Blog Editors' Note: Maybe it's an off-shoot of Spring Fever, but the Hyphen blog is being fruitful and multiplying...
Lately we've been lucky enough to add more talented bloggers to our roster, writers like Theresa Celebran Jones. Repping Connecticut, feminist mama Theresa has been frequently published in Thirteen Minutes Magazine where she stayed abreast of Asian American entertainment happenings by interviewing the likes of Sung Kang, Brian Tee, and Far East Movement. She has been blogging extensively for the past years, particularly at her personal site single spaced.
Her inaugural Hyphen blog post tackles MURS and 9th Wonder's new cut "Asian Girl" and "the fine line between admiration and fetish" in a complex hip hop world.
The other day my husband came home with the latest Murs/9th Wonder collaboration album, Fornever. We've been longtime fans of both artists and, unsurprisingly, found most of the album really enjoyable. The only outlier? A cut titled "Asian Girl."
Murs drops the following lines in the second verse: "I got a chick from Vietnam with the feminine fat [... ] She exotic but she hate it when I call her that / I say 'Ni hao' and she know she got to holla back / That's Korean, no duh / My chick from Vietnam be servin' me pho."
I'm confused by this. My first instinct was to get really pissed -- a common reaction I've seen to this song among Asian American hip hop heads around the net. On a second or third listen, I'm wondering if he's just trying to be funny. Who doesn't know that "Ni hao" isn't Korean? If Murs can pronounce pho, Hmong, and Pinay correctly, then this has got to be a joke. This is an artist who recorded tribute albums to Lisa Bonet, Christina Ricci and Rosie Perez in the past five years, so it's hard to take him too seriously.
Still, the intent is clear -- apparently nobody in hip hop shows us Asian girls any love, and this song aims to fill that void. There's just a fine line between admiration and fetish.
We've mostly given Jin a pass to capitalize on Asian female stereotypes in at least two songs -- his remix to Jay-Z's "Girls, Girls, Girls" similarly titled "Asian Girls," and "36-24-36." I suppose, as an Asian American himself, he's merely objectifying women, which is largely considered a more forgivable offense -- at least in hip hop -- than fetishizing. But this cut from Murs and 9th is different. Are they allowed to do the same thing, and should we be allowed to just let this one go? If their only offense here is writing a weak song that objectifies women, well, welcome to rap music where there are bigger fish to fry.
I've seen almost no criticism of this on the hip hop blog circuit, save for the comments section from this 2dopeboyz post. Don't get me wrong, I've been a fan of Justus League and Living Legends for a long time which is why I'm searching for reasons to let this go, but I'm taken aback by the gusto with which hip hop tastemakers are co-signing this particular song. Not only is the content uninspired and highly questionable, but it's also one of the weaker cuts on the album. Even "I Used to Love H.E.R. (Again)" -- a complete reinterpretation of the Common Sense classic -- sounds more impassioned and inspired.
Am I being too sensitive or too dismissive? Can it be argued that this song is just tacky but not actually fetishist, since Murs and 9th don't actually employ the old "Asian girls are submissive" or "Me love you long time" stereotypes? Can we ignore this one slip and go on guiltlessly enjoying their work?