The grinding heavy metal riffs of Ai Weiwei’s debut single echo an even more unsettling sound—that of brick being crushed to dust.
The infamous Chinese dissident may indeed be delving into a new medium, (his first album, The Divine Comedy, was released on June 22, led by the hard-hitting single “Dumbass”). But it’s far from the first twist in this artistic activist’s narrative. One of the most noticeable turns in that ever-thickening plot occurred in 2011, when authorities demolished his Shanghai studio art gallery. Many supporters saw the razzing as a rebuttal to Ai’s numerous government critiques and human rights pleas in the international press. But his greatest ally and dear friend, Zuoxiao Zuzhou, could relate on a more visceral level, having sung protest songs against those PRC bulldozers for years as they lumbered closer to his family’s village in Jiangsu province—a region deemed ripe for urban development.