A rising rapper is getting blowback after throwing wads of cash to people on skid row in downtown Los Angeles.
Blueface, who is behind the top-10 Billboard hit “Thotiana,” posted a video of himself standing atop a car parked in front of a tent-lined sidewalk at Crocker and 5th streets and tossing bills into the crowd.
The entertainer called it the “season of giving.”
But the reactions to what may have been intended as a kind gesture have been less than generous. And as the video went viral on Christmas Eve, it became one more debate point in a year the homeless crisis emerged as Los Angeles’ most pressing issue.
Homelessness increased by 12% in Los Angeles County this year to just shy of 59,000 people, while in the city of Los Angeles, the number soared to more than 36,000 for a 16% increase. A poll conducted for the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Business Council Institute in November found 95% of voters consider homelessness a serious or very serious problem.
There has been much controversy over how the city is spending huge sums of money designed to get people off the streets and whether police should take a tougher approach to street camping.
Blueface’s visit to skid row — whether a genuine act of charity, publicity stunt or both — brought other questions.
Social media pages were flooded with critics who said he humiliated homeless people and put them in danger by making them run for cash in the middle of the street. Others praised Blueface for giving back to those in need. Still others seemed to take joy in the viral moment while admitting the delivery method was controversial.
In a video posted Monday, the receiving crowd appears cheerful. They raise their arms and run to catch the flying bills, toppling over those who had crawled on the pavement for the fallen bills.
“Get it, baby!” one person shouted.
“Up here!” another cried.
A driver stopped her car and got out to join the crowd. One young woman struggled through the throng, seemingly more interested in getting a photo of Blueface than in his money.
When the rapper ran out of the cash he had carried in a clear plastic bag and jumped off the car, one man crawled up to scavenge the few bills left behind.
“Ain’t no more?” another man called from the street.
While the crowd thanked Blueface for the surprise gift, criticism for the act came quickly. Some suggested there were better ways to give back that would be longer-lasting and more equitable for the residents of skid row.
On Twitter, users likened the rapper’s gesture to that of Donald Trump when he threw paper towels to Puerto Ricans after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.
“You couldn’t just hand it out? They’re not strippers,” one Instagram user said.
“I’m all for giving back, if that’s what you’re going to do. This … high key degrading though,” a Twitter user posted.
I’ve been homeless before.— Sean Cory Cooper 🎭 🔥 (@SeanCoryCooper) December 24, 2019
This is BEYOND disrespectful.
There was ZERO good intent here. #blueface treat those people like they were animals, when he could’ve donated to the 3 shelters that are within 3 blocks of that location, helped more people, and let them keep their dignity
He could’ve handed out sack lunches with $ inside. Or just put the money in their hands. Or...anything other than throwing it at them. Reminds me of when Tr*mp threw those paper towels.— Danita’s Crismuss🎅🏾🍗🎄📝 (@ChristineFox) December 24, 2019
Blueface has not been afraid of a viral moment in the past, and owes his ascendance in part to social media moments.
The 22-year-old Los Angeles native, born Jonathan Porter, rose to stardom through “Thotiana,” which was circulated on social media before getting the attention of major rap artists such as Cardi B and YG. The song went on to rank in the top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.
Regardless of whether Blueface was aiming for a viral moment, the holiday appearance on skid row certainly garnered attention. The video has had more than 6.5 million views on Twitter and Instagram.
A representative for Blueface did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.