Quick Coverage: All Eyez On YunB Proving Why East Asian Appreciation and Appropriation of Blackness Are Two Sides of the Same Antiblack Coin

I know that not a single one of y’all wanted to know that there’s going to be a South Korean musical version of Tupac’s life called All Eyez on Me performed by a cast that, as far I can tell, only has a single Afro Korean performer at this moment.

I know I sure as hell could’ve lived my life without knowing.

But here we are, with this knowledge fresh in our minds.

This Quick Coverage isn’t actually about the musical itself – or the fact that the folks behind it have apparently been deleting comments critical of the planned performance on Instagram – but about one of the performers.

Yun B is a New York born rapper who’s active in South Korea under Hi-Lite Records. I want to say that his most notable appearance was on Show Me The Money 777? Anyway, what’s most important about Yun B in this context is that he’s been cast to play Biggie Smalls in the musical.

You know, because the resemblance is so uncanny.

#TWINNING, apparently…

Apparently, some folks (rightfully) frustrated by the fact that a South Korean company is putting on this show with the cast we’ve got so far have been letting Yun B know about it. Probably because, as a New Yorker, they thought he’d be more sympathetic to their concerns.

Friends and gawkers, he was not.

I mean, he really was not.

In this thread by twitter user @myboysan*, we see videos of an Instagram Live session where Yun B pretty much shows that all that he thinks matters is the intent of the people putting the play together.

The first video starts strongly antiblack with Yun B going:

Why are a lot of Black folks mad about an Asian person portraying a Black character in a musical if the musical is not racist – or if the musical’s intentions is to portray the struggles of the Black peoples’ the black race in a positive light and bring awareness to the culture of hip hop?

(Which is some real “voice for the voiceless” shit and I do not like to see it!)

Yun B goes on to talk about how Biggie and Tupac’s rivalry, the struggles they faced and that of Black people as evidenced in hip hop culture… somehow transcend race to be relatable to everyone. Which is like… why it’s totally cool for a bunch of Korean people who aren’t Black to put together a musical about an iconic Black figure starring who exactly?

(*let me know if the tweets are deleted because I saved the videos for posterity)

Understand that the reverse… couldn’t happen.

It wouldn’t.

Also like… imagine the outrage if a theater in a primarily Black area here in the States were putting together a performance dramatizing the life of Sejong the Great – or, more directly comparable, Tiger JK – where almost every single Korean “character” in the musical was played by a Black person.

But again it wouldn’t happen because while there are absolutely Black people supremely obsessed with Korean culture the way that there are Korean people obsessed with Black culture –

That sort of thing literally wouldn’t be able to gain traction.

Anyway, several things about this set me off enough to thread about it on my lunch break today, but most notable really is that the video is him doubling down on the idea that Tupac and Biggie’s beef somehow manage to transcend their Blackness.

In a comment to another Instagram user, he writes:

What Tupac stood for transcends race. Whether Asian latino or whichever race really, the story of Tupac and Biggie/the east and west coast etc touches and moves everyone alike. This musical is all in Korean, and there is no demeaning representation of african americans. Don’t worry!

“What Tupac stood for transcends race.”

How… how is that even possible?

I mean, it’s not possible.

I just want to know how Yun B could think that and if he needs me to shake him until the cobwebs are knocked out of his head.

And then there’s the thing where he literally accuses Black people trying to explain to him – way more gently than I would – why this musical is problematic and why he needs to at least engage honestly with their comments…

Of using “the race card”.

Or being “stuck in the past”.

Because in 2020, a bunch of Korean theater folks decided to take a page from Glee and show their appreciation of Black culture and history with a musical about Tupac staring… exactly how many Black people?

(“It’s by Koreans, for Koreans, in Korean” barely holds any water usually, but when it comes to a musical about a Black rapper from America that doesn’t cast Black people in Korea to do the main roles? They can #KeepIt. Or meet me in the pit. Whatever.)

At the end of the day, this is about an endless entitlement to Blackness.

This is about Yun B and every single non-Black East Asian person involved in the show feeling like it is their right to tell our stories, take on our cultural icons, and not respect us one bit when we express frustration.

This is about the fact that South Korea has a big ole antiblackness problem that means Black people in entertainment in the country not only aren’t treated well, but are in an industry with people who’ve supported or even performed blackface.

This is about people who love Blackness and have convinced themselves that they appreciate it while treating Black people as trash on the ground when we point out that they can uh… appreciate without becoming part of it.

This is about the fact that people keep using their appreciation of Black culture and Black celebrities to excuse the fact that they’re appropriating it. That their appreciation has to be hands on and that they’re not willing to appreciate us in the process.

One of the many incredibly antiblack things that Yun B says in his live is that there aren’t (m)any Black people in Korea who are fluent in Korean and can act in a way that conveys emotion. (I’m paraphrasing a bit.)

But here’s the thing then: in that case… they shouldn’t be putting on the fucking play in the first place, huh?


One thought on “Quick Coverage: All Eyez On YunB Proving Why East Asian Appreciation and Appropriation of Blackness Are Two Sides of the Same Antiblack Coin

  1. How do I know it’s appropriation rather than appreciation, then they would speak out on Black causes, know what our issues are, do the work and research of at least trying to save black lives, and acknowledging that black lives mattered.

    But they don’t do any of those things.

    They just like the aesthetics of blackness, the surface culture, with no understanding whatsoever about any of the history or context behind that culture. It’s a shallow and ignorant appreciation of what WE look like in rap videos and on TV. I know all that because the only Black culture they focus on is media heavy hip hop culture. They dont now anything about any of the rest of the culture, just that tiny part.

    I also know all this because not a one of these people do any of the work to talk to their own people to address the pervasive anti blackness of their own culture…


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