Rapper Subhas Nair called out Mediacorp for being “racist” in a Twitter thread on Sunday (15 Aug), where he revealed that Channel NewsAsia (CNA) had rejected his request to acquire publishing rights to the song ‘UTOPIA‘ which he produced in collaboration with Migrants Band Singapore.
In his Twitter thread, Mr Subhas slammed the “department heads” at Mediacorp for being “puppets of the state” who do not care about migrant workers in Singapore but only “control the narrative and masquerade their poverty porn as journalism”.
He also included screenshots of an email to his lawyers, where he explained his agreement with CNA on the ownership of the song.
Mediacorp is racist as fuck. Once, they were going through lyrics for UTOPIA, and I used the word “millies” on the track.
The line was ‘Masek spend our millies money come they missionary’. One of their department heads asked me what the meaning of the word was…
— ROB THE RICH (@subhas_music) August 15, 2021
According to Mr Subhas, it all started when Mediacorp-owned CNA solicited him to write a song as one part of the ROAR documentary in April 2019, in which they signed a “music services” contract as part of the engagement.
The ROAR documentary, which covered Singaporean musicians making new music for National Day, featured Mr Subhas and three other local artists: Benjamin Kheng, Aisyah Aziz, and Wang Weiliang.
“My understanding was that under this contract CNA owns the completed song and any reproduction rights, but that I maintained the rights to perform the song, and that intellectual property rights for the song are shared 50%-50%.
“After signing the contract, I wrote and worked through multiple revisions of the song with the CNA producers, before they finally approved and released UTOPIA on all streaming platforms in early July,” he said.
Mr Subhas collaborated with members of Migrant Bands Singapore, a musical group formed by mainly South Asian workers in the country, for a song called ‘UTOPIA‘ which is primarily about the struggles that migrant workers are forced to endure in Singapore.
He recounted when they were going through the lyrics of ‘UTOPIA‘, one of the heads of department at CNA asked the meaning of the word “millies” on the track.
“So I said, ‘millions’. And he said ‘Orh so that’s like n**** talk la’. At the table there was another head of department and the producer of the show. No one said anything.
“I was seething but didn’t say anything in the moment either. They were already trying their best to censor our work and it was too risky in that moment to call him out and potentially lose everything that myself, the crew, and the migrants band had worked on,” said the rapper.
However, it was reported in July 2019 that Mr Subhas has been removed from the documentary over his involvement in an offensive video titled ‘K. Muthusamy’, which he released with YouTube personality Preeti Nair in response to a controversial advertisement by epaysg.com.
CNA said that the rapper was removed as it “strongly objects to all such offensive content which threatens racial harmony and will not associate with individuals who intentionally create such content”.
Mr Subhas in his email claimed that the erasure came a week before the documentary was about to go live, with CNA not giving any notice.
He noted that ‘UTOPIA‘ had been live on all streaming platforms for nearly a month before the release of ‘K. Muthusamy’ video and the ensuing political theatrics.
“After the decision to pull my parts of the documentary was made, I made sure not to mention CNA or the song on any public platform with the intention to begin good faith negotiations with them in due course,” he added.
Determined to release the song, Mr Subhas attempted to obtain publishing rights for ‘UTOPIA‘ and reached out to one of the show producers.
He noted that they had a brief meeting on 5 September 2019 and proceeded to have a “more formal meeting” with the producer’s supervisor, Mark Pestana, and VP of English Current Affairs Tan Lek Hwa on 18 September 2019.
Mr Subhas claimed that he was told during the meeting that CNA will be willing to give him full rights to the song at no charge, on the condition that he would revise three specific lyrics of ‘UTOPIA‘.
“These requested changes were completely new, regarding specific phrases about ‘brown men’ and ‘the police’ that were in the already published version of UTOPIA that CNA previously had no issue with.
“I agreed to consider the changes and told them I looked forward to following up about this. They mentioned that they would need the green light from their CEO/Head, and they would get back to me. They never did,” he said.
After close to a month of no progress, Mr Subhas decided to ask Ms Tan about it, to which she answered that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had taken issue with certain lyrics of ‘UTOPIA‘.
“In her reply, she avoided any mention of the informal agreement, and wrote that the MHA had taken issue with certain lyrics and thus CNA was ‘not able to accede to (my) request’ to acquire the full rights to the song,” he remarked.
Nevertheless, Mr Subhas said that he has re-recorded the song and included ‘UTOPIA‘ on his latest album ‘Tabula Rasa’ which was released on 11 March this year.
In a Facebook post on 7 March, Mr Subhas shared that the album will be a two-part Telegram release and will not be available on streaming platforms.
“This album is created independently — without record labels, state funding, or censorship. Tabula Rasa,” he added.
Background of ‘K.Muthusamy’ rap video
In case you’ve not been following this saga, Mr Subhas and Preeti Nair published this video in response to an advertisement by epaysg.com that featured Mediacorp actor and DJ Dennis Chew impersonating different races.
In the advertisement, one can see Chew dressed up as different races in Singapore such as a Malay woman in a headscarf as well as an Indian man with darkened skin. He also portrayed the role of a Chinese woman in a pink jacket and a Chinese man with a moustache in the advertisement.
As expected, the ad did not go down too well with the public, with many criticising the need to use one person to play different roles instead of hiring people of the actual races to play the characters.
The sibling duo was also not happy with the ad, resulting in them releasing a video that slammed the ad.
The video titled ‘K. Muthusamy‘ contains offensive content. In the video, the siblings can be seen repeatedly uttering “Chinese people always out here f***king it up”, while condemning Chinese Singaporeans who they claim are racist and exploiting minorities for money.
However, the rap video received massive backlash from the authorities with the police conducting an investigation into the matter as they will “not tolerate any offensive content that causes ill will between races”.
Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shamugam even said that it “crosses the line” and is not acceptable.
“This rap video insults Chinese Singaporeans, uses four-letter words on Chinese Singaporeans, vulgar gestures, pointing of middle finger, to make minorities angry with Chinese Singaporeans,” said the Minister.
“When you use four-letter words, vulgar language, attack another race, put it out in public, we have to draw the line and say not acceptable.”
Mr Subhas and Ms Preeti subsequently took down the video from Facebook and other social media channels.