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China’s Internet Is Incensed by Gangsta Rap

Two years ago the rapper YG released a song with lyrics targeting Chinese neighborhoods for burglary. Now the Chinese internet is outraged.

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 15: Rapper YG performs during adidas Be The Difference LA on July 15, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images for adidas)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 15: Rapper YG performs during adidas Be The Difference LA on July 15, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images for adidas)

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 neighborhood, 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 netizens in China after Fox 11  in Los Angeles aired a television 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 U.S. Attorney’s office to try to get it removed, only to hear it was protected by freedom of expression under the First Amendment.

On Chinese social media platforms like Weibo — heavily monitored by Chinese government authorities — people were outraged that the song seemed to encourage crime against apparently vulnerable Chinese expats. Many reactions 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 said.

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 outcry for warning“precautions are needed when entering areas mainly populated by Indians, Pakistanis and black people.”

YG hasn’t publicly addressed the flap except for tweeting ‘What they saying about me on fox11 news?” on Sept 22. But it’s pretty clear the song lyrics came from 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 favorite 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.”

Reporting contributed by Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian

Photo credit: JONATHAN MOORE/Getty Images

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