US rappers often fetishise Asian culture – but are a new crop of their east Asian counterparts fighting back, or falling into self-parody?
Sympathetic portrayals of east Asians in western popular culture are few and far between. It’s not surprising that every time we are recognised by the mainstream media, there comes a flurry of tweets and thinkpieces proclaiming a new era of social acceptance.
Before it was released, Crazy Rich Asians – a romantic comedy centred on a very privileged community in Singapore – was being declared our “Black Panther moment”. Likewise, it has been suggested that the recent success of 88rising,the American media company that signed Rich Brian, joji, and other popular Asian rappers, could overturn a long history of stereotyping and underrepresentation. But should we believe the hype?
Stereotypes about east Asian people are prevalent and deep-seated within rap music. This year, there was a brief murmur of disapproval after Wiz Khalifa dropped an album featuring the line “smoke got my eyes looking Korean”. But Eminem, Kanye West, Tyler the Creator and many more besides have received relatively little – if any – backlash for their own variations on the same “slanty eyes” gag. Unsurprisingly, east Asian women get a particularly bad rap; lines about “yellow bitches” abound, while fetishised “Geisha girls” and “China dolls” have become stock characters in braggadocious music videos.
88rising’s 88 Degrees and Rising Tour begins 22 September
Link : ‘My eyes looking Korean’: can Asian rappers defeat stereotypes?