By the next day, the clip had a million hits.
Reactions were mixed. To many, it was a punchline forwarded to e-mail inboxes across the globe. Some were outraged that its popularity seemed to reinforce demeaning stereotypes of African-Americans. Still others saw someone standing up for himself and his community.
Blogger Danielle Belton, owner of the website The Black Snob, said she was initially put off because the attention on Dodson’s interview seemed to overshadow the crime at the root of the story.
“What I saw were two people who were very angry and frustrated because crime is so commonplace in poor communities,” Belton said. “People got stuck on the humorous aspect of it. What happened to Kelly got pushed to the background.”
Later, when she discovered the Dodsons were using the attention to help their family, Belton said she was impressed.
“So many people who have become Internet memes didn’t get anything out of it other than grief,” she said. “They’re spreading awareness, raising money … taking advantage of this moment.”
After the fans came phone calls and offers.
About 1,000 miles away in Brooklyn, N.Y., musicians Evan and Michael Gregory saw the clip and were sold. The brothers made Dodson the next project in their “Auto-Tune the News” series, which digitally converts the voices of newsmakers into music.
“You could already hear the music in what he was saying,” Michael Gregory said.
The brothers pondered the rare next step of putting the song on iTunes. But they said they wouldn’t have sold the song without Dodson’s buy-in.
“To me, it just seemed like the right thing to do,” Michael Gregory said.
In the first 2 1/2 weeks of sales, the song had 60,000 downloads and at least 25 million views on YouTube.
The musicians are splitting the proceeds with Dodson. While the money has begun to trickle in, it can’t come fast enough for Dodson, who, along with his sister, has had sleepless nights since what happened.
“I want them to be in a house that’s comfortable. I feel like they need to be in a different area,” he said of his family, adding that they have begun househunting.
Kelly Dodson declined to be interviewed for this story. On a recent appearance on the “Today” show, she said the situation had “a sad beginning, but it was a good ending.”