If you’ve been watching the news in Vancouver, you’ve probably seen multiple stories about gang violence in our city. Often, the face of these stories are young South Asian males who have gotten involved in gangs, which often means they are also involved in dealing drugs, violence and other criminal activity. This is a real epidemic facing not only the South Asian community but a lot of communities in Canada, and has led to movies, documentaries and many news stories. Unfortunately, the constant association of South Asian men with gang violence is leading to the creation of a harmful stereotype that fuels fear and racism against South Asian men. There was even a CrimeStoppers criminal activity public advisory that featured two South Asian men – continuing to promote this racist narrative.
There has been public concern and speculation that lyrics glorifying the gang lifestyle in South Asian music has led to an increase in South Asian youth moving into that lifestyle. I appreciate Sonia Deol from Global BC for interviewing me on the subject. In my talks with her, I mentioned that there are many factors that lead to youth getting involved in gangs. Primarily, I feel that the reasons are economic – youth find that they can make far more money with criminal activity than in the other limited options society presents to them. There is also the need for respect or a sense of belonging, experiences of trauma or abuse, racism, and other factors. But my main point was that it’s not music that’s pushing kids, youth, and young adults into gangs.
I want people to remember that what they hear in music is no different than watching TV or a movie. I don’t hear the public outcry telling Netflix to take down half of its content, yet artists come under fire for their music. Needless to say, I of course do not support that lifestyle. I’ve lost very close people to me because of drugs and gangs in Vancouver. As some might know, even though I don’t talk about it much, drugs and gangs is what tore me, my brother and my family apart. So I don’t come to this from a naive perspective. I have done songs about it through my career. “Vancity” and “Is It Too Late”, both deal with the negative side of the drug trade.
It is this train of thought that inspired the BAD BOY video. The visuals play on the idea that you should never judge a book by its cover. The story follows a “Bad Boy” and his seemingly suspicious activities. Questionable intentions, a woman being misled, and a twist at the end to remind the audience that all is not what it seems. The underlying purpose of this video is to attack this “South Asian Gang” stereotype.
Like all my projects, I kept a focus on my theme of #BrownExcellence. This is about ensuring not only South Asian representation, but keeping diversity in our music, in our videos and behind the scenes. For this video we were able to work with Vancouver-based director AJ Simmon. AJ is a Mestiza Canadian filmmaker who has always kept cultural themes at the front of her works. Our cast is largely South Asian. The vocals are by the up-and-coming Indo-Canadian singer Anjali, and she and I play the lead characters as well.
Thank you to desiFEST music and the BC Music Fund for helping make this video, and of course you for taking the time to watch, listen and share. For the full credits check out our Instagram post.
If you have any thoughts or comments on these themes, please share your experiences below, or hit me up on my personal Instagram.
And as always, I appreciate all of your support in helping me pursue my dream of creating music for all of you.
Global Party Starters