Police investigating rap video made in response to ‘brownface’ ad for ‘offensive content’

Screenshot of rap music video K. Muthusamy by Preetipls and Subhas.
Screenshot of rap music video K. Muthusamy by Preetipls and Subhas.

Police are investigating a rap music video featuring Singaporean siblings Preeti and Subhas Nair that was made in response to the controversial brownface advertisement by the E-Pay initiative.

In a statement today, police said that a report was lodged over the video’s “offensive content” and investigations are ongoing.

It added: “The police will not tolerate any offensive content that causes ill-will between races.”

The catchy rap music video, which has since been taken down, was posted on Facebook on Sunday with the title K. Muthusamy, the same name that was printed on the name tag carried by Chinese actor Dennis Chew in the E-Pay ad, where he was made to look like an Indian with darker skin.

Social media influencer Preeti, who goes by the moniker Preetipls, along with her musician brother and rapper Subhas, were seen in the music video rapping to lyrics like: “Brown face, brown face/ Everybody wanna be our race/ The new marketing strategy is outrage…”

And then it goes: “We in 2019 man/ This shit’s a disgrace.”

The nearly three-minute video was shot at Maxwell Food Centre, where the duo stood in front of the ads when they were still up.

The video was taken down by them after a notice was issued by the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA), a spokesperson told Coconuts Singapore.

Under IMDA’s Internet Code of Practice, the video constituted “prohibited content” and is “objectionable on grounds of public interest and national harmony”, the spokesperson added.

Mediacorp and ad agency Havas Worldwide have since apologized for the campaign, but no known police complaints have been filed against them.

In the late afternoon, law minister K Shanmugam told reporters that the parody video had crossed the line by insulting Chinese Singaporeans, according to the Straits Times.

It “uses four-letter words on Chinese Singaporeans, vulgar gestures, pointing of (the) middle finger, to make minorities angry with Chinese Singaporeans,” said the minister.

Actually using brownface in an ad, however, something Mediacorp has yet to address directly, doesn’t appear to rise to the same level. Instead, Shanmugam said that the E-Pay ad had not committed any offense — at least according to the lawyers he consulted.

The rap music video attracted a clash of views among netizens. Many were supportive of both the video’s comedy value and overall message.

A screenshot of a Facebook comment on rap video by Preetipls and Subhas.
A screenshot of a Facebook comment on rap video by Preetipls and Subhas.
A screenshot of a Facebook comment on rap video by Preetipls and Subhas.
A screenshot of a Facebook comment on rap video by Preetipls and Subhas.

Others, however, called out the vid for responding to racism with racism.

A screenshot of a Facebook comment on rap video by Preetipls and Subhas.
A screenshot of a Facebook comment on rap video by Preetipls and Subhas.

On Sunday, Subhas expressed his opinion of the controversial ad on Instagram, saying he wasn’t surprised by the incident.

“This is exactly what happens when we have a state that reinforces Chinese privilege and supports policies that overtly silence and discriminate [against] minorities in Singapore.”


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