If Gwen Stefani’s bindi signaled globalism gone awry, what’s to be made of the link between Hong Kong and the hood? With the force of a Jet Li roundhouse, the cultures have collided to confounding effect. Consider: A week after Romeo Must Die, co-starring DMX, debuted, an unknown Atlanta duo called the Ying Yang Twins conquered Billboard’s rap singles chart. Meanwhile, rapstress Foxy Brown christened her last album Chyna Doll, while R&B bad boy Sisqó invokes Bruce Lee on his recent solo effort (Unleash the Dragon). Never mind that none of the aforementioned are Chinese. ”That’s gonna help us,” says rapper Kaine of the Ying Yang Twins’ curiosity-arousing moniker. ”[A radio DJ] asked, were we Chinese or Japanese? I said, ‘We’re blackenese.”’ Sinophilia has also spawned increasingly popular Chinese script tattoos. ”It’s like having writing on your body, but not having writing,” says Sunset Strip Tattoo’s Mike Messina of the ancient inkings.
If it all seems more bewildering than Wu-Tang Clan‘s 36 Chambers, you’re not alone. Then again, ”this is the Year of the Dragon,” says John De Waal, spokesman for New Era Cap Co., which has created hip-hop-inspired ”Dynasty” baseball caps featuring Chinese characters for various U.S. sports teams. For rap-rocker , the appeal is simply about being cryptically chic. ”My Yankees hat could say, ‘Stupid white man buys another one.’ But it makes you look at it!”