A two-year-old hip-hop music video that depicts a home burglary in a "Chinese neighborhood," as the lyrics go, is angering some Chinese-Americans.
The song is called “Meet the Flockers” and is performed by Compton hip-hop artist YG. In the video, two men with bandanas around their faces set out to burglarize a house, to these lyrics:
"First, you find a house and scope it out, you find a Chinese neighborhood, 'cause they don’t believe in bank accounts...".
Once the actors playing the burglars enter a house, the camera shows a photo of an Asian family.
The video went up on YouTube in 2014, but lately it has been making the rounds on WeChat, a Chinese social media app. San Gabriel attorney Qiang Bjornbak is among those in California and China who are angered by the lyrics, which they find offensive.
“The song seems to hit the racial stereotypes, and encourages possible crimes targeted at a specific Chinese group," Bjornbak said. "That is the problem."
Bjornbak is drafting a letter to YouTube asking that the video be taken down. Some Chinese-Americans are also circulating an online petition.
"Our teams have evaluated it as artistic expression, just like thousands of other songs with content that many may find offensive," a YouTube spokesperson said in an emailed statement. Management for YG, the artist, did not respond to a request for comment.
Bjornbak said some local Chinese-Americans are also upset because home burglaries in several San Gabriel Valley cities are up.
Police in Alhambra and San Marino, two communities with large numbers of Asian residents, said they’ve seen an uptick in burglaries. But Sgt. Jerry Johnson with the Alhambra police department is skeptical that a music video would cause burglaries to increase.
“I can’t imagine it would," Johnson said. "To try to blame burglary statistics on a song is frankly just a little bit ridiculous.”
Police in San Marino said even though they've seen a rise in home burglaries, these haven't specifically involved Asian victims. They said an equal number of victims have been non-Asian whites.
There's historic tension between some Asian-Americans and African-Americans, and the controversy over the song feeds into that, said Shana Redmond, an associate professor of musicology and African-American studies at UCLA. But the song itself should not be taken seriously, she said.
"The absurdity of the song is evidenced in the video, which shows the young men approaching the front door of the target home with bandanas across their face in broad daylight," Redmond said in an email. "They take socks, coins, and DVDs — none of which hold true value. This isn't a heist; it's playtime."