- Did you catch the previous episode yet? That was an hour long review of BTS’ Map of the Soul: 7! And, unlike this episode, it has a transcript!
- There’s a chance that I mispronounce Sik-K’s name when I talk about m-flo’s collaboration with him, eill, and Taichi Mukai (“tell me tell me“). Apologies for that! One note though is that I and Sik-K (in this one HIphopKR interview) pronounce it the same way which is unexpected!
- m-flo loves BoA “the love bug“
- The original twitter thread I used to document my project’s progress
- My #StitchProcesses tweets
- The masterpost for my massive project on blackness and antiblackness in these industry and fandom spaces
- “A Brief History of Korean Hip Hop”
- Bad Rap /My review of Bad Rap
- “How American R&B Songwriters Found A New Home in K-Pop“
- “K-pop in the Age of Cultural Appropriation”
- I slipped up when recalling it but YunB is playing Biggie, not Tupac! (Check out the Quick Coverage here.)
- “kpop is purer than western rap/hip-hop” (2/25/2019)
- “appropriation or appreciation? unpacking south korea’s fascination with black culture“
- If you can afford it, please pick up a copy of Myoung-Sun Song’s Hanguk Hip Hop: Global Rap in South Korea. It has changed my life for the better and her scholarship is stellar and timely!
- Korean pop and hip hop have come to mean a lot to me over the past significant chunk of my life. In some ways, I am an hold hand. In other ways, I am a baby fan. It’s fascinating to see the ways that these spaces are and aren’t similar to other fandom spaces I’ve been in. In excited to keep working, researching, and writing in these spaces and broadening my understanding – oh, and having fun in fandom which is like… actually happening on the regular, y’all!
- I mention constantly how I couldn’t do a lot of my work without the friends I’ve made along the way. I would like to thank, first and foremost, Jae and LJ. I could not have kept my head relatively cool without being able to shout in their general vicinity about it. I’d also like to thank my K-pop fandom friends on Twitter like Carrie, Brie, Morg, Caps, Misha, and Quil. There are so many of you who have opened your hearts, minds, and DMs up to me across the past year and I love you all so much.
Speaker: Hello everyone and welcome to Episode 4 of Stitch Talks Ish. If you missed it check out last month’s episode where I reviewed BTS’s Map of the Soul: 7.
I feel like it’s a fantastic episode, just saying –
But on a related note, episode four is also going to be about K-pop, but from a more critical lens.
This month I’m going to kind of celebrate the anniversary of my starting work on my big project on blackness and anti-blackness in Korean pop and hip hop as industries and genres but also in the fandom spaces – primarily internationally because I don’t have reliable access to Korean fandom or even Japanese and Chinese fandom.
(I do have some access to fandom in other parts of Asia but those fans tend to be the loudest and I can’t access them.)
This all started because I got really invested in BTS – really, mainly BTS – the end of 2018. I’d been listening to them through the tail end of grad school. I was in grad school from 2016 to the beginning of 2018. Around the end, the last two semesters or 2017/2018 I started listening to BTS because my nieces were listening to K-pop and my then 15-year old niece -really huge BTS fan – made a playlist for me (or sort of made a playlist for me) where she recommended all of these different artists, and I was listening to BTS’s DNA.
I thought about it and I think DNA is actually the first BTS song that I remember as a BTS song not something that was playing and like, “Okay, this is good.”
I’ve always been interested in K-pop and K-hip hop because if you read my I think Fast and the Furious Foregrounding post for my project, I’ve been into East Asian pop and hip hop since I was a high schooler because I started with M-Flo.
Their M-Flo Loves collaboration series remains one of the most important pieces of music in my life to this day. They just had a new song come out with Sik-k, a Korean rapper and two other Japanese artists who I was unfamiliar with before and that still is very important to me.
BoA, she collaborated with them when she was a teenager with [the] love bug.
Then I got into Rain. Rain was the first K-pop artists that I got into going, “Okay. This is a K-pop artist.” Because of course BoA predates him in my trajectory but I didn’t ping her as K-pop because I wasn’t really sure what K-pop was.
Two, three years later I get into Rain and it’s like, “Yes.”
Big Bang, 2NE1, f(x), SHINee, TVXQ I believe.
I really liked K-pop. I listened to it a lot a decade ago. Then I went in and out. These songs are on my playlist. I’ve definitely had Big Bang songs on my playlist since.
