffith Youtube channel:


Youku.com video courtesy of  喵呜字幕组


If you wish to learn more about hip hop in China you can start with its ancient predecessor shuochang and then you can read on Beijing’s hip hop pioneers and foreign rappers in Beijing.