Social media in China erupts over rapper’s song about Chinese being easy to rob

Los Angeles TV report of Chinese-American businesses complaining about 2014 lyrics by hip hop artist YG picked up in China, prompting outpouring on Weibo, some of it racist, about status of Chinese and blacks in US

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 September, 2016, 12:28pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 September, 2016, 12:28pm

A song released more than two years ago by an American rapper has suddenly resurfaced in China, stirring uproar and indignation online for its depiction of Chinese-Americans.

The song Meet the Flockers, by hip hop artist Keenon Daequan Ray Jackson, better known as YG, begins with the lyrics “First, you find a house and scope it out. Find a Chinese neighbourhood, cause they don’t believe in bank accounts”. It goes on to offer a quick how-to in burglary, and the music video for the song follows armed, masked men as they sneak into a Chinese-American home and steal valuables.

The track was originally released in 2014 on YG’s first album, My Krazy Life, but recently came to the attention of internet users in China after Fox 11, a television station in Los Angeles, aired a segment last week about how some Chinese-American groups believed their businesses were targeted because of the song’s advice. The groups approached the FBI and US Attorney’s office to try to get it removed, only to hear it was protected by freedom of expression under the US Consitution’s first amendment.

On Chinese social media platforms such as Weibo – heavily monitored by government authorities – people were outraged that the song seemed to encourage crime against apparently vulnerable Chinese expats. Many posts expressed the belief that Chinese people in America face discrimination and don’t know how to protect themselves.

“In America, Chinese are even lowlier than black people. It’s impossible that American police would actually defend the rights of Chinese people,” one wrote.

But the debate also seemed to fuel racist stereotypes in China of black and brown people as violent and prone to criminality.

“Everyone says that black people face discrimination, what a pity that most black people steal and loot, and when they’ve earned money they love to show it off,” one person wrote on Weibo in response to the video.

Earlier this month an Air China inflight magazine article about London sparked an outcry for warning “precautions are needed when entering areas mainly populated by Indians, Pakistanis and black people”.

Air China has no excuse for prejudice in London travel guide

YG hasn’t publicly addressed the flap except for tweeting, “What they saying about me on fox11 news?” on September 22. But it appears the song lyrics were inspired by his personal history: he has talked about his involvement in robberies in the past and once served a brief jail sentence for burglary.

In a 2014 interview with the Los Angeles Times after his album was released, he said Meet the Flockers was his favourite song, and compared it to his “Ten Commandments”.

“See, I went to jail for that. So I know all about that [stuff],” he said. “Breaking into houses – I got a strike for that. Picking locks, sliding doors – I went to jail for all that. But that’s in the past. That’s over with.”