I really what is coming out of Korea in terms of music on many levels. Getting into BTS really jumpstarted my interest in analyzing the music and the artists the way I do my other fandom interests.
If you’re new to all of this, essentially I view myself as a rogue fan study scholar because not just that I don’t have institutional backing, there’s no college backing my fan studies work which would make me an independent fan study scholar, but the rogue comes in where one of the issues with fan studies for me is asking for permission.
Of course, who’s going to give me permission to speak critically about anti-blackness in their work?
I’m not going to be able to ask someone anti-black like Franzeska and be like, “Hey, can I reference your work? Can I have permission for that? Can I use your tweets?”
They’re not going to give that permission to me, so I play fast and loose with things that which make me rogue.
Because of how I do my work, I definitely have an interest in analyzing my fandoms critically because I’d never really feel that many people are doing it.
There are really interesting and really awesome people writing academic content about K-pop and journalism about K-pop and K-hip-hop, but it is largely from a celebratory avenue not necessarily critical.
Or if it’s critical, it’s not about what I am critical about.
When people talk about things like cultural appropriation, those things don’t tend to really make it into relatively mainstream avenues. They don’t go viral and there’s no presence.
There really aren’t people acknowledging that these conversations are happening who could then maybe reach out to the artists.
Reaching out to the artists, by the way, doesn’t really work because they never respond.
I know this from September emailing a BigHit for critical and curious reasons because I have questions and then I was also really annoyed about something and … no response. We’ll see if that changes ever.
Then I don’t know. I was just really interested because one of the first things I knew about K-pop fandom period – not the music because I knew the artists were talented – but then I got into the fandoms specifically because the fandoms were incredibly anti-black.
My niece that I mentioned, she’s in fandom. She has a Twitter account. It’s very cute. She had an Instagram before that, and she would show me the really just horrifyingly anti-black stuff that people were saying to Black K-pop fans regardless of what group they liked.
It’s not an ARMY thing. It’s not a Monbébé thing. It’s not an EXO-L thing.
It is a fandom thing, that anti-blackness is super duper universal.
And like I was seeing this, and I was like, “Whoa. Someone needs to talk about this.” Of course, there are articles. I have linked to some I think on my master post but I will be linking to some newer articles about anti-blackness in K-pop fandom and from artists in the notes for this post.
Of course, I don’t know any of these writers for these articles, so I haven’t fact-checked anything myself. I’m assuming that if you post an article on the Internet I have to assume that you’re doing it with the diligence that I do because I do a lot of research and references. I’m going to hope that they are too.
But yeah, I came into this going, “Wow. Yikes.”
Then balancing my deep love of this music because you fall hard and fast.
Especially if like me, the seeds were planted when you were a teenager well over a decade ago.
And it’s been really interesting this past year of evolving my understanding of K-pop and applying my experiences within the fandom and my feelings for the artists to this project.
Right now I can’t tell you how many articles I have left but April should get me the “But Namjoon” article because it’s – “But Namjoon, Nothing”: it’s about the way that fans like if you go, “Oh, this group did blackface. That’s bad. They’re terrible,” but you have a BTS icon. Someone will be like, “But you stan Namjoon who did X, Y, Z, and it’s going to talk about how that’s really unhelpful, it’s super disingenuous, AKA shady as shit, and it doesn’t help, again, does not help.
After that, I’m looking at my notebook, which is only halfway finished as of now, possibly because I started another notebook because I wanted to focus on a mini-essay series for this project and authenticity, which I’ll talk about in a minute.
What I have left is the “But Namjoon” article, then I have “Black fans as antis”, which is about the trend of relabeling critical black fans as ant-fandom translates to K-pop fandom.
That’s going to be close to home because back in September a bunch of my friends and I were accused of being anti-fans because we were annoyed about cultural appropriation and it’s like…
I have spent so much money on BTS within 2019 and if not for COVID-19, I would have also spent lots of money on BTS so far. I have concert tickets. I was planning on getting concert tickets back in September. That idea that you stop being a fan because you’re critical really bothers me, especially when it’s being critical of anti-blackness.
It actually ties into the “But Namjoon” article on some level.
Then the authenticity and blackness was actually supposed to just be a single essay, but it’s actually been broadened into like a five or six part as a series.
So far, we have the introduction is finished. I have an article on essentially misogyny and how that can lead to anti blackness because if everybody is telling you you have to be a certain way to be taken seriously as a female rapper in Korea and they’re all doing hood cosplay, what are you going to do?
