A young man's outrage at a crime against his sister has made its way from the local news, around the internet and onto the pop charts. The "Bed Intruder Song" started with a news report about an attempted rape in Huntsville, Ala.
How Did This Happen?
Read NPR's All Tech Considered on the 'Bed Intruder' meme.
Kenyatta Cheese tracks internet memes at Know Your Meme. Watching the video, he says, "The reporter's very very straight-laced. You can tell she's just doing her job." Kelly Dodson was asleep with her little girl inside their apartment when, she says, "I was attacked by some idiot."
The camera pans around the apartment — there's broken glass, the bed is stripped. It's a pretty grim scene. Then, something totally unexpected happens.
Dodson's brother Antoine Dodson pops out of the screen. You can't take your eyes off him. He doesn't seem like a victim of a crime, he seems like an improbable star of a show. He waves his finger in the camera's face.
"He's climbing in your windows, he's snatching your people up trying to rape them," he says. "So you need to hide your kids, hide your wife, hide your husband because they raping everybody out here."
Cheese describes Dodson this way: "He is the most charismatic, just, effervescent, elusive man. He's upset."
The camera cuts back to Dodson after the reporter, Elizabeth Gentle of WAFF in Huntsville, says crime scene investigators have been collecting evidence hoping to identify the attacker.
"You don't have to come and confess," he says. "We're looking for you. I'm letting you know now. We gon' find you. And you can run and tell that. Homeboy!"
WAFF posted the news report online. And the video instantly began a madcap tour of the internet.
The Gregory Brothers, who make Auto-Tune The News, got hold of it. They turn TV news reports into songs by Auto-Tuneing the reporters' and interviewers' voices. Their version of Dodson's appearance on WAFF has been watched more than 8 million times.
That's not all. "People are taking the Gregory Brothers' video and remixing that," says Cheese. A lot of people are re-recording their own version.
The Gregory Brothers, of Auto-Tune The News, called Antoine up. He says they said to him, "We wanna take this bed intruder song and sell it on iTunes."
"And I was like, 'Man, that's cool, that's fun. I like the song," says Dodaon. "Yeah, we should do that."
In the week that the "Bed Intruder Song" has been on i-tunes, more than 11,000 people have bought it. It traveled to number three on the iTunes chart for R&B singles.
Jason King, a music professor at NYU, says he's wary of the song's popularity. "It's catchy. It has a really good hook," he says. But it's problematic, too. He says "there's a way in which the aesthetics of black poverty — the way they talk and they speak and they look — sort of becomes this fodder for humor without any interest in the context of the conditions in which people actually live."
Dodson himself hasn't forgotten the context of the song. "Some people do take it to be a joke," he says. "I don't, and neither does my sister and neither does my family. It's funny. We laugh at it all the time and listen to the song over and over. But that doesn't change the fact that this was a serious event."
Dodson stands to make some serious money: from sales of his single — he and the Gregory Brothers are splitting the profits — from T-shirt sales, from commercials. He's got a lot of offers.
The Huntsville cops haven't yet caught the attempted rapist. But Antoine Dodson's definitely gotten the message out.