My favorite family show Black-ish made a misstep with last night’s episode, which featured Chris Brown in a guest role as a cliché rapper named Rich Youngsta, an appearance that served no purpose.
In live-tweeting the episode, the Black-ish Twitter account seemed to refrain from posting Chris Brown gifs or content or promoting his appearance, perhaps feeling it’d be unwise. The show’s creator Kenya Barris has also declined to address the casting. When I asked for comment last week, a rep stated that Barris wasn’t available for an interview. When TMZ interviewed Tracee Ellis Ross about Brown’s cameo, she slyly talked around it, stating that she didn’t shoot any scenes with him, predictably.
The point of the casting remains unclear then, in what turned out to be one of the weaker Black-ish episodes. The set-up is that Dre pitches Rich Youngsta as the face of a new Champagne, Uvo, and together they conceive the tagline: “Put some Uvo on it.” The idea is that Uvo “makes everything better.” So the demo shows Brown dancing and at one point pouring Champagne on a black woman and turning her white—“Seriously, you don’t see a problem with that?” Bow questions. It seems implausible that Dre’s character would ever even pitch this ad. But after seeing his son Jack parrot Rich Youngsta, he shifts the tone of the commercial anyway to a more sophisticated stereotype: the grown-and-sexy rapper headed on a private jet with a beautiful woman and a bottle.
TV Line summed it up well, stating that “there was no obvious reason to cast Brown in the role; neither the part nor the singer’s acting ability were remarkable.” Perhaps when this episode was shot, the goal was to convey a meta message about image perception by featuring an artist with his own terrible public persona. If so, that wasn’t clearly expressed. It’s obvious the decision was regrettable, given the minimal promotion and bad timing. The episode aired just a month after Brown’s ex-girlfriend Karrueche Tran filed a restraining order against him and claimed physical abuse, a sign that his image and self-destructiveness remains un-rehabilitated.
Elsewhere in the episode, at least, was a relevant conversation between Bow and Dre about the conflict of Stepin Fetchit and the history of black actors cooning. Solid points were made about how advertising undermines the immense spending power of black people and the stale commercials that emerge when ignorant advertising execs try to cater to black consumers.
Brown’s appearance wasn’t completely ignored. Anthony Anderson told ABC News how it came about. “Kenya was out one day having dinner and Chris was at the same restaurant and knew who Kenya was. He walked over and said, ‘Hey man, I love your show,” Anderson recalls. “I just wanted to let you know that I want to be on it. Can we make that happen?’...Chris expressed an interest in it and it was like, ‘I think... we have that character for you.” They probably should’ve just let him keep on dreaming.