Then I have an essay that came out last month in March about YouTube reactors and other people who assign authenticity for clout.
Looking at how people who generally don’t seem to care about BTS collect tons of fandom clout from the overarching ARMY. By saying just super celebratory but like fake as hell shit.
I use two examples. I use Porchista Kakpour – she’s a writer I guess, who made a tweet that blew up or she compared BTS’s “UGH!”, to gangster rap but also stated in a way that diminish the value of well gangster rap and just showed her ass –
And then her subsequent like, I didn’t even know how to describe it because she had like a meltdown in response to Black people going, “no, that ain’t it”. It was very embarrassing honestly.
It was because she didn’t get the response from ARMY that she wanted, except that primarily the responses she was getting of people going, “Hey, your tweet doesn’t really make sense and it sounds like you’re devaluing hip hop, from Black people”.
Her response was to become incredibly anti-black while claiming that she cares about Black people. Kind of wild because I think her tweets’ still really funny. Her tweets, the ones about, Ugh, but
I was a hip hop journalist for a long time and really wish I could convince hip hop heads to give a listen to this track Ugh on the new BTS, which features some of the most insane hard rapping I have heard since we used to use embarrassing terms like gangster rap, I swear. It is a crazy violent, chaotic bop.
This was the beginning of March, which was like 86 years ago.
But it was just really wild to me because it’s a good song. It’s one of my favorites on the album, but comparing it to gangster rap on any level is a choice. She got the response that choice earns and –
She proceeded to react really poorly in response to criticism from black people in and out of the fandom – but primarily out of the fandom. She was assuming everybody was in the fandom. It was just really fascinating.
And I talked about this one youtuber, BrisXLife or something like that. He’s a black guy reacts to K-pop groups, dude. I’ve never watched any of his videos, but I literally always see him either like, I either see call out threads for stuff he said or done or I’ve seen him apologizing for stuff he said or done.
It’s just like, “yikes. What are you doing?”
In that article, I actually questioned the idea of authenticity because only some people matter. No one’s quoting me to get my opinion on BTS and you really shouldn’t. Please don’t ever actually do that. That would be bad.
No one is caring about opinions from black people unless they are celebratory opinions. That’s why BrisXLife is being hyped up. That’s why they go to hip hop journalists. They hype up hip hop journalists who shout out BTS. Even if those hip hop journalists are audit or obviously anti-black and a bunch of stuff gone went down with Porochista – that anti-black…just out of the ass.
It’s just really fascinating to me that the desire for validation, not for yourself as a fan, but for BTS as a group –
And they’re already really good rappers. I can’t do half of what they’re doing. I can’t even do like 15% of what they’re doing. I can write. That’s where I’m at. That’s it.
I don’t think that it’s necessary to hunt for authenticity for them.
If a music blogger or a journalist or rapper doesn’t like BTS, how does that affect you as a fan, but also how does that affect BTS as a group?
That desire to chase authenticity doesn’t just come from the artists themselves.
We’ll see in this month article which is about idol rappers and gatekeepers that there are artists who chase authenticity or chase approval if approval of their authenticity from other rappers. Then you have the fans who are like, “Oh, well, so-and-so said BTS is X, Y, and Z.”
Right now they’re celebrating the one producer for Jungkook’s “My Time” – Does that feel right? Hope it’s right – Sleep Deez.
If you listen to my review that was the song where there is a poorly used “finna” and I’m going to just fucking die laughing about that forever because it’s just funny to me. You have three black people working on the song and there’s a single incorrect “finna” is just tickling me.
All right, I love that song but that finna makes me giggle because of who I am as a human being.
But you have right now, like as I follow Sleep Deez because I’m really interested in music production and seeing the black producers who’ve gone to K-pop to make hip hop and RB because they can’t do it here in the US for the artists who are getting popular for it, which are unfortunately predominantly white artists.
I’m interested in his craft and his style and all of that, but I’m watching ARMY in his mentions all the time. They mean well, they are just super excited that this dude is also hyping up the baby as he should.
That song is great, but I have to wonder what happens when – because to be human is to err, I guess – What happens when he messes up?
What happens when he is critical, if he is ever? What happens when he slips up? What will the fandom do then? You know? When the guy whose approval is necessary to the authenticity they’re trying to glean for Jungkook and possibly the rest of BTS doesn’t do the thing anymore? You know?
