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Koreatown rapper Dumbfoundead tackles whitewashing in films




Rapper Dumbfoundead, whose real name is Jonathan Park, stands on the roof of his apartment building overlooking Koreatown
Rapper Dumbfoundead, whose real name is Jonathan Park, stands on the roof of his apartment building overlooking Koreatown
Photo: Stephen Hoffman
Rapper Dumbfoundead, whose real name is Jonathan Park, stands on the roof of his apartment building overlooking Koreatown
A scene from Dumbfounded's music video "Safe."
Screengrab via YouTube


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Korean-American rapper Jonathan Park, otherwise known by his stage name Dumbfoundead, recently released a video for his new single “Safe.”

Nothing out of the ordinary there, except this video was different: it went viral. In it he confronts Asian stereotypes and addresses whitewashing in Hollywood culture. 

Video: 'Safe' by Dumbfoundead

You can see him recast himself in lead roles from classic movies such as "Pulp Fiction" and "Indiana Jones." 

This has been an ongoing issue in the film industry and has sparked similar responses, like that of actor John Cho. The actor created his own social movement called #StarringJohnCho, a campaign that shows audiences what Hollywood would look like with an Asian-American actor playing a lead role. 

Interview highlights: 

On the video going viral:

"When we discussed the concept of it, I knew it was going to grab some attention. But I didn't think it was going to get this much love, especially from the film blog world, the cultural blogs because obviously it's a music video first of all. It's a rap song, too. But yeah, just the way it kind of reached out all over from tech blogs to film blogs, cultural blogs, people were really drawn to it. And the Asian-American community like really supported it crazy. I had all these Asian-American actors that I recognize from different films and TV shows retweeting it and it was crazy to see that."

Reaction from Asian-American community: 

"I think they related to it and they kind of felt that frustration. I can tell when they retweeted it, they wrote comments like 'Yes, this is exactly how we've been feeling for years.' I think this is a topic that's kind of been going on for years. It's nothing new. It's just that that conversation has kind of been brought back to the light. And this was just kind of like my addition to the conversation and I think the song was kind of like the tipping point of that."

On being a Korean rapper, a Korean-American rapper or a rapper who's Korean:

"I think [the media] could've been a little more specific about specifying Korean-American, at least, because that's what I am. The main reason I wanted them to specify like Korean-American, most importantly for me, is that it's two different experiences. The Asian experience compared to the Asian-American experience. That gets confused a lot, I think, in the media, too. And the artists, too, because hip-hop in Asia is blowing up. There's a lot of rappers coming out of there, but it's completely two different things. I like to really talk about the Asian-American experience in my music, and we're the ones that are coming up, doing our thing, and kind of having to share these stories or really answer to a lot of things that get brought up about the experience in America so I always want to specify that. You know, that it's the Asian-American experience."