Music Video Review: “People,” the Hip-Hop Track Featuring a Buddhist Nobel Laureate

When was last time you had more chills than excitement watching a hip-hop music video?

People” is almost certainly one of the most unprecedented rap tracks ever to be released to a global market. There is no bling, no babe, and no bikini. Its opening shot features a Nobel laureate: the Dalai Lama, who aims to send a strong humanitarian message in his prayer from Green Tara Mantra and through Dog G’s music, hoping to reach out to those most distant audiences, from the hip-hop lovers to the Chinese people and everyone worldwide. Dog G (or “Duagyi,” as how he is called in Taiwan), one of most renowned rappers in Asia, counterintuitively combines hip-hop and Buddhism, resulting in a song that is both upbeat and reflective. The song addresses the dark side of human nature and at the same time reminds us of the warmth of some individuals in the mist of this apathetic world. The peaceful style of music aims to swirl the audience into the state of meditation, rethinking the value of being “People.” Its music video has accumulated more than a half-million views and over ten thousand likes on YouTube in just 3 weeks, a very respectable feat considering a large part of the song’s target audience is limited to people in Taiwan due to the now-notorious Great Firewall of China, which blocks “subversive” websites like YouTube and Facebook.

Any unprepared listener would be confused by the prayer of the Dalai Lama from Green Tara Mantra the moment the track is played: “Oṃ Tāre Tuttāre Ture Svāhā.” The hail to Tara the Buddhist savior, highlights the gloomy helplessness of the artists from witnessing the combative and destructive human force to all lives and the earth. The story-telling lyrics use lines like “child soldiers at Sierra Leone are trained in waves / barely in their teens / just days leaving home they are armed with AK-47s,” “We spend trillions on arms races, piling up rockets and fighters / but are without resources to support the poor to go to school.” As Dog G sees it, and beseeches, almost in despair, “But we continue to do nothing / just like this / always as it is / the Holiness Dalai Lama / please tell me what to rap next?” In the last verse, the storyline is brought to the historical scale, as it quotes from poet Rubén Darío “Poor Admiral, yes, you, Christopher Columbus / pray to God for the world you discovered!” Just when Dog G believes the audiences must have been pushed to the verge of a guilty-conscience meltdown, he tunes down the tone and waxes reflective by recognizing the positive phenomena in this world, citing Doctors Without Borders before returning again to the Dalai Lama.

The music video for “People” is probably one of the most powerful and touching music videos ever to be filmed. The artist purposefully integrates vivid and almost unbearable documentary clips and images to force the audience to square up with the cruel side of human behavior that we all try to ignore or deny. The video was filmed in India, where Dog G sought the Dalai Lama to calm his turbulent mind. The documentary footage of a confused Dog G and a firm Dalai creates a contrasting yet balanced picture that perfectly describes the theme for the song. A segment of the interview was inserted in the end of the video to conclude this journey.

In summary, this music video aims to reveal everything we do. Only by vividly witnessing the bleeding wounds can one understand the lessons of a scar. It starts from suffering, through the ugly reality of human behavior, and in the end shows us wisdom and courage for a brighter future. It’s not about religion either; it’s about all the things we have done in the past, what we do in the present, and what we will do in the future. As Dog G said to the roaring crowd at his concert finale, “We can all do it. Let’s give our next generation an island that respects all lives and a better world for the future.”

About the rapper

So who IS this man brilliantly pulling all the strings? Dog G, or “Duagyi” (“Biggie”) as the people in his hometown of Tainan, Taiwan call him in Taiwanese, is one of the most renowned pioneers of hip hop in Taiwan. Being such an iconic figure has earned him interviews from TIME Magazine and multiple appearances on Discovery Channel.

Dog G is a vocal enthusiast of historical, social, political and human rights issues, specifically those involving Taiwan and Tibet, and for these causes the Chinese government has granted him a position on their infamous blacklist. In fear of jeopardizing their standing in China’s substantial consumer market, not a single label company was willing to endorse Dog G. To pursue his Hip-Hop dream, Dog G launched his own studio “Kung Fu Rap” in 2003, and has been responsible for every single aspect of his albums, from writing and recording tracks to directing, filming, and editing music videos, all entirely on his own.

Dog G is also a devoted Buddhist and can surprise any new guest with a soft heart. His strong support for the minority is also translated into his music, as several of his songs were made for street animals (“The last Morning”), for victims of typhoon Moracot (“Never Forget the Wounded”) for those affected by the Fukushima earthquake (“Japan, We Are with You”), and to protest nationalized education in Hong Kong (“Brainwash Education”). One of his all-time classic tracks, “People”, is the prime product of his compassion, in which his overflowing emotion of helplessness for all living sorrows was evident during an interview with the Dalai Lama, also featured in the song’s music video.

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