Find Some “Motivasian” with Bohan Phoenix’s New Video

In an article published by Rolling Stone, author Daniel Kreps notes the “Tropical House” influences found in Rihanna’s latest song, “Work.” Kreps was shamed for his ignorance. “If EDM DJs want to make ‘Tropical House’ mixes, that’s fine, but they—along with cultural tastemakers–should respect the originators,” Cypher League’s Andre Gee wrote. “Otherwise, that’s how cultural theft starts, and no one wants that to happen right?”

It’s the flip side of the Internet’s duality for positive and negative. When someone’s perception of the world comes mostly from YouTube videos–a cultural disconnect brought on, at least in part, by the xenophobic rhetoric of politicians–claims like Rihanna taking aesthetic cues from Australian EDM DJ Thomas Jack are going to be made. What seemed to have been completely missed was how “Work” was Rihanna connecting her experience as a contemporary American pop artist with her West Indian roots.

In an age of “YouCoustic” videos that are actually “unsettling, anglicized ‘now we can appreciate it’ moments,” relief from the web’s drollery is much welcome–even if it comes in the form of a YouTube video. Though containing absolutely no booty-shaking like in “Work,” Bohan Phoenix‘s new “Motivasian” video similarly bridges the gap between the domestic and foreign.

A Chinese immigrant who came to America when he was 11, “Motivasian” sees Bohan’s return to the country for the first time since arriving in Brooklyn. His friend Chewie is kidnapped, and Bohan travel to Beijing to free him. The video opens with Chewie running in his underwear through Beijing alleyways (when I was discussing  “Motivasian” with him last night, he lamented that he wasn’t wearing the Gucci scarf ((bought in China)) for the shot). Besides the scene of Bohan receiving the phone call about Chewie’s kidnap as he munches on a bodega sandwich, the video was shot on-location in Beijing. Bohan and a homie are followed as they quest in search of the mysterious Black Sesame, and after failing to raise the 3.5 billion yuan for Chewie’s ransom, Bohan and Howie Lee (who is also his producer) duke it out in motorized robots with animated lasers flying about and a marijuana cigarette health meter.

At the risk of being obsequious, “Motivasian” is one of the cleverest music videos I’ve seen in a long, long time. A detail I found intriguing was that regardless of whether English or Chinese was being spoken, translations for both languages are ran. It’s a video meant for speakers of both English and Chinese. In fact, in less than two weeks, Bohan embarks on a multi-stop tour in China, culminating with a show at “The Wall.”

Along with the video, Bohan Phoenix released his 4-track loveloveEP. The project reflects Bohan’s life in Brooklyn, which inevitably leads to an exposure to hip hop, with his roots in China. This aspect of his music is emphasized by Howie Lee, who produces the entire EP. Certain elements heard are found in American trap music, but Lee’s use of traditional Chinese sounds completely throws off any kind of clear label. On “Motivasian,” Bohan sounds at home rapping in both Chinese and English over Lee’s instrumentation. His bars alternate between the lighthearted (Doing donuts in Beijing/so many cousins it don’t make sense), and the deep (Money’s never been the motivation/except that time I came across my mama ‘cus she couldn’t pay rent). Bohan maintains the track’s title “Motivasian” throughout, and ends by saying, “The love is worldwide, baby.”

Whether you need a little juice to get through the last day of the week, or already have the weekend’s turn up started, Bohan Phoenix has what you need. Watch “Motivasian” below.

Alex Oka