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Why 'Obama Fried Chicken' Sign Was Erased from Rap Video

5 years ago
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A restaurant in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Brownsville that re-named itself "Obama Fried Chicken" in March is back in the spotlight after it appeared in -- and then disappeared from -- the music video by the rap duo Clipse. According to Brokelyn, the restaurant's name was scrubbed from the video when it played on MTV because the owner would not sign the record label's location agreement allowing the restaurant to be shown in the video.

Several New York City restaurants calling themselves "Obama Fried Chicken" first raised eyebrows when they were accused of playing to racial stereotypes and efforts arose to force Mohammad Jabbar, the owner of the Brownsville restaurant, to change the name. The Rev. Al Sharpton and gatherings of protesters picketed the eatery, but Jabbar steadfastly refused to go back to the its previous name, Royal Fried Chicken.

Jabbar believed the controversy had passed until the video for Clipse's "Popular Demand" hit MTV, and close viewers noted a key discrepancy: the sign for Obama Fried Chicken, which was visible in the background of the video on YouTube, had been blanked out in the MTV version. Brokelyn speculated that MTV was running from the debate swirling around the restaurant -- controversy that had drawn so much attention that a White House spokesman actually responded, saying the administration disapproved of using the president's name for commercial purposes.

But it turns out there was no conspiracy or political correctness behind the MTV's censorship of the video. It came down to a simple legality: Jabbar wouldn't sign the production company's location agreement unless they paid him $3,000 to show the front of his store in "Popular Demand." Instead, they chose to wipe the restaurant's name from the video whenever it aired on network television. YouTube videos are not governed by the same laws as broadcast music videos, so they posted the original, uncensored video online.

"Our treatment called for a location in front of a chicken spot on the intersection of Rutland and Rockaway. We had a choice of shooting in front of Crown Fried or Obama, and the majority of the talent and crew on set voted for Obama," said Rik Cordero, who directed the video. "Now you can argue that Obama Fried Chicken had the chicken game on lock because it was way busier than Crown Fried that day, but that's beside the point."

"The decision was made by the owner of the restaurant," said Cordero, "who wouldn't sign our location agreement unless we paid him $3,000 cash. Therefore, the sign had to be edited out for network television."

Video: Clipse, "Popular Demand (Popeyes)" [WARNING: Explicit Content]

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