I’m always thinking about this thing because I find it fascinating because I also don’t think authenticity is that important in music.
I actually do have to recommend that if you haven’t watched it already and you have Netflix, you should check out Bad Rap. Watch it twice because that’s how I got a better grasp of that documentary, Bad Rap and I’ll link in my review in the notes, Bad Rap is a documentary following Dumbfoundead primarily, Korean-American and three other Korean-American rappers. I cannot remember anybody else’s name but Awkwafina’s right now. I do list them in the review and it’s just like this path to or through hip hop and their desire to be taken seriously, to be taken authentically is really interesting.
And they don’t really make it.
Actually Awkwafina, her rap is more well-received than the dudes parroting established hip hop genre conventions, hood looks, hood sounds and it’s fascinating because Awkwafina, the song they listened to, at least for the clip that they showed was about her vagina. She did that and they liked it, largely.
The beginning of the documentary does like hip hop history 101 and I would love to see more of that in the scale of that documentary series that’s on Netflix as well that looks at hip hop history in the United States. I mourn the fact that documentary series will probably never look at Asian artists period. I feel like that’s super unfair. They did gangster rap and they did briefly very briefly mentioned things like Latasha Harlins’ murder and the LA Riots, but they did not mention that Korean rappers like Tiger JK came up in this and were inspired by this and inspired to be positive about this.
Tiger JK really could have been utilized to full effect as someone who was basically experiencing this in-between existence because he was friends with all of these black people as a young adult in LA and seeing them being disenfranchised and discriminated against by his people, his Korean people. But then he’s also seeing the LA riots and he seeing violence against Koreans. He seeing violence period. Horrifying on a scale that at his young age, just fucking horrifying and he’s inspired to make art from it. He’s inspired to try and bring communities together from it. That’s driven him to this day. That’s not in that documentary. That won’t be. He won’t get an episode about Korean hip hop that – I mean, I’m assuming if there is an episode, I would really love to see it.
Then if we get it, I don’t even know that it would reckon with how blackness and anti-blackness are bound up in this industry and the genre and by these artists.
Just last month I believe, who can remember life before isolation, but I guess last month, end of February, we had that rapper Yun B go on Instagram live. He’s playing Tupac [Biggie] in what I really do hope is canceled – a performance, a musical in Korean doing Tupac’s All Eyez On Me – He is playing Biggie Smalls. I’m assuming another non-black Korean will be playing Tupac. As far as I can tell from the casting that was released at that time when I was researching, there’s only one Afro Korean person in that she is an actress and singer.
We’re not going to negotiate or reckon with if we get that hip hop documentary, we’re not going to get that. We don’t actually in Bad Rap get a reckoning with East Asian anti-blackness actually, which is fascinating because the director of Bad Rap is a black woman. Usually, we’re on top of this.
I don’t really feel that documentary is. At all, but whatever. It’s fine.
Anyway, it’s been a year almost. I think – I’m trying to check and see what my first tweet was…process thread. I’m looking on Twitter really quickly, but I don’t know, it’s just fascinating. I’ve been working on this thread for a while. I’m scrolling through and it’s like see June and I see July. This was really long time. I’m looking at my first thread. My first thread is so massive.
I remember I think the first thread that I did, which wasn’t actually connected to the process thread was thinking about how I was seeing people go like, “Oh, I love X group because they make hip hop accessible. I like hip hop now because I listened to this Korean group and nobody, they don’t rap about sex. They don’t rap about drugs, they don’t rap about guns,” and it’s most of the artists…they can’t acknowledge having sex or relationships, even if it’s not in their contract. It’s just you have to appear available to your audience.
This isn’t just a K-pop thing. There are artists in American in US-ian media who have seen their audiences plummet for no longer being available to said audience because they’re dating, because they’re pregnant, because they’re married. Right?
For drugs. Korea has very strict drug laws there even if they are doing drugs, we will not know about it because that ends a career.
See what T.O.P from Big Bang is still going through. See what Wonho for Monsta X went through. With T.O.P that was confirmed. He did drugs, they tested him. There was drugs in his system with Wonho. That was just someone else said that he did drugs, that he smoked a blunt.
Someone else said that he smoked a weed once, three, four years ago.
And his career tanked.
Like… so they’re not fucking rapping about drugs, geniuses.
