A rapper and dancer has come under fire after launching a music video that disrespected “all of Asia” through blatant cultural appropriation.
Elijah Castillo, who goes by the stage name Conscience, released “Rush Hour” to a massive uproar over the weekend, which soon led to harassment and death threats on his inbox.
The video — which has since been taken down — features a number of problematic representations. These include the apparent desecration of a Laotian Buddhist temple, sexualization of traditional Chinese clothing and use of “yellowface” among performers who appeared in the song.
Julia Kong, an actor and model based in Los Angeles, brought the matter to light in a series of tweets on Saturday. She called out Castillo for cultural appropriation.
“For the billionth time: ASIAN CULTURE IS NOT YOUR AESTHETIC,” Kong wrote.
The actor also highlighted the fact that a member of Castillo’s team tagged a photo from their shooting in, unlikely, Beijing.
“Cultural appropriation happens/has happened to all minorities and none of it is okay. It’s not okay when Asian people appropriate Black/Chicano culture or vice versa,” Kong added.
“When I call out one instance of appropriation, it doesn’t invalidate another. We’re just trying to educate, that’s all.”
Following an initial backlash, Castillo claimed that his team managed to secure an approval to film from the “leader and owner” of the temple.
“If you feel offended then I apologize,” Castillo told a critic on Instagram. “However, I had there [sic] approval and it was not intended to disrespect. It’s done in videos and movies.”
Interestingly, a Twitter user who claimed to be the daughter of the temple’s president confirmed that her father allowed Castillo’s team to film. However, the president required final footage, which he never saw.
“My dad is the president of this temple. I just asked him about the video and he said he gave the OK for a video shoot but told them he needed final footage for approval. My dad never saw the video before it was posted, so it was never approved,” user @alisaaalilyx revealed. “I showed him the video and he said he definitely would not have approved it.”
Kong’s thread has received more than 35,000 likes and over 9,000 retweets/comments as of this writing. In response to the backlash, Castillo took down the video and related social media posts, though “Rush Hour” was not immediately removed from streaming.
He also posted an apology video on Instagram. “My sincere apologies to the production team and the individuals and anyone that feels disrespected,” he said in the caption.
“I appreciate you making an apology, and taking the video and visuals down,” Kong told Castillo following his action. “Please also hold your crew and anyone in the video accountable, appreciate it.”
Castillo claimed that he received harassment and death threats. He has requested Kong to take down her thread.