Korean American Rap Group Drops Powerful ‘Viral’ MV on Contagious Racism
LA-based Korean American rap duo Year of the Ox dropped a chilling message in a music video titled “Viral,” addressing the violent attacks against Asian Americans amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
The duo, made of Lyricks (Rick Lee) and JL (John Lee) from Transparent Arts, first exclusively released the video on NextShark while sharing their thoughts on how coronavirus has affected society:
“During times of uncertainty and fear, it is human nature to point fingers and look for others to blame. This global situation doesn’t only reveal the true nature of our character, but also the hatred towards one another that’s been hidden all throughout. After countless stories of discrimination, assaults and xenophobia all across the world, we felt that it was time we spoke up for the voiceless. ‘VIRAL’ is not a track for only Asian Americans, this is a message that needs to be heard by everybody right now. Keep your heads high, hands clean, and hearts pure. Love y’all #OXGANG”
From the compiled clips of racism and xenophobic attacks that have occurred over the past few months, and a soundbite of Wuhan residents screaming “jiayou” (“stay strong”) in their homes, Lyricks and JL cruise through their lyrics and say the hatred and anger are “contagious” and “going viral.”
JL admits writing the lyrics was easy, with Lyricks adding that they were overwhelmed with the number of stories around the world:
“We didn’t want to put on the cape and be like ‘Ok we gotta be the superheroes and talk,’ but, we had to speak for the voiceless,” Lyricks says in the video. “We had to do something where [we] not only protect our people — our brothers and sisters — but also bring awareness and another perspective.”
When Wang mentions the possible backlash from this song, Lyricks acknowledges that it was a concern. It wasn’t their intention to write it as a “gasoline track” and add fire to the flame.
The song opens with the first verse addressing Lyricks own past prejudices, and in the second verse, JL reports on the recent incidents and attacks.
As Wang puts it, “[Lyricks] came in with the reason, [JL] came in with the reality.”
The interview takes a more somber tone when Wang asks about the third verse and the fear of kids being affected by the current landscape and being pushed towards extreme ends or developing a deep self-hatred.
“We could’ve easily ended the track by saying, ‘We will retaliate on others.’ But we wanted to let people know that this is like a preventive measure,” Lyricks states. “Let’s stop doing this because we don’t want our youth to hurt themselves or feel so low about themselves. It’s going to affect them forever. Our hearts went out to the young kids right now because we can’t even imagine.”
When Wang asks what the duo want as the final takeaway from the song is, JL responds, “We gotta find a way to bring people closer. Love is really gonna help us get over this — this hatred and this anger that’s coming out of ignorance and fear.”
“Racism doesn’t fight racism,” Wang agrees.
“There are people that are coming clean [about their own past prejudices],” Lyricks notes about the comments they’ve seen on their video. “For them to really self-reflect and not feel threatened and not feel disrespected and then to leave a comment [saying], ‘You know, I too, was messed up back then,’ that to me is progress.”