Then guns. Let’s be very clear here. Yes. Some of the artists put gun sound effects in their songs like, “UGH!”, for BTS does. There are a few – BTS does it a couple of times. Mostly in their early stuff when they were trying to be really hood. They did a lot of visual and auditory hood cosplay. Because it’s shorthand, they’re trying to appeal to this authentic audience.
But I was seeing all of these people, and I still see it every so often actually going like, “Oh, yes, it’s so easy to care about hip hop now because I like Zico, I like Bobby, I like Mark. I like RM, I like Suga.”
And it’s like the reason why they like these artists is because they’re not necessarily listening to their early or off-record stuff, off-brand stuff. I do know a lot of people just ignore that hip hop in the United States isn’t just sex, drugs, power.
A lot of people just pretend that’s all it is, but they ignore the nuances of hip hop until a Korean or Chinese or Japanese artist does it.
Then they’re like, “Oh, yes, this is political. I understand why other people like that other stuff.”
It always comes down to devaluing hip hop and making hip hop out to be something that could be better, if not for those pesky black people.
I remember doing this thread and it was like, “Do you think they understand that these idols would do this? If they could, they would rap like this if they could?”
But also, that just as there are Korean artists who rap about sex and some Korean-American artists – like if you’re not based in Korea, primarily chances are that you will be able to get away with a little bit more in terms of what you do, especially if it’s like indie or off-label.
They ignore that black artists are multifaceted as well. When BTS went on their break, I remember seeing a tweet that was someone going like, “Oh,” because it was celebrating Namjoon like, he went to like a river or something and he was looking at the sun and he was just Namjoon-ing. It was very cute because that’s fuckin Namjoon. He’s very cute. I love him.
The replies on the tweet were all things like, “Oh, I love that I like this rapper who isn’t going out partying, who isn’t doing drugs, who isn’t talking about hoes and blah, blah, blah.”
It’s like…he was out in nature.
Do you think rappers don’t leave the house in the United States?
I mean – nobody’s leaving the house in the United States, hopefully, right about now.
But it was just so wild that in the quest to prop up Namjoon, they had to denigrate or dismiss African-American hip hop. What are you doing?
That tweet was actually from February 2019. It was a thread. I did and I’ll link it, but some of the master posts, I won’t link it again, but it’s in my master post. In that tweet thread I said,
“I think the most frustrating, interesting but frustrating thing I’ve seen as I’m actively listening to K-pop and tentatively engaging with the fandoms is like how non-black folks outside of Korea are like, this is so much better/more wholesome/pure than the US stuff when it comes to rap..” It’s okay to be, my rap experience is limited to K-pop and I like what I’m hearing, but so many people on the fandom spaces casually infantilized K-pop stars and the music they create specifically to shit on the black American hip hop that they’re pulling from.
Obviously. I’m not saying that K-pop rappers aren’t good at rapping, but like it’s telling how they’re hyped up for rap/hip hop when you compare it to how various fandom spaces talk about black people in fandom/black, including rappers in relation to K-pop.”
Then I mentioned the thing with my niece and her telling me about fandom anti-blackness.
Then also the weird thing about the K-pop rap is purer than US rap by black people. Obviously is like that’s not necessarily true and unnecessarily generalizes two similar but different enough genres of music and the people performing them to make a racist point. You can’t tell me that there aren’t any K-pop songs that talk about sex in any capacity unlike at the same time there are US rappers who don’t rap about sex. These sexualizing and again infantilizing Koreans in order to hyper-sexualized black people is not a great look.
That was actually the first tweet I did for really related to this project. I kept seeing it, I kept seeing people be proud of themselves for liking idol groups because the idol groups are “non-sexual”. It’s just like, why are y’all like this?
Then it always has to be in relation to hip hop in the US which is apparently like super dirty and gross.
I grew up with that shit.
It is absolutely messed up that this is how you guys engage with this content or not engage. A lot of people aren’t listening to hip hop, they’re not listening to what’s being put out on the radio, but they’re willing to have really public, really wrongheaded opinions about what hip hop is and why their artist faves are doing it better.
And I’m not a fan of gentrification in offline life and I’m not a fan of it here.
That was a while.
Also for posterity’s sake, the first tweet I ever did for using my initial hashtag, which was the hashtag #WhatFandomRacismLooksLike for this project was:
“I don’t want to do a #WhatFandomRacismLooksLike installment on the racist point of view that K-pop and its related fandoms aren’t for black people because I don’t enjoy being fussed at, but like I might have to at least draft it/put it on Patreon because I’m still so frustrated.”
