What Was the Point of Chris Brown's Black-Ish Guest Role?

Image screengrab via ABC
Image screengrab via ABC

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.

Culture Editor, Jezebel


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i mean, this is a show that stars anthony anderson who may have been acquitted but i will always side eye

“Actor Anthony Anderson was charged today with the aggravated rape of a woman who police say was assaulted after being lured into a production trailer on a Memphis movie set. According to the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, Anderson, 33, and Wayne Witherspoon, 42, attacked the woman, a movie extra, yesterday afternoon. The woman told cops that Witherspoon forcibly removed her clothes once she was inside the trailer. She told investigators that Anderson, who was already in the trailer at the time, joined the assault, according to a graphic criminal complaint. The woman told cops that Anderson and Witherspoon “both assaulted her with their hands and took pictures of her while she was nude.” A witness told officers that he heard the woman screaming and managed to unlock the trailer’s door. At that point, the naked woman ran from the vehicle, which was parked on the grounds of the Shelby County Corrections Center, where scenes from director John Singleton’s “Hustle & Flow” were being shot. Anderson, pictured in the below mug shot, and Witherspoon were released tonight from the Shelby County Jail after each posted $20,000 bond. The actor, who has appeared in “Barbershop” and “Malibu’s Most Wanted,” is starring in Singleton’s flick, a movie about a fledgling rapper. (2 pages)“