That was April 5th. It’s April 6th when you guys are listening to this, and I need y’all to know that it has been a year of me working really fucking hard on this project. I’ve gained some followers for it. I’ve lost other followers.
I know people are like, “I didn’t follow you for this K-pop shit,” and I’m like, “You’re wrong. You did. You just didn’t know it yet.”
I’m really passionate about this. One day it’d be really nice if I could sit and talk with some of the rappers that I’m covering because It’s really interesting, this evolution of art.
And I think that what could help is communication between artists, between producers, and between – I guess critical people: black people who have done the work, Korean people who have done the work on cultural appropriation, anti-blackness, blackface, just the little major things that work their way into Korean entertainment and then Korean pop and hip hop.
I think that I still have a ways to go because every time I write something new, I come up with something newer.
Some of it’s critical, some of it is celebratory, you know – because I do love this music.
I’ve “met” with many really cool people. A friend forever: Jae is amazing and I really, really just adore her existence. She’s out here in Florida with me. We’re all struggling under DeSantis.
I’ve met a really cool squad of nerds. I’m in a group chat with people. Two of my dearest friends I met because of BTS.
I do want to talk about the positives and I do want to talk about growth and evolution. Aside from J Hope’s “Chicken Noodle Soup” remaster, I guess we really haven’t seen any overt cultural appropriation or implicit anti-blackness from BTS.
That’s growth and it’s good, especially because this is a year that got us an NCT comeback with like two or three hair crimes in like a single set of concept photos.
This is again the year with Yun B telling us that – telling black people that we were playing the race card by saying he shouldn’t play Biggie saying that Biggie and Tupac’s struggles transcend race.
You have to take the good with the bad.
2020 is already really bad, but it’s differently bad.
In terms of my project, with my project, last year, one of the first brushes with anti-blackness and K-pop was actually from TK Park, my nemesis. If he’s listening to this, fuck him.
Fuck you. TK Park. Fuck you. [*blows a kiss*] Fuck you.
TK Park and Youngdae Kim did an article for Vulture Magazine that was about – it was A Brief History Of Korean Hip Hop.
I won’t be linking to that article. I will link to an archive link to the article and to TK Park’s follow up. The response to the very brief – I think it’s under a thousand words, honestly – History of hip hop was… it was okay, but like people mentioned that blackness was painfully obviously absent from their article.
It was like hip hop is attributed to Korean Americans who thought it up on their own, aside from some brief brushes with gangster rap. Then they took it back to Korea and Koreans really, you know… turned that shit out. They erase the rapper Yoon Mi-rae’s identity. She is African-American and Korean. They only call her Korean-American in the article. Then it talks about authenticity and actually, we’ll go that piece in one of my authenticity articles. I guess it will be like a review of their history because I’m an asshole.
It was like these artists don’t need to call back to or reference or whatever Black artists or Black whatever.
Not only do they actually still need to do that but many of these artists especially in the idol groups – so BTS, EXO, Monsta X.. I don’t know if any girl groups are working with Black R&B and hip-hop producers. If you know of any, let me know because I want to check them out and possibly scream – They’re still working very intimately, very closely with Black artists and Black creators.
They are still not necessarily doing anything truly novel.
They aren’t reinventing the wheel; they are spinning it really well though.
TK Park also, I guess, apparently, that guy lies like most people breathe constantly well or poorly. I don’t know. And so he claims he got a bunch of comments about cultural appropriation. He took to Twitter to try and dunk on people with significantly smaller followings than him because he’s an asshole.
Again, fuck you, TK Park.
He took to his website because he is The Korean. That’s apparently what the TK in TK Park stands for because it’s a pseudonym.
He took to his site, Ask A Korean to write a really shitty article about K-pop in an Age of Cultural Appropriation. I can’t remember the title but it’s the inverse of my article in cultural appropriation.
In it, he basically doesn’t just dismiss the potential for appropriation from Koreans, he kind of accuses Black Americans of colonizing, of being colonizers, of being oppressors, of forcing Koreans to perform our music and then being mad that they’re not performing it right.
Honestly, I would just like to feel genuinely appreciated as a Black person.
It sucks to not be sure if the artists you really adore understand that Black people are as human as they are. When I started this, I don’t remember where I mentioned it but I mentioned the concept was like, “I don’t know if these artists see Black people as people but they must on some level.”
It’s also like a lot of these artists understand Black people and blackness. They understand Black people in the abstract and blackness is something they can put on and take off. That’s how HyunA and E’Dawn. I think, and Dawn, not E’Dawn because name change after leaving Pentagon and Cube.
HyunA got those little micro braids and they’re not single braids on the same level like what I have in my hair right now but they are close. She got them done in Thailand. I’d have to look at her Instagram post to be sure
And people were like, “Oh, she just appreciates Black people.” Okay, but what Black people, does HyunA know? I would like to know that and if she would like to know some, I’m here. I love her, but how do you appreciate what you do not know and how do you appreciate us by wearing us?
I think one of the recent instances of anti-blackness was Kim Jin Woo, Jinu, from YG Entertainment’s Winner. He’s enlisting soon like… Now. He just shaved his head and posted a picture on Instagram. One of the other members posted a photo of him, a video of him wearing a rasta cap wig and basically, he’d go on like, “Scroot, Scroot,” like performing what he knows of blackness. I saw someone go like, “Oh, are you calling us out for the culture or for clout?”
And it’s like “Do you see that he is mocking Black people? Do you see that?”
There’s no appreciation there. That is just anti-blackness and it’s a struggle.
Also, Jinwoo was my bias or the closest thing I had to a bias in Winner
Oh and then I watched the video for the new song. I don’t remember what the name of it is but I watched the video for the new song and there’s more appropriation in a gag that they’re doing for a dating montage.
I was just like, “Great.” Whenever there’s a new comeback announced, I’m like, “Oh my God, wait until I see the concept images.” Even with BTS, I was like, “Oh, please no cornrows. Please no cornrows. Please no cornrows,” because you never know when someone is just going to be like, “Fuck it.”
Some of the companies explicitly do not care.
Some of the artists explicitly do not care –
At this point unless an artist can say with their chest, “I did this either now or in my past and it was wrong” explicitly and plainly, there is no way for any of us to actually know what these idols think about blackness, and Black people, and cultural appropriation and whatever because even the ones born in America fuck up like…
Amber is from LA. She grew up in LA and she somehow missed that police brutality and hyperpolicing were a problem facing Black Americans and proceeded to say that Black guy deserved to get harassed by cops for eating in public on a train station. Sorn is not – from CLC – Sorn is not American raised because people keep telling, kept saying it, Sorn has lots of diverse friends. She knows Black people but Sorn could still take a photograph with a guy in a racist caricature of Black people. That’s his mask that he chose to wear that she chose to take a selfie with.
She apologized like Amber apologized but neither of them actually engaged with the anti-blackness of their actions. Neither of them did anything to make fandom better for their Black fans.
Jay Park, bless his adorable heart. I muted him because I saw him, somebody, a Black fan who I’m now following, I think, asked him “how do you handle anti-blackness from your industry? Do you call it out?”
And He just gave the equivalent of a digital shrug, like he’s not doing that. He’s like, “Education, the people are ignorant.”
But it’s like you can recognize that racism against Koreans is bad, because it is, perhaps recognizing racism against Black people could also come with that.
We live in a world where there’s an artist who did a really cool comic or does really cool comics, trying to explain in Korean to her fellow Koreans about anti-blackness, about cultural appropriation, about what it’s like for Black people in Korea, and she just gets shit tons of hate. It is draining.
She shared some of what she’s gotten. She’s talked about having her post taken down on Facebook group, she’s talked about being attacked on Instagram, and she’s trying to be an ally.
She’s trying to educate people and their response is basically like a fuck you.
It is very worrying that this is the world we live in that going, “Hey, think of us as people,” is met with this really negative reaction.
It’s people like her and other Black fans like me that really make me want to continue what I’m doing because if we don’t speak up, even if the only people who are hearing us are other Black fans, if we don’t speak up, there will be people who think that this stuff doesn’t happen.
They will gaslight themselves.
They will allow fandom to tell them that it’s not okay to be even a little critical and the reason why my hashtag for this #StitchProcesses is because I’ve been doing a lot of it.
Because I’ve gotten really deeply invested into many of these groups and every so often they come across something knew an anti-black from somebody I really like because I’m doing research, I’m looking at the past and then I have to process what I’ve seen. Wonho in the Afro wig where the members of the group of Monsta X were like, “Oh, you look like Michol.” Michol is a racist anti-black caricature in a children’s cartoon in South Korea.
I’m still processing.
This is from last year and I’m still processing.
I saw clips of BTS members doing anti-black shit, still processing.
Again, Winner, Jinwoo still processing.
This project is a lot of that. It is a lot of looking at the groups I love, the artists I love, the industry I’m okay with – because I don’t love any industry really because industry is bad. Capitalism must end – and going, “Whoo, what’s next? How do I handle this? How can I talk about this?”
Most of the time I stick it to a tweet and I try to move on, but other times I have to return to it.
I’m going to return to it until I have processed it and this shit is hard.
It is okay to have these critical thoughts and to try to unpack your own feelings for K-pop while black or about anti-blackness while non-black. It is okay to do that while still listening to this music.
One of my favorite songs or one of my favorite music videos from BTS is one of their early ones. It’s No More Dream. I think it’s literally their first one. And in it my bias Kim Namjoon, RM, leader, babe, brilliant has an Afro, not like a racist Afro wig. Just -he has a perm and it’s clearly gelled in a little Afro. He has my curl pattern in some early photos.
It’s hilarious to me and it hasn’t stopped me from loving him as an artist and being inspired by him and thinking he’s really hot across the board.
It is okay to deal with that.
I think a lot of people who are in K-pop fandom [of] any race don’t really get that you can be critical and celebrate the artist too.
The thing that matters is when you get hit with that conversation when somebody brings up “your artist is problematic” is how you deal with it, how you respond to it. If you treat it as a threat and shut it down. If you go “oh nobody talks about that” and you don’t let people talk about it. What you get is a wound that festers. You get something that hurts your fandom instead of going, “Yes. We’ve talked about it. If they do it again we’re going to handle it. We’re going to petition BigHit. We’re going to petition SM. We’re going to raise our voices.”
If you don’t come together in community to support black fans even if you are a black fan yourself you are making fandom worse for not just yourself but for every other black fan –
But you can still listen to the songs.
One of my friends, LJ, another really great person, who just had to put up with so much from me over this project because I’m annoying –
When I first started and I was telling her whole of the stuff that I was already seeing and taking notes on she was like, “Why would you do this to yourself?” I was like, “I don’t know.”
I genuinely love K-pop fandom spaces. I love the music. Again I love the artist. I have so many favorites. This is pretty much an ideal fandom for me.
If you remember I did episode two of the Stitch Talks Ish podcast which was about the Start Wars fandom and I was basically ready to commit crimes because I hate their fandom so much.
I don’t hate K-pop fandom. It stresses me out. It is incredibly anti-black like every single fandom out there is, but it’s a good fandom for me. Great music, cool concepts, really great people have come together in the industry and in the fandom spaces to make cool stuff.
I take it as a challenge, like a welcome challenge of navigating my blackness and unpacking anti-blackness and blah, blah, blah, but that’s how I do fandom.
You don’t have to do that but maybe get out of my way while I do.
Thank you for listening. It’s been about an hour. Wow. Sorry but I’m really glad that I got to talk to you guys about this. I didn’t say everything I wanted to say.
There’s going to be a little post-post about this later on in the year when I hit the anniversary mark for the posting itself because this is starting from research, but I couldn’t have done this without people like Lori Morimoto who listened to me talk her ear off while we were in Washington DC April 2019.
There’s Myoung-Sun Song who did the book Hanguk Hip Hop which is about hip hop in Korea. I could not have come up with half of my arguments, half of my just understanding of Korean hip hop without her work.
Everybody when you search for hip hop in Korean in Google Scholars… thanks.
Jae, I have sent you so many terrible pictures of BTS members. I’m sorry but I’m going to send you more, so much more.
Of course, my nieces actually made this really possible because I had to run things by them and ask them for help and advice because they are in the fandom. They are more active or were more active when I started and that’s pretty cool.
I don’t want to say here’s hoping for another year because my God I want to finish this by 2021, but we’ll see how this goes.
No idea what May will bring. No idea what the rest of April will bring as we should all be very vigilant about COVID-19 and trying to stay safe, stay indoors as best as we can. Hopefully wherever you are listening to this from, your people in power are less terrible than Trump or Florida Governor Ron DeSantis here’s hoping.
I’ll do my best to stay safe and I hope you guys do too. See you in